Dayton Wins on Winker's Homer

Last year the Reds invested two supplemental first round picks on outfielders. Both of them are faring well now in their first full season at Dayton and Jesse Winker continues to show polished skills in the batter's box that are way beyond his years. He's also adding power with four homers in his last eight games.

A two-run home run by Jesse Winker in the bottom of the eighth inning broke a tie and gave Dayton a 6-4 victory over visiting West Michigan. Previously he opened up the second inning with a single that led up to a two-run double by Tanner Rahier. The Dragons fell behind, but in the seventh Junior Arias led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a throwing error when he swiped third. Joe Hudson had walked and advanced behind him before crossing the plate on a sac fly by Zach Vincej. Winker and Seth Mejias-Brean both had two of their team's seven hits.

On the mound Pedro Diaz got the start and did not figure into the decision after allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks across five innings. Alejandro Chacin relieved him with two scoreless innings to lower his ERA down to 2.49. Joey Housey retired the side in order in the eight to pick up the win and Sean Lucas did the same in the ninth for the save.

Thus far in 2013 Winker has done a lot to establish himself as a top-five prospect in the Cincinnati system and is making a strong claim that he's the top Reds offensive prospect among all their players that have never stolen 100 bases in a season. He's been on a tear recently, going 15-37(.405) over the last ten games with four home runs while arriving safely on base in half of his plate appearances. That has brought his AVG/OB% up to .313/.416 on the season.

Thus far in the Midwest League nothing has changed when reviewing the offensive skills for this prospect: He's maintaining an impressive plate discipline at a very young age. Still a teenager, Winker has walked nearly as many times (24) as he's struck out (29). His power is coming along and he has seven homers while slugging .537. In 2012 he hit only five dingers while playing the entire short season in the high altitude venues of the Pioneer League. The young man has a high walk rate (14%) while maintaining a contact rate of 1K/6 PA on average. To put it simply, when he pulls the trigger on his bat against lower level pitching, something good will frequently happen for his team.

Unfortunately not a lot has changed for him defensively either as he continues to work on answering questions about his leather. There are still concerns that his range may eventually lock him down at first base. He should provide plenty of offense to progress with that limitation, however that compromises the value of a prospect playing in the same organization as Joey Votto. All of his professional action thus far has been in the outfield corners where he's running down 1.2 putouts per game. He made a lot of strides defensively after switching to center field for his senior high school season and it's still early in his professional career so there's reason to believe that he can become a good right fielder. Should he master the routes for a decent range there are not concerns with his arm.

Still, value is value and the supplemental first round pick of last year's draft appears like he will make a positive impact on his organization either directly or indirectly. It wasn't long ago that the Reds gave up trying to move Yonder Alonso from first base and he became a major component in the trade that returned Mat Latos. Winker's skills at the plate thus far likely have Cincinnati management hopeful that his conversion will be successful because they would like to see how he fares against MLB pitching while wearing a Reds uniform. He wasn't really challenged as an eighteen year-old in the rookie league and he's coming on strong now in this first full season. He's got a great eye at the plate and any bugs he might have in his swing have not hindered his performance thus far. Winker is going down the road towards being an impact player at the highest level. He may end up at first base elsewhere, but there's still plenty of time for the Reds to improve his value even more as an outfielder.

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The Reds trailed by a run after the first inning and lost two two-run leads later before pulling away with three in the ninth inning to win 7-4 and complete a sweep over the Mets at New York. Votto gave his team their first lead when he followed a Zach Cozart single with a home run in the third inning. Those two both singled in the seventh and crossed the plate again on a single by Brandon Phillips and RBI-groundout by Jay Bruce. The Mets elected to intentionally walk Votto in the ninth after Shin-soo Choo doubled. Phillips and Todd Frazier made them pay for that with a couple of hits that capped off a three-run rally. Cozart finished the game with four hits and scored twice. Votto reached with two hits and two walks while Phillips stroked two hits and walked once. Devin Mesoraco reached safely twice via a single and walk.

On the mound starter Mat Latos got no decision after allowing four runs in six-plus innings. Alfredo Simon tossed a scoreless eighth and picked up the win. Aroldis Chapman picked up the save with an outing that has become very common for him: a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts.

It was a relatively slow night in the Reds farm system as Louisville, Pensacola, and Bakersfield all had the day off.

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