The Situation: The Reds have jumped out to first place in the NL Central and…
Wait, is that right?
/checks Reds Team Audit
Okay, so the Reds have jumped out to first place in the NL Central. I guess despite Scott Schebler not getting off to a great start? It’s been ten games so whatever, and Winker is likely only around for a few days until the Reds need to add a starter. But a call up is a call up.
The Background: Winker was a supplemental first round pick of the Reds in 2012 as a Florida prep outfielder and signed for $1,000,000. He was considered one of the better bets in that prep class to hit, and there was some power projection at the time as well. Other than a 20-game hiccup in his first taste of Double-A as a 20-year-old, Winker has hit at every level. He’s gotten on-base at every level. He was a top 50 prospect before both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, before a wrist injury and the lack of power development caused him to just miss this year’s Top 101. But Winker doesn’t have much left to prove in the International League, where he has hit .304/.399/.384 in a smidge under 500 plate appearances.
Scouting Report: Winker has yet to develop prototypical corner-outfielder power, although with a slight uppercut in his swing, and above-average bat speed, there may be potentially more in the tank than he’s shown. Still, the game power will never be ideal for left field, maybe fringy/15 homers or thereabouts. That’s the only real quibble with his offensive profile though. He’s as good a bet to be a .280 hitter as there is in the minors right now, and he is patient at the plate, willing to work deep counts and trust in his bat control and all-fields approach with two strikes. Even if the over-the-fence power doesn’t play past a 4, it’ll be enough to keep major league pitchers from challenging him willy-nilly in the zone. In the outfield, below-average foot speed limits him to a corner. Left field would be the preferable option, although his average, accurate arm would be passable in right. He’ll be a solid hand at either spot.
Immediate Big League Future: Scott Schebler isn’t the type of player to block one of your best offensive prospects, but it’s likely this will just be a brief weekend cameo for Winker. He’s likely to be the next guy up if there is an injury to Schebler or Adam Duvall though. And if Schebler continues to struggle—or the Reds continue to play well above their PECOTA projection— Winker might look like a more attractive option in a corner. For now, he’s likely only due a couple pinch-hitting chances and an opportunity to learn his way around the bowels of Great American Ballpark. Given regular playing time at some point in 2017, he’s ready to be a solid-average regular in a corner, whose offensive profile is more David DeJesus than middle-of-the-order masher. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Fantasy Impact: As a former first-rounder, Winker has hit pretty consistently at every stop in the minors. Outside of a short Double-A stint in 2014, he has never dipped below a .288 TAv from the left side. He also has a great idea at the plate, as evidenced by a 65:63 walk to strikeout ratio in 486 Triple-A plate appearances. Winker has never really been known for pop, but it's very likely that an early season wrist injury sapped a lot of his power last year, which skews his stat line. Even if he doesn't hit more than 15 homers, he could be a real asset right away in the batting average category.
The rich get richer as the first place Reds can reach into their war chest and pull out a player like Winker to supplement the offense. Okay, so that might be overstating it a little, as this is likely a brief call up. Still, Winker will get the opportunity to play every day some time this summer. He's young, sure, but he will turn 24 years old in August, so the Reds will want to see what they have with Winker to determine whether he can be part of the next contending team. In addition, it doesn't appear as if the team has a natural platoon partner for the lefty, so hopefully he will get a full slate of plate appearances to sink or swim, at some point. If your league doesn’t allow for adds until a player hits the majors, this could be an ideal circumstance to stash him for later. Otherwise he’s likely already owned. —Mark Barry
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