Reds: No need for speed means Jesse Winker should bat leadoff

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 31: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds bats. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 31: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds bats. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Baseball traditionalists are not going to like what I have to say, but the days of insisting speed must be at the top of the order are long gone.  The stolen base is basically nonexistent in today’s game, and the Cincinnati Reds roster is certainly not built to swipe many bags. Jesse Winker should bat leadoff for the Reds.

The most important aspect of hitting first in the batting order is the ability to reach base. While Shogo Akiyama may be best equipped to handle the leadoff duties, a hamstring injury will prevent him from being on the Opening Day roster. As a result, Reds manager David Bell has a decision to make, and the answer should be obvious.

Jesse Winker, not Nick Senzel, should bat leadoff for the Reds.

If healthy, a faction of Reds Country will no doubt clamor for the athletism of Nick Senzel to occupy the leadoff spot; however, it would place the Cincinnati offense at a tremendous disadvantage. Through his first 127 games in the majors, Senzel has not shown the ability to consistently reach base.

An on-base percentage of .305 in 492 career at-bats should not instill confidence in anyone that Senzel can get the offense jump-started. To give the club the best opportunity for Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez to drive in runs is having someone who can reach base at a healthy above-average rate.

Jesse Winker is that someone. During the abbreviated 2020 season, Winker reached base at a .388 clip which easily outdistanced the .325 National League average last year. Throughout his four seasons in the Queen City, Winker sports a .380 OBP over more than a thousand at-bats. The man simply knows how to reach base.

Jesse Winker can be the Reds best leadoff hitter since 2013.

If given the opportunity, Jesse Winker can be the Cincinnati Reds best leadoff hitter since the 2013 campaign when Shin-Soo Choo occupied the top spot in the batting order. During Choo’s lone season in Cincinnati, he produced an excellent .285/.423/.462 slash line, while reaching base over 300 times and smacking 21 homers.

When you take a glimpse at Winker’s numbers, they are eerily similar to that of Choo’s. Playing 303 games for the Reds, Winker has produced a .280/.380/.479 slash line with 22 homers throughout 162 game average. That’s the type of production that can take of the worst offenses in baseball last year and completely flip the script for the 2021 season.

No, Jesse Winker will not steal bases or provide opposing pitchers any worries about keeping him close to the bag. Nevertheless, he will score on plenty of doubles in the gap from Castellanos and trot around the bases as Geno provides souvenirs for fans via the long ball.

Next. Predicting the Reds Opening Day roster 3.0

This isn’t a difficult decision for Cincinnati Reds skipper David Bell. Let’s hope the first Redleg that Cardinals’ Opening Day starter Jack Flaherty sees in the batter’s box Thursday afternoon is Jesse Winker.