I didn’t write an article this time last year predicting that the Dodgers Cody Bellinger would win the NL MVP award.
It would have been a ludicrous suggestion. Bellinger had proved his rookie season was a fluke and his struggles against left-handed pitchers made him a victim of the Dodgers exuberance for platooning.
I’m not waging any cash that Jesse Winker will be the 2020 NL MVP, but I think his talents and potential are being undervalued by the media and many Reds fans.
Prior to the 2019 season, there was still concern that Bellinger was not equipped to be an everyday player, a notion he proved farcical before April was over.
Let’s take a look …
25 home runs in 162 games.
ave 20 home runs per 162 games
There is not much to choose between them, although it should be noted that Winker’s outstanding .379 OBP is good for joint-20th in the majors, sandwiched between Paul Goldschmidt and Josh Donaldson.Embed from Getty Images
In 2018, Bellinger posted .880 OPS vs. RHP and .681 OPS vs. LHP. Winker’s career splits are more extreme at .907 OPS vs. RHP and .543 OPS vs. LHP.
But then, Bellinger transformed himself into a lefty-masher. No-one, not even you, saw it coming. 18 home runs and .982 OPS with a lefty on the mound.
Obviously the Reds left fielder has a lot of room to improve against Southpaws, but his patience at the plate suggests that just a small tweak could produce substantial gains.
Reds fans who have been trying to package Winker in a hypothetical deal to land Starling Marte or Joc Pedersen, need to remember that he is still only 26 years old with fewer than 900 big league plate appearances to his name.
The introduction of new bullpen laws forcing a LOOGY to face at least three batters will certainly help Winker, but a full, healthy season could be all he needs.
I suspect 2020 will be huge for Jesse Winker, and if he wins the NL MVP, remember you heard it here first.
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Photos by Dylan Buell and Andy Lyons