Coming into the year, Allan Winans wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a real prospect. Why should he have been? A former Day Three pick in the MLB Draft, acquired by the Braves through the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft prior to last season, Winans was entering his second year in the organization in his age-27 season. But then, he flipped the script with a great season in Triple-A on his way to making his big league debut.
The Atlanta Braves drafted Winans in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft prior to the 2022 season. Prior to that, 17th round pick (2018 MLB Draft) from Campbell spent the first four years of his pro career with the team who drafted him, the New York Mets.
Preseason report card
Winans was seen as an upper minors arm that could eat innings effectively, and one that could pitch in as major league depth if a severe spate of injuries struck the team. While it was clear that Winans had nice secondaries, his fastballs were slow and subpar, and the lack of swing-and-miss seemed to limit the interest that a team would have in pushing him higher than the high minors.
Winans did not make our Preseason Top 25 prospect list, as he was entering his age-27 season with the profile mentioned above, and hadn’t made a single pro start prior to coming to the Braves ahead of the 2022 season. He was the classic roster filler/Quad-A guy based on his age and limited starting experience. Or, so we thought.
What we saw in 2023
Winans had a really nice time at Triple-A, with a 2.85 ERA, 3.87 FIP, and 4.16 xFIP. He pitched in 23 games with 17 starts, though all six of his relief outings went a minimum of four innings and some were really token starts where a rehabbing big leaguer got the start and he came in for the second or third inning.
This performance earned him his shot at making his big league debut, where he not only held his own — but earned the right to make six starts for the NL East champions. Winans went 32 1⁄3 innings in Atlanta, and his line flipped from what he experienced in Triple-A: a 119 ERA-, but a much better 95 FIP- and 91 xFIP-, with an xERA somewhere between his ERA and FIP.
In some ways, those numbers don’t tell the full story, as Winans was dominant in three of his first four starts, and quite good overall in four of his first five. At one point, he held his former organization scoreless through seven innings with a 9/2 K/BB ratio... though his only bad start in that span also came against the Mets in his very next outing, and they thrashed him soundly. The Nationals also roughed him up in his last start of the year, but even so, he wrapped up his brief stint in the majors with four quality outings in six tries, and above-average numbers overall. 0.5 fWAR in 32 1⁄3 innings is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering the FIP was worse than his xFIP.
Winans’ time in the majors was interesting pitch-wise: he clearly showed a more-than-MLB ready changeup and slider, with the former having excellent depth and the latter being essentially an excellent two-plane pseudo-curve. The changeup had a whiff rate north of 30 percent and a sub-.300 xwOBA-against despite largely being thrown in the zone, while the slider was superbly spotted on the gloveside edge and absolutely destroyed hitters (36 percent whiff rate, .249 xwOBA-against). However, his fastballs were plenty horrible — he throws a four-seamer despite it also having a ton of sink, and weirdly for a “command guy,” had no real ability to shove either fastball into a consistent spot, pretty much ever. There’s a much more interesting version of Winans out there that doesn’t throw fastballs 50 percent of the time, but it’s unclear if we’ll ever see that.
Here’s a standard, highly effective Winans changeup getting him out of a jam with a terrible elicited swing:
On the flip side, here’s a very rare hung slider from Winans:
It’s hard to predict what kind of role Winans will have in 2024 until we see what moves the team makes over the winter. Despite the fact he will be playing his age-28 season next year, he is still nominally a prospect and will likely make our Top 25 prospect list ahead of next season. He very well could find himself in Spring Training competing for the fifth starter spot, or serve as the team’s long reliever, or even end up back in the rotation in Gwinnett acting as insurance for when an eventual injury happens to the pitching staff. Short of being traded Winans