The Mets have been linked to their eighth-round selection, Dash Winningham, for quite a while now. They worked him out privately last December and granted him a private batting practice session at the University of Jacksonville with alumnus Daniel Murphy. Area scout John Updike (for real) has been a frequent attendee of Winningham’s games.
Winningham is an interesting prospect. His bat can really draw the eye thanks to some outstanding power, especially to his pull side. He doesn’t have a ton of natural bat speed, but there’s enough to get by on, but he’s so strong that he can muscle balls over the fence regularly. Possessing good size at 6 feet, 2 inches and 220 pounds, he has plenty of weight to throw behind that bad and long limbs to use for leverage. His swing has outstanding hip rotation and a good weight transfer, allowing Winningham to use every ounce of that strength. There’s at least 60 raw power here, possibly more. It’s impressive.
And it’s a good thing he has that power because there’s no chance he plays anywhere but first base. Winningham is not what you’d call a twitch athlete, with a large frame and a build that will require attention to its conditioning. He’s drawn comparisons to Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach. He looks slimmer now than he did last year, so it appears he’s been working hard, a great indicator. As for defense, he looks okay at first, with fairly nimble feet, soft hands, and an above average arm--he’s been clocked in the mid-80s on the mound--though he could stand to quicken his release. He should be an average defensive first baseman, which will still require him to bring it offensively if he wants to contribute.
The power will help in that regard, but I’m less sanguine about his contact ability. He starts with an open stance and his hands held high, and as the pitch approaches he’ll drop the hands and lift his front leg while closing his hips. He’ll then raise the hands back up and plop the front foot down as he swings with a mild uppercut. In other words, he’s using both a hitch and a high leg kick as timing mechanisms. Two timing mechanisms are always worse than one--it’s just something else that can get fouled up--and the hitch means his hands won’t always be in ideal hitting position when he swings. I can see him struggling with good inside fastballs as well as breaking stuff.
However, it is unusual to find high school power this late in the draft, and I think he wants to sign. He’s an outgoing kid and a good student who’s committed to Florida Gulf Coast, which is a good baseball program but not a commitment the Mets should struggle to buy out. If he does sign, and if the Mets do smooth out his swing, he could be a pleasant surprise in the eighth round.