Should Mariners Fans Be Concerned About Jesse Winker?

It’s never a good sign when the primary Spring Training highlight from your headlining offseason acquisition is a funny appearance on the team’s telecast. Unfortunately for the Seattle Mariners, that’s been the case so far for Jesse Winker.

Winker’s Twitter-famous call of teammate Paul Sewald giving up a massive home run was indeed hilarious, but the Mariners have been hoping for much more from their new star outfielder. Winker, coming off of a fantastic .305/.394/.556 season in 2021 with the Reds, is 2 for 29 so far this spring with a .332 OPS.

No, you can’t accurately project a player’s regular season performance based on how they did in Spring Training, but it’s been tough to witness Winker struggle so much in the middle of the order. He’s struck out nine times in 29 at-bats, and has failed to make consistently solid contact. Defensively, he’s misplayed several balls in left and appears set to be slotted in frequently at DH.

Jesse Winker

Mar 31, 2022; Peoria, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Jesse Winker (27) at bat in the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians during spring training at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A bright spot in Jesse Winker’s spring has been his keen understanding of the strike zone; he’s walked five times, and has rarely chased pitches outside of the zone. That type of discipline will be highly valuable in the middle of Seattle’s batting order this season, hopefully getting Winker on base often in front of RBI-machine Mitch Haniger.

So, the question remains: Is there reason to be concerned about Jesse Winker after his performance this spring? My answer, which many fans won’t agree with, is yes. The Mariners invested heavily in Winker (trading away high-quality prospects in Brandon Williamson, Connor Phillips, and Justin Dunn), and he’s set to transition from one of MLB’s most hitter-friendly ballparks to one of MLB’s most pitcher-friendly ballparks.

Hopefully, Winker’s struggles have been due to a sudden progression from the offseason into Spring Training, and he’s able to get his feet under him to start the regular season. If he doesn’t, Mariners fans could be breathing down Jerry Dipoto’s neck once again.