For Reds prospect Winker, 2015 about 'growth'

For Reds prospect Winker, 2015 about 'growth'

CINCINNATI -- The 2015 season wasn't at all smooth for top Reds prospect Jesse Winker at Double-A Pensacola. The left fielder endured an extended funk at the plate for much of the first half before finding his way through to the other side. To Winker, it was the tough times that proved to be key in his development.

"It was a fun year," Winker, rated Cincinnati's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, said on Saturday during a break at Redsfest. "I learned a lot in Pensacola. For me, I looked at all of my Minor League years, and this was the most important for me, as far as growth. I've taken my game to the next level, in terms of preparation and things like that. I learned a lot. I'm looking to incorporate it all into next year."

Winker, 22, batted .282/.390/.433 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 123 games for Pensacola, and he wound up earning the Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year Award -- which was given to him on Friday.

Over the first two months of the season, however, the lefty hitter was batting only .229 with two homers.

"I never put too much emphasis on a month, or two months, or a slow first half," Winker said. "I just learned to be more patient. I learned everything will take care of itself. I've never been one to put too much pressure on myself. But it's hard when you're having some slow months to not get frustrated. I just learned to stick with what I know, and it worked out for me."

Winker finally took off in the second half, batting .316/.426/.516 with 10 homers. From Aug. 11-15, he had a streak of five homers in five games.

"That was a lot of learning and talking to my coaches, teammates, stuff like that," Winker said. "I have to give them a ton of credit. Same with my family. They all played roles in the past year. It was fun. Everything kind of clicked there."

The Reds are in rebuilding mode heading into 2016, which could improve Winker's chances of reaching the Major Leagues next season. Especially with a current opening in left field, he will be trying to make the team out of Spring Training.

"Absolutely, but I think everybody is aiming for that," Winker said. "I'm just concerned with getting better and learning. It's my job to learn from everybody. That's what I'm going to do."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.