The 23-year-old Winker, the No. 49 overall pick in the 2012 draft, has long been rated among the game’s Top 100 prospects. While a wrist injury led to some diminished power output in 2016, which may have caused his stock to slip a bit, he still entered the season rated as the game’s No. 49 overall prospect on the Top 100 list of ESPN’s Keith Law. (More recently Law rated him 40th among prospects that opened the season in the minors.) Over at MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis ranked Winker as baseball’s No. 63 prospect.
Even with his power dip in 2016, Winker still posted a strong .303/.397/.384 batting line last year in Louisville. Winker’s plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills in Triple-A proved to be exceptional, as last season’s 59 walks matched his 59 strikeouts (both a 13.2 percent clip). In parts of six minor league seasons, Winker is a .296/.399/.454 hitter.
Law notes in his scouting report that Winker would likely have reached the Majors in 2016 were it not for the wrist injury. He further adds that Winker may not have the power to hit 20+ homers on an annual basis but could hit 10 to 15 per year with 30 to 35 doubles and an excellent on-base percentage. Callis and Mayo laud Winker’s bat and approach at the plate, noting that a below-average arm makes him best suited for left field, where he’ll be an otherwise acceptable defender.
The timing of the Reds’ promotion of Winker comes 12 days into the MLB season, meaning if he remains in the Majors from this point forth, he’d finish one day shy of a full year of service time. Of course, it’s far from clear that the Reds plan to keep Winker in the Majors through season’s end; to the contrary, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that this call-up for Winker may be a brief means of adding another bat while waiting until Sunday when they’ll need to add another starter.
While Winker may not be immediately thrust into a starter’s role, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he eventually does take on a larger role with the club at some point in 2017. He’s considered by most prospect analysts to be more or less big league ready, and while left field is currently locked up by Adam Duvall, the right field picture is less certain. Scott Schebler opened the season there, but he’s yet to solidify himself as an everyday Major Leaguer.