With the night that Jesse Winker put together last night it got me to really wondering how he compared to other somewhat recent Cincinnati Reds top hitting prospects. I looked back at the Baseball America Top 100 lists going back to 2008 and picked out Reds hitters who were in the Top 50 of their rankings, with the exception of Billy Hamilton. I chose to leave off Hamilton because he simply is a very different kind of hitter than the rest of the group. I also had to leave out Todd Frazier and Yonder Alonso, as they were still in college at the same stage. That leaves us with Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco as guys to compare Winker to.

Right now, Jesse Winker is hitting .318/.423/.576 for the Bakersfield Blaze as a 20-year-old. If you have been around long enough though, and reading this site of course, you know that I don’t really like comparing the numbers straight up, but prefer to look at the underlying statistics that correlate much better with future production. What are those stats? They would be walk rate, strikeout rate and isolated power. For a quick explanation why those are important, it’s simple: Walk and strikeout rates show a players understanding of the strikezone as well as bat-on-ball skills, and isolated power gives us an idea of his true power output. Generally speaking, those things carry forward well, much better than a slash line does because it can be effected by a funny batting average on balls in play, which will relate directly to average, and thus alter on-base and slugging percentages.

The Comparison

To make the comparison, we need to have some context on all of the players. Today we are looking only at the age 20 season for these players. Both Winker and Jay Bruce were in Advanced-A at age 20, but Bruce also spent time in Double-A and nearly half of a season in Triple-A.  Joey Votto spent most of his time at that age in Low-A with a late call up to Advanced-A. Devin Mesoraco spent his entire age 20 season in Low-A. For more context, Dayton, where the Low-A team is at, plays out as a neutral hitting environment overall, Bakersfield where Winker plays is very, very hitter friendly and Jay Bruce played his age 20 season over three levels that as a whole played out as rather pitching friendly. With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the raw numbers.

Walk and Strikeout Rates

pdcomp

Jesse Winker stands out on this chart. His strikeout rate is the lowest among the group, and rather significantly better than that of both Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. His walk rate is just a fraction lower than that of Joey Votto at the same age as well, while nearly doubling that of Bruce and and more than doubling the walk rate of Devin Mesoraco. It’s worth noting again that Winker was facing tougher pitching than Votto or Mesoraco, but that Bruce was facing better pitching than all three. In terms of strikeout-to-walk ratio, Winker has an easy lead on everyone here.

Power Output

isopcomp

In this comparison Winker finds himself just behind Bruce, but Bruce was playing in pitcher friendly environments all season long while Winker has been playing in hitter friendly environments. With that said, I think that speaks more to just how much power Bruce had at the time, especially considering he spent half of his season in Double-A and Triple-A. Winker is outpacing the power for both Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco, who played in more neutral hitting environments, but also at a level lower (or in Votto’s case, mostly at a level lower).

Overall Thoughts

Obviously this can work with hindsight on three of the four guys here, since we know what happened with everyone but Winker following their age 20 season, but I think we can argue that Jesse Winker, at least from a hitting only standpoint, can be argued to be the best hitting prospect among this group. His plate discipline is the best at this point in the game. His power is second to only Bruce. From a pure numbers standpoint, at this stage he is a better version of a 20-year-old Joey Votto. That isn’t to say he will turn into Joey Votto and be an MVP one day, but he is showing all of the right things in the minor leagues to be an elite level hitter. He draws walks at a very high rate. He makes contact at a very good rate for a power hitter. He hits for big time power. Offensively, there isn’t much else you can ask for a guy to do.

32 Responses

  1. The Duke

    The only logical conclusion of this article is that Winker will be the 2020 NL MVP.

  2. Alan Horn

    Cautiously optimistic. Things are looking good thus far, but we need to keep things in perspective. The majors are 3 levels above where he is now and that last jump is always the hardest. It is almost Winker or bust(at least at AA or above).

  3. Kevin

    He’s been almost the lone brightspot for what has been a pretty dismal hitting year for Reds prospects. Not that there’s a lot of them.

    How did these three stats carry forward to the majors? Did Votto/Bruce/Mez get better at the major league level or stay the same?

    Votto had an undiagnosed astigmatism prior to AAA, so that’s something to add to the context for him. I remember thinking at the time that if he could hit like that with only one good eye, he was going to be special with two good ones.

  4. Nick

    What a great article. Really enjoyed this. I’m very excited about Winker because of his ability to control the strike zone and willingness to take walks. He is someone to get excited about. Just wish he was closer to ready to contribute to the Reds and their left field mess.

  5. Ryan K

    Excellent article. He really doesn’t get talked about enough nationally as a prospect because of his defensive value.

    There is one more thing he has also been doing well that Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are both two of the best in the game. His numbers this year against LHP

    .327 AVG 4 HR 14 RBI’s 1.078 OPS

    • Alan Horn

      That is a encouraging stat. Most young left handed hitters have trouble with left handed pitchers early on. Especially with Winker coming directly out of high school.

  6. Stock

    A year younger at age 19 but even then he fares well.

    Age 19 at Dayton BB% 13% K%15.4% ISO .182

    Votto like one year younger.

