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The 10 best Mets minor league hitters I saw this year: 7, Matt Winaker

Counting down the best minor league hitters I saw in 2018.

Matt Winaker
Steve Sypa

Disclaimer: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2018 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams in 2018, seeing the Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Las Vegas 51s, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed ten players better.

Name: Matt Winaker

Team: Columbia Fireflies

Position: OF

Born: 11/29/95 (22)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 195 lbs.

Bats/Throws: L/L

Acquired: 2017 Draft, Round 5 (Stanford)

2018 Season: 121 G, 425 AB, .254/.370/.433, 108 H, 23 2B, 7 3B, 13 HR, 62 BB, 88 K, 4/7 SB, .286 BABIP (Low-A)

Date(s) Seen: July 14 @ Lakewood (2-4, R, 3B, K, CS), July 16 @ Lakewood (0-3, K), July 16 @ Lakewood (1-2, R, 2 BB)

The Man

After going undrafted out of high school, Matt Winaker attended Stanford University; as the son of two Stanford alumni, it only made sense. As a freshman, he hit .268/.383/.380, as a sophomore he hit .254/.356/.360, and as a junior he hit .308/.432/.514, giving him a cumulative batting line of .278/.393/.422 in 164 games. The Mets selected him with their fifth-round pick in 2017, and assigned Winaker to the Brooklyn Cyclones, where he hit .268/.402/.282 in 21 games.

The left-hander began 2018 with the Columbia Fireflies and had a solid season all around, hitting .254/.370/.433 in 121 games. A South Atlantic League All-Star, his 13 home runs tied him for the franchise record with Dash Winningham and Brandon Brosher, and his 12 multi-RBI games were tied with Scott Manea for most on the team. After hitting .248/.365/.366 with 3 home runs in 57 games in the first half, he hit .260/.375/.493 with 10 home runs in 64 games in the second half, with changes to his launch angle being a major reason for the spike in power.

The Hitter

Matt Winaker
Steve Sypa

Coming out of Stanford, Winaker utilized the “Stanford swing”, a quiet, level swing without much plane that puts an emphasis on getting the foot down early, making contact, and putting the ball in play- often up the middle or to the opposite field, at the expense of power. He has since added some loft to his swing, almost doubling his flyball rate as compared to 2017; with the Cyclones, he had a 23.2 % flyball rate, and with the Fireflies, he had a 40.1% rate. As we have seen in numerous other players, the increase in launch angle has resulted in more hits and in more home runs, and this was the case with Winaker, who hit 13 home runs this season after combining to hit 9 between Stanford and Brooklyn last season. With his increasing capacity to hit for power coupled with an already well-developed and highly advanced understanding of the strike zone, Winaker may be coming into his own as a hitter.

Looking to 2019

Continuing to hit for power will be key to Winaker’s continued development. While doing so, it will be important that he not sacrifice his ability to get on base. He will need to remain selective, waiting for pitches that he knows he can drive.

The Countdown

8. Ross Adolph

9. Zach Rheams

10. Juan Uriarte