Braves fans got their first glimpse of Daniel Winkler this week when he made his MLB debut. The team selected him from the Rockies in the Rule 5 Draft in the offseason, and they have kept him on the disabled list all season as he has recovered from Tommy John Surgery. Rockies fans were not happy that he was unprotected by the team, especially given their inability to produce quality pitching over the years. Daniel Winkler is now the most underrated pitching prospect in our system given his ability, but the team appears to be hard set on using him as a reliever. Winkler was a minor league all-star in 2013 and 2014 for his performances in A+ and AA ball, respectively, and for good reason.
The reason the 25-year old looks like he has the potential to be a great major league late-innings guy is his ability to strike batters out. In 2013, his last full season in the minors, Winkler struck out 175 batters. That led the minor leagues. Things were perhaps looking even better in 2014, as he had a 1.41 ERA alongside 71 strikeouts in 12 starts. Unfortunately, he sustained an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery. The Braves were fast to claim Winkler, and they had him immediately come in and pitch for the big league team upon his activation. He made his debut the other night, striking out two batters.
Winkler’s strikeout totals are not to be accounted for by a ton of velocity. He has a delivery that can bother hitters and has great command. His arsenal contains his fastball, a changeup and a slider. He has maintained a low walk rate throughout his time in the minor leagues, and his peripheral stats are quite consistent with what you want to see from a big league reliever. He joins Jason Grilli, Shae Simmons, Chris Withrow and Paco Rodriguez as bullpen members recovering from injury that look to contribute in 2016. It’s actually shaping up to be a pretty good looking unit. We have Winkler ranked as our 21st best prospect in the system.