Jesse Winker, the left fielder for the Dayton Dragons, was like the rest of the team’s hitters — struggling.
Three weeks ago, manager Jose Nieves took Winker in for a meeting to discuss his hitting woes. The talk wasn’t so much technical as it was about encouragement.
“He told me to keep battling and keep working hard — it will change,” Winker said. “I’m pretty young in this league and he told me to keep focus. He noted I was hitting them hard, they were just straight at guys. If I keep the same approach they will fall.”
And fall they have. Winker, who was 1-for-3 in a 7-4 loss to Lansing on Friday, is hitting .373 over his last 20 games with three home runs, six doubles and a triple. During the streak he raised his batting average from .139 to .291 and was named Dragons Batter of the Month for April, as voted by fans.
The rest of the team has followed Winker’s example. The Dragons, who hit .215 in April, are batting .276 this month and have scored nine runs or more in four of their last eight games.
“As a team, we started off slow,” Winker said. “I struggled at the beginning and had to go back to basics — swing the bat, hit the ball. We’ve had a pretty good run and won a few games in the last few weeks. It has been fun and we have to keep at it.”
Winker is the No. 7 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization according to Baseball America, and is its top corner outfield prospect. A supplemental first-round pick in 2012, he hit .338 in Billings last year. He was tied for the league lead in on-base percentage and second in batting average.
Seven of the Reds’ top 20 prospects are Dragons. This has meant plenty of attention from the front office. Such Reds officials as farm director Jeff Graupe, former Dragons manager Freddie Benavides and former Chicaco Cups VP and current Reds consultant Oneri Fleita have been regular visitors, along with roving instructors such as Rick Sweet and Eric Davis.
Being such a focus of the organization hasn’t bothered Winker.
“I don’t look at it as pressure,” Winker said. “We get a lot of good insight from our rovers. Learning from them is a lot of fun and having them come and watch you play is really just an honor.”
Lansing at Dayton, 7 p.m.