CINCINNATI -- When you’re making out your ideal lineup, do you want pop, i.e., all-or-nothing guys who strike out a lot but also hit it into the seats a lot?
Or do you want guys who grind out at-bats, take their walks and get on base, albeit without huge home run totals?
That’s the choice the Reds will be facing when they decide whether Scott Schebler or Jesse Winker is the right fielder of the future.
Schebler, 26, is the power guy. He has 23 home runs in 347 at-bats this year. He strikes out a lot (85 times) and doesn’t walk often (28 times).
Winker, 23, is the grinder. He gets on base. His power numbers, despite the two home runs in the Pittsburgh, are likely never going to be close to Schebler’s. But Winker walks a lot (330 times in 2,062 minor league at-bats) and strikes out relatively rarely (385 times in the minors).
Schebler and Winker have roughly the same on-base plus slugging in the minors -- they just arrive at it differently.
Schebler’s slash line is .244/.315/.458 in the minors. Winker’s is .298/.398/.449.
“I think both types can help,“ Reds manager Bryan Price said. “As you increase the on-base percentage, you increase your scoring percentage. I haven’t done the math to try to define if 35 home runs equals the value of a guy who's on base (at a) .360 or .370 clip that doesn’t hit a lot of home runs.
Price added that he doesn't want players reliant solely on solo home runs.
Sabermetrics experts -- I’m not one -- value on-base over slugging. Tom Tango, co-author of "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball," calculates that on-base is worth 1.8 times more than slugging.
I read how he came up with the calculation, and the math was well beyond me. But that didn’t stop me from concluding that Winker -- if he puts up the numbers he did in the minors (a big “if“ for sure) -- helps this lineup more than a low on-base bopper.
If Winker can put up a .400 on-base hitting second with Joey Votto hitting third, he’s going to score a ton of runs. If he can hit .300 like he did in the minors, he’s going to drive in Billy Hamilton a lot.
The rest of this season is for figuring out what works for 2018. I’d play Winker nearly every day. You know what you’re going to get from Schebler, which can be valuable. He’s got more power and speed than Winker, and he can play center field. So maybe he works as the fourth outfielder.
You also have to factor in that he was playing through a left shoulder injury until he went on the disabled list last week.
But I asked a Reds coach how you get high on-base guys. His answer: “You draft them.”
That’s what they did when they picked Winker.
“That’s kind of how I’ve always gone about it,” Winker said. “I try not to give away at-bats. I take a lot of pride in that, being a tough out. It leads to me getting on base.”
Again, Winker has to prove he can do that in the big leagues. He's going to get a good look while Schebler is on the disabled list.
“I think any chance you get at the big-league level is a chance to prove yourself,” he said. “I kind of take it day-by-day. I want show everyone I belong.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org