Dan Winkler, RHP
2017 Level: AAA Gwinnett (rehab assignment)
5.14 ERA, 4.06 FIP
14 G, 0 GS
(rehab assignments at class A, A+, and AAA)
Winkler was a 20th-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2011 draft, and started getting some prospect attention when he struck out 152 hitters in 130.1 IP and maintained a 2.97 ERA in the hitter-friendly high-A California League in 2013, and ended up leading all minor leaguers with 175 strikeouts. He maintained his success in AA Tulsa until he went down with a torn ulner collateral ligament in the middle of what had been a dominant 2014 campaign.
Looking to bring in talent anyway they could at the start of the current rebuild, the Braves selected Winkler in the Rule V draft after the season, knowing he could be stashed on the 60-day DL to lower the usual requirement to maintain the player on the 25-man roster all season to only 90 days. Winkler was activated in September 2015 and pitched in two games. In spring training, Winkler won a spot in the 2016 Opening Day bullpen. Unfortunately, after getting seven outs over two games without giving up a run, Winkler went down again with a ghastly injury, this time breaking his elbow while throwing a pitch. That injury kept him off the mound until mid-June of this year, when he started climbing the organizational ladder on rehab assignment.
Winkler’s not going to light up radar guns, but creates problems for hitters with a deceptive delivery that can come in at multiple angles. He has good control of a fastball that sits around 89 but can touch 92. He follows that up with a good slider that he can use effectively against lefties inside, an unusual look. He also has a cutter that he can use like a change-up when he wants to present another look.
Winkler has six weeks to play himself into Atlanta’s 2018 bullpen picture. Amazingly, he still has to stay on the 25-man roster for 55 days to clear his Rule V restriction; with his accumulated service time while on the DL, he’ll actually be arbitration-eligible after this season. It’s a very unusual roster issue, and our friends at Walk-Off Walk have already written extensively about it.
Regardless, it’s been a long, tough road back for Winkler, and making it back to the majors after all he’s been through has been an impressive comeback.