For the last two season in Triple-A the big question has been “will Jesse Winker hit for power again?” as he managed just five total home runs in 191 games and 795 plate appearances. The average was there, hitting .308 in that span. The plate approach was there as he had 97 walks and 105 strikeouts. The power was the question that everyone had, and rightfully so. Sort of.
In the past, Jesse Winker had shown power in the minor leagues. In 2013 he hit 16 home runs for the Dayton Dragons. The next year he hit 15 home runs in just 74 games played. We need to add a caveat there, though, because he did play 53 games in the California League that season and the ball absolutely flies in that league. However, that 2014 season was when things started to go a little bit south in the power department.
The reason that Jesse Winker only played in 74 games was that he suffered a wrist injury in a car accident and it cost him most of the second half of the season. Wrist injuries are notorious for sapping power in the short term, sometimes taking between 8-12 months before power returns to normal, previous levels. In 2015, coming off of the wrist injury, Winker managed just eight extra-base hits in the first two months of the season, slugging just .314. Once June rolled around everything picked up in the power department. It’s important to note that June was 10 months out from the original injury. Over the final 345 plate appearances of the season, starting in June he slugged .497 with 31 extra-base hits.
In 2016 Jesse Winker moved up to Triple-A and he struggled to hit for power. He once again was experiencing wrist problems. He would miss a month between mid-June and mid-July with the Bats. Unlike the previous season, there wasn’t a rebound from a power standpoint to look at.
In 2017 it was more of the same in Triple-A. From April through July, Jesse Winker hit just two home runs. The end of that month marked 12 months returning from the wrist injury the season before that cost him a month on the disabled list. That’s longer than you would expect to see power sapped for a shorter disabled list stint, but not out of line with what we know about wrist injuries and power output.
Then August rolled around the Jesse Winker was brought up to Cincinnati. And out of nowhere the power started showing up. In 94 plate appearances since August 1st the outfielder has two doubles and six home runs. He’s slugging .506 in that span. In roughly a month of playing time he hit three times as many home runs as he had in April through July combined for Louisville.
Now, there is certainly a chance that this is one of those small sample size things where he’s just gotten on a good run. But, there’s a lot of things to note, too. First, the wrist injury timeline fits well with the power coming back. Second is that he was working on getting more out of his lower half of his body with his swing during the summer with Louisville to try and improve his power.
Coming up through the Minor Leagues there was always some questions about just how much power Jesse Winker would hit for. I felt confident that he’s fall into that 20-25 home run range, particularly if he remained with the Reds and was able to take advantage of the sun/moon deck at Great American Ballpark. Depending on who I spoke with on a given day, scouts would fall on the power scale of 12-18 home runs more often than not for Winker. They saw a better hit tool than power tool. That’s not something I’d disagree with in terms of which tool was better, but I always felt a little better about his power than most others did at the ballpark.
Time will eventually tell where exactly it is that Jesse Winker falls on the power spectrum in the Major Leagues. The early part of his career suggested significantly more power than he showed at the Triple-A level. And we may have some evidence that tells us there was a reason he didn’t hit for power there, too. As things stand now, the start of his big league career certainly has shown good power.