Prospect Winker not ruled out of LF battle

'I'd never say never with this kid,' Price says

Prospect Winker not ruled out of LF battle

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds prospect Jesse Winker isn't viewed as a front-runner for the big league club's opening in left field as Spring Training is getting underway, but he can certainly change that status with his play on the field, which would make the decision more difficult.

"I would not say he can't make the team," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "We know right now that we've got some guys competing for left field. I would say Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Yorman [Rodriguez] are probably -- I hate to say the favorites -- but they're guys we're looking at. They're done what they needed to do at the Triple-A level."

Spring Training info

Winker, 22, is the No. 34 ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Following a slow start in 2015, he rallied and batted .282/.390/.433 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 123 games during a full season with Double-A Pensacola. As a team seeking to rebuild, Cincinnati having him skip a level and going to the Major Leagues would not be unheard of.

But Price wouldn't mind seeing Winker get more development time in the Minors.

"Jesse hasn't gotten to Triple-A and mastered that," Price said. "However, sometimes you just feel like a guy's ready and give him an opportunity to play on a regular basis. I think right now I'd like to see him start the season at Triple-A. But I'd never say never with this kid. I know he's a special talent."

Winker understood that he would have to prove himself to win the job. One of the many early arrivals to camp ahead of Tuesday's full-squad report date, he looked forward to the competition.

"As a competitor, that's how you want to view it every year," Winker said. "Obviously, I don't have a lot of big league experience. You don't want to get too comfortable. That's the kind of mindset I will have every year, no matter what the circumstances are. I think that's the right way to be and how you'll pull the best out of yourself in preparation and getting ready for the season."

In his second big league camp, Winker looked forward to learning while competing.

"I have a lot of great guys here to learn from, like [Jay] Bruce, [Joey] Votto, [Zack] Cozart and Billy [Hamilton]," he said. "That's my job, to come here and do that."

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.