If the roster holds, the Reds will have a dynamic outfield for the 2018 season. One part of that trio is getting overlooked and his name is Jesse Winker.
The Cincinnati Reds weren’t, and unfortunately still aren’t, expected to win many games with their current roster. The team has some solid pieces, though, that can win you a couple of fantasy games. One of those players will be widely available on draft day. I’m talking about Jesse Winker.
Winker made his 2017 MLB debut on April 14 but after playing just two games, he was sent back down to the minors and wasn’t seen until June 19. His appearances were sporadic over the summer. He played in 21 August games and 17 September games.
In that span, Winker hit .298/.375/.529 with seven home runs and 15 RBI. He also scored 21 runs, struck out 24 times and walked 15 times. Winker isn’t much of a runner as he had just 22 steals in six minor-league seasons.
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The power and contact are going to be what fantasy owners want out of Winker. He hit 66 home runs and .299 during his minor-league career. Of the 41 30-home run hitters, only 10 hit over .290.
Now, I’m not saying Winker will hit 30 home runs next year, I don’t even think he reaches 20, but this is to show you that the combination of power and contact is rare. Even if he hits 15 home runs, the possibility of a .280 average is enticing from a young player.
Winker showed great discipline throughout his time in the minors. He had a 14.2% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate in 618 Double-A and a 12.2% walk rate and 13.2% strikeout rate in 795 Triple-A plate appearances.
Winker will have the benefit of playing at Great American Ballpark, a stadium that rated as the 10th-best home run park, according to ESPN Park Factors. If he wants to reach 20+ home runs, he will need to lift the ball a little more.
He had a 44.3 ground ball rate and 34.9 fly ball rate in Triple-A. Those totals continued to regress with the Reds. If he can get more of an angle on the ball, more of his hits should leave the infield and result in doubles, triples and even home runs.
According to Roster Resource, Winker will join Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler in the outfield, leaving Adam Duvall on the bench. I think it would be the opposite, Duvall in right and Schebler on the bench. In either case, Winker gets the starting left field job and will be on track to get 500 plate appearances.
As a former top-40 prospect, Winker is falling to the late teen rounds. In standard leagues, I expect him to go undrafted. But in the deeper leagues, he is a good OF5 or bench replacement. He could reach 12 home runs and maintain a .280 average. I’d be more than happy to draft him in Round 18.