When the year started the Reds didn’t have Jesse Winker in the system. He was still in high school and had yet to be drafted. The Reds drafted him in June as a supplemental first round pick and sent the 18-year-old to the Pioneer League to play with the Billings Mustangs despite the league being a more advanced, mostly college filled league.
The season began in the middle of June and Winker got off to a quick start. In the first game Winker went 3-5 with a run scored and that set the tone for the entire season for the corner outfielder. In the 11 games during the month of June he went out and hit .366/.471/.439 with 8 walks and 13 strikeouts to go along with 3 doubles. He didn’t show much power on the month, but it was just 41 at bats. He showed off impressive plate discipline, particularly for a teenager in a league where he was one of the youngest players.
When the calendar rolled around to July, things changed, but for the better. Winker played 23 games in the month and he hit .342/.495/.474 with 22 walks and 13 strikeouts to go along with 5 doubles, a triple and a home run. His first career home run came on the 27th in Billings. His plate discipline during the month was flat out incredible as he nearly walked twice as often as he struck out. For teenagers, that is unheard of. His power output also picked up some from June.
In August and September Winker again did nothing but impress. He went to the plate 123 times and hit .324/.390/.541 with 10 walks and 24 strikeouts. The walk rate was a quite a bit lower than the previous two months, but his power was up significantly from the previous two months of the season. He hit 8 doubles, 2 triples and 4 home runs in that span.
I can’t recall an offensive prospect who had the kind of debut that Jesse Winker had for the Reds system since I started covering the minor leagues in 2004. Maybe I am forgetting about someone, but either way, he was fantastic. He was placed in a league hardly anyone his age gets placed in and went out and put up an OPS of .943 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Historically speaking, it is hardly the best from an 18-year-old, as that goes to Prince Fielder who hit an incredible .390/.531/.678 with 10 more walks than strikeouts back in 2002. He turned out to be an alright player I guess. Winker did post the highest OPS by someone under nineteen in the Pioneer League since the 2004 season of Billy Butler though. Winker showed a little bit of everything at the plate in his debut. He showed a very good hit tool, he sprayed the ball to all fields, showed outstanding plate discipline at times and over the final five weeks of the season he showed pretty good power too. He split time between both corner spots on the defensive side of things. With his debut he established himself as an already premium bat in the system.
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