Jesse Winker is off to a good start to the season with the Dayton Dragons. As of the writing of this, Winker is hitting .303/.401/.484 with 19 walks and 25 strikeouts as a teenager in the Midwest League. I went back over the eight seasons of the Midwest League and looked at the 149 teenagers who have come through the league. The average teenager coming through the league in that time hit .256/.321/.376.

Winker is off to a much better start than the average teenager, but how does it compare to the recent history of other players in the Midwest League as teenagers and how does he project moving forward?

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Winker has a very well rounded game at the plate and is one of the more polished teenage hitters to come through the system in a long time. He has strong plate discipline and he can use the entire field while at the plate.  His current walk rate is 13.4%, which would be the 7th best walk rate for a teenager since 2005 in the Midwest League directly behind Major Leaguers Aaron Hicks and Eric Hosmer and also behind 2013 Top 100 prospects Miguel Sano and Wil Myers.

His strikeout rate of 17.6% ranks 45th best among the 149 players, which is solid but not special. Moving on to isolated power, Winker’s mark of .181 ranks 21st best on the list and puts him directly ahead of Major League Brett Lawrie. Two Reds ranked ahead of Winker in this category: Jay Bruce was 4th in the category and Juan Duran was 13th.

The two most similar players to Winker in terms of walk rate, strikeout rate and isolated power are both Major Leaguers this season. Previously mentioned Aaron Hicks, who you may not have heard of as he is in his rookie year for the Twins and is having a rough go of things so far and some guy named Mike Trout, who I am sure that you have heard of. When Trout was in the league though, he was just eighteen. Winker and Hicks were both nineteen in their season through the Midwest League.

For as much as Winker is an outstanding hitting prospect, he isn’t on the same level as Mike Trout is as a hitter. What kind of hitter can Jesse Winker be though? Well, I am actually going to reach back a little further than my original search to bring out another Midwest League player, who hit .302/.419/.486 as a twenty year old with a 16.7% walk rate, 23.3% strikeout rate and .184 isolated power number. That guy was also a Red. That guy was named Joey Votto.

There is actually a lot in common between Joey Votto and Jesse Winker outside of both being Reds who came through Dayton. The previously mentioned season by Joey Votto was actually his second go-around in Dayton after he struggled there the year before and was demoted mid-season to Billings. Votto stated that his struggles in Dayton the first time through the league led him to change his approach to try and use the entire field and well, that plan has worked out well for him ever since. Jesse Winker is also using the entire field to spread the ball around. Here is his spray chart for the season through May 14th.

jessewinkerspray

Both players are patient hitters who will wait for their pitch and will take a walk when it is available. Winker has one of the highest walk rates among recent teenagers in the Midwest League, though it ranks well behind what Votto did in the league as a twenty year old. Winker however is showing as much power and his strikeout rate is significantly better than that of Votto despite being a year younger.

Now, Joey Votto has an MVP Award at his house somewhere and while I don’t think it is fair to project a player to go on and hit .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs like Votto did in his MVP season back in 2010. However, if we remove the MVP season where Votto hit 37 home runs, his career looks like this: .315/.416/.535 while averaging 27 home runs per 600 at bats. Those averages are still incredibly strong and his slash line is elite while his home run power is still above-average.

Jesse Winker probably doesn’t project to be quite as good across the board, but I think his offensive tools are on par with a guy like Votto. At his ceiling, Winker could be a guy who could post a slash line of .300/.400/.500 with 25-30 home runs. Like Votto, he doesn’t have elite home run power and his position will perhaps hold him back from ever being an elite level Top 25 prospect in the game as a corner type of player in the same way that it did Votto.

Jesse Winker was a steal of a pick when the Reds took him 49th overall in the draft last season. While he has just 96 games under his belt with a career .326/.429/.494 line, I am comfortable saying that Winker is the best pure hitting prospects (without taking into consideration defense or position) since Jay Bruce and Joey Votto came through the system.

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12 Responses

  1. The Duke

    I’m fully on the Winker bandwagon after seeing him play. He may be limited to LF, but I thought he looked athletic enough to at least be average defensively there. His bat seemed to stay in the zone forever and yet still had very good bat speed. I completely get the Votto comp for how he looked as a hitter, especially as a teenager. I’m exciteed to see how his season progresses and to see if he can keep adding a littke more power to his game.

  2. MK

    Offensively he reminds me a little of Jay Bruce when he was in Dayton. But defensively Bruce was far superior. Defensively, Winker is more like former Dragon Adam Dunn,

    • Doug Gray

      I have heard the Jay Bruce comp often with Winker. I don’t see it. I mean, I can see it with the swing, as it is a little bit similar, but Bruce has special power and he had it then too. Winker doesn’t have that.

  3. Kevin

    Best case and avg case scenario for his timeline?

    • The Duke

      Best case, June/July 2015, more likely April 2016. All this year in Low A, start next year in High A, move to AA midseason, start AAA in 2015. If he never stops hitting well then mid 2015 he would be in the bigs. If he moved slower and spent a year at each level it’d be Low A 2013, High A 2014, AA 2015, AAA 2016, MLB 2017 at age 23, still pretty young.

    • Doug Gray

      Best case scenario, he goes all Jay Bruce and finishes up in AAA next year and is ready to go early in 2015.

  4. icehole3

    Is there a player in the system who will get fast tracked?

  5. IndyRedsFan

    Doug, great article. Well worth the subscription fee on its own.

    • Doug Gray

      Thanks. Now if we can just talk more people into subscribing, that would be great.

  6. Jim t

    Doug, does Winker have the athletism to become a above average leftfielder?

    • Doug Gray

      It depends on where left fielders are in a few years. Teams have gone to a lot more athletic left fielders in recent years. Defensive guys with ok bats instead of offensive guys who are slow and clumsy used to be the norm.