  7. Shchi

    So why, I mean WHY!!!, was Winker not in AA before he took a header into the wall and why, I mean WHY!!!, is Winker still not in AA? Winker should have followed the same path as Bruce with 3 levels this season (assuming of course he continues to hit at all 3 levels), but here he is stagnating in Bakerfield. I mean the Reds have so many other options that they really don’t need a prospect that may be the best of the best to come through the system in more than a decade, right? The sad part is that Winker is not the only prospect stagnating at Bakersfield, just the best prospect stagnating at Bakerfield.

    • Doug Gray

      Winker has 51 games in Advanced-A. Jay Bruce played in 67 before getting promoted to Double-A. Bruce played in the Florida State League All-Star game and was then promoted to Double-A.

      You are getting way, way ahead of yourself on this one my friend.

      • Shchi

        Ah, I have been accused of being an impatient ol’ cuss on many occasions. So you feel that the Reds wil begin fast tracking Winker after the all star game (assuming Winker continues his stellar development) with Winker making it to Louiville this season? That could then be followed by a spring training invite in 2015 and taking over LF at GABP in 2015 after avoiding super two status?

      • Doug Gray

        Maybe not all the way to Louisville, but I think he winds up in Pensacola before the end of the month. 2015 is a possibility.

      • D.J.

        Great read Doug. I haven’t checked Bruce or Votto’s minor league numbers, but Winker’s numbers against left handed pitching is petty impressive.

      • Doug Gray

        Bruce hit lefties well later on in the minors. My theory there was that he could hit a lefty fastball just fine, but struggled with the breaking stuff. But there just aren’t enough lefties with enough stuff to get the fastball by him in the minors, which is why it took him a few years to come around against lefties in the Majors, as he had to adjust. I honestly don’t remember how Votto hit lefties in the minors.

    • Randy in Chatt

      I have a feeling it will be soon….no worries.

  8. Screamin

    So he should be in AA when we get to see the Blue Wahoos later this year. At least hoping so.

    • Doug Gray

      I would be downright shocked if he doesn’t get 200 at bats in a league that isn’t the California League this year (sans missing time on the DL at some point moving forward).

  9. KevinD

    I read an article that his family runs a hitting school in Florida. You got to love that when he is on break, I bet that is all he does is hit with his dad, who probably is his biggest fan and critic at the same time.

  10. Randy in Chatt

    Just got this on Baseball America’s analysis of the UC Irvine’s baseball team (which 2nd rounder Taylor Sparks is a part of). Interesting what it says about the reasons for the team’s lack of power. Maybe this will relieve some of the stress on Spark’s “lack of power”:
    “Like Texas, the Anteaters play in a home ballpark that virtually eliminates the home run—they have just 12 as a team, ranking 218th in the nation. But Sparks, the Reds’ second-round pick, has plus raw power and slugged .502 this spring (16 doubles, five triples, five homers), making him one of the few players in Omaha with a real chance to go deep at TD Ameritrade park.”.

  11. Randy in Chatt

    Wow, just looked it up. The entire team had 12 homeruns total all season, not just at their home stadium. Sparks almost had half.

  12. Dale Pearl

    Winker will be in AA right after the all-star break that is my bet. If he has a good AA for the second half then we will see this guy in a Bats uniform to start 2015.

  13. DaveCT

    I believe Bruce ‘s quick jump from AA to AAA was due to an injury on the Bats. Good part was he that was on fire and never looked back.

    I am wondering about Winker’s LF defense, as there were quite a few complements made on his progress and work ethic, in house anyways if not nationally.

  14. Phil

    This was a great comparison, thanks. Much needed hitting hope for the future.

  15. Tim

    Love the analysis. Who are going to be the Futures Games reps from the Reds? Winker would be a good one.

    • Doug Gray

      I’ve said it before and will say it again. Five years ago, Winker would have been looked at as a fine left fielder. But, the game is changing and more and more teams are going with lesser hitting former center fielders over in left, which has raised the bar defensively quite a bit. In todays game, Winker is a below-average left fielder, but that isn’t what it used to be either when guys like Adam Dunn and Carlos Lee were out there every day.

      • jim t

        Doug with Billy in CF his range doesn’t have to be great.

  16. JMO

    I love Winker, the Reds need an identical player that hits RH. Late 2015 arrival

    Hamilton
    Winker
    Votto
    Frazier
    Bruce
    Phillips
    Mesoraco
    Cozart

    • jim t

      Could be Ervin. Even after his slow start I still think he will be a very good player. Wrist injuries to a baseball player take awhile to heal and overcome. He seems to be back on track recently.

    • Shchi

      I think the Reds feel like Ervin will be that RH complement to Winker. I know that despite his early struggles at Daytom this season, I still have Ervin pencilled into the GABP OF by 2016-2017. Winker and Ervin could provide some much needed production AND salary relief in a very few years. I simply salivate (actually slobber and drool) at the prospect of hitters like Votto, Winker and Ervin in the same lineup.

      When the minor league promotions do begin happening, I hope Marquez Smith gets bumped up to Louisville since he has significant experience and moderate success at AA and AAA already.

  17. jim t

    Like everone else I’m excited and anxious to see Winker moved up to AA. That said, the fact he has raked at every stop could be a indication the reds minor league personel have a good undersrtanding of how to handle him. They have a lot of things to consider when promoting a prospect. Lots of moving parts. As long as he keeps improving at every stop is the big thing. As of now he has done that.