Cincinnati Reds: 5 players most likely to have a breakout season

Mar 21, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cincinnati Reds left fielder Jesse Winker (33) runs in after the first inning.
Cincinnati Reds left fielder Jesse Winker (33) runs in after the first inning. /

Jesse Winker, Reds left fielder

This is the year that Jesse Winker becomes a household name. Whether he’s hitting leadoff, cleanup, or somewhere else in the Reds batting order, Winker is going to produce in 2021. Book it! Last season saw Winker prove that he can hit off left-handed pitchers, and this season I think we’ll see Winker become a complete ballplayer.

The knock on Winker heading into 2020 was that he could not hit left-handers. It was a fair criticism. In 2019, Winker was 7-for-43 versus southpaws with a slash line of .163/.280/.163. That same year, Winker had an OPS of .887 versus right-handed pitchers.

But, Winker showed great strides in 2020, hitting .265/.390/.500 versus lefties. His batting average and on-base percentage versus left-handed pitchers was actually better than his batting average and on-base percentage versus right-handed pitchers.

This year, however, the knock against Jesse Winker will be that he’s a below-average defender. I think that’s a bit harsh, and while previous years saw Winker put up a combined -16 defensive runs saved in the outfield, in 94.2 innings of action last season, Winker had 1 DRS. That’s not a lot, but it’s a positive number.

If Winker can hold his own versus left-handed pitchers and play average defense in left field, I think Winker is going to his first All-Star Game in 2021 and could even enter the MVP conversation if the Cincinnati Reds are competitive this season. Do not sleep on Jesse Winker.