Power is the next step for Jesse Winker

We are at the All-Star break and Cincinnati sits at the bottom of the National League Central Division and overall is one of the worst teams. If we take a look at the offensive categories they rank 4th in batting average, 7th in runs scored, and 6th in wins above replacement. The Reds have no problem scoring, but their pitching has been the complete opposite. There are many weapons on this team, but something has happened in the last month that has led to extraordinary results. Jesse Winker hit five home runs in June, and while you may not think that’s such a big deal, he only had one in the previous two months combined. We’re going to dive into this little hot streak and see if there is more to it. Let me show you the type of player Jesse Winker is.

Year Team PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% Avg OBP
2014 AA 92 2 15 8 0 15.2 23.9 .208 .326
2015 AA 526 13 69 55 8 14.1 15.8 .282 .390
2016 AAA 448 3 39 45 0 13.2 13.2 .303 .397
2017 AAA 347 2 33 41 2 11.0 13.3 .314 .395
2017 Reds 137 7 21 15 1 10.9 17.5 .298 .375
2018 Reds 318 7 35 42 0 15.1 13.8 .293 .404
2018 Monthly Splits
2018 June 96 5 9 20 0 17.7 15.6 .308 .432
2018 July 44 1 8 10 0 15.9 9.1 .459 .545

The first thing that jumps out to me is his exceptional plate discipline. His walk rates are all in double digits while his strikeout rates are usually below 20%. He’s always had a pretty good average without many home runs and stolen bases. He profiles to be a very good contact hitter with a great eye of the strike zone. What’s important is that he’s set career-highs in almost everything and we’re only half way. Seeing that his walk rate is at a very good 15.1%, his plate discipline is going to show us he doesn’t chase a lot, let’s take a look.

Year 0-swing z-swing swing% o-contact z-contact contact% swstr%
2017 20.4 64.7 42.5 74.5 87.0 84.0 6.8
2018 21.4 64.8 40.1 69.9 92.6 85.7 5.7

Winker’s numbers look almost identical to last season as a rookie. He’s barely chasing more balls off the plate as the number is a crazy good 21.4%. That number ranks 10th among all qualified hitters. His swing percentage is down to 40.1% while his swinging strike percentage is down to 5.7%. This shows us his amazing patience at the plate, and when he does swing inside the zone, he makes a lot of contact. The outside part of the plate shows contact is down, but that shouldn’t really matter as he doesn’t really swing out there anyways. I’m interested to see how he’s hitting the ball this season as well as June and July.

Year GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB HR/FB Pull Cent Oppo Soft Med Hard
2017 1.70 16.5 52.6 30.9 3.3 23.3 40.8 37.8 21.4 12.2 52.0 35.7
2018 1.26 25.0 41.8 33.2 9.6 9.6 38.4 36.6 25.0 12.5 42.4 45.1
2018 Monthly Splits
June 1.13 19.7 42.6 37.7 8.7 21.7 42.2 35.9 21.9 12.5 39.1 48.4
July 2.00 36.4 42.4 21.2 14.3 14.3 39.4 36.4 24.2 6.1 30.3 63.6

He’s made some changes in his sophomore year as the ground ball to fly ball ratio has decreased to 1.26. He’s hitting more line drives and that’s the biggest change, nearly a 10% increase. His hard contact rate should also help sustain a high line drive percentage. In June, line drives were down and his fly ball percentage went up. His hard contact also went up and the results were more home runs. Now this month, his line drives shot up to a crazy 36.4% while his fly ball rate took a nose dive to 21.2%. His hard contact also increase to a whopping 63.6%. I’m very intrigued to look at what Statcast shows, especially his launch angle and exit velocity compared to last season.

Year XAVG Avg. Launch Angle Avg. Exit Velocity
2017 .285 7.6 87.5
2018 .291 12.8 90.5
2018 Monthly Splits
June .244 12.6 88.5
July .442 7.3 96.0

Statcast validates Winker’s hitting ability as his overall xAVG is .291. That’s a bit better than last season, but the biggest difference is his average launch angle which is at 12.8°. His average exit velocity is up a few ticks so that’s also a good sign. When we look at the two months we know he was hitting more fly balls in June than in July. In June his xAVG was .244 while his launch angle was 12.6°. Statcast shows that he was pretty lucky with the batting average, but he changed his approach in July and is now on fire. He hit so many line drives compared to fly balls that his launch angle decreased to 7.3°, yet he has an xAVG of .442. A big reason for the success could be attributed to his average exit velocity which increased to 96.0 MPH. Maybe June was a fluke, but if he continues to hit so well who’s complaining?

Jesse Winker is a contact before power type of player. He’s starting to tap into the power and maybe soon his average launch angle will consistently stay in the double digits. Since he doesn’t steal any bases he will have to continue to keep a high average and on-base percentage to be valuable. Right now he’s raking and is batting behind some good players in the 5th or 6th spot. Already a polished hitter, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season for him unfolds.


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Jordan Lyn

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Watching one hockey game after another until the night is over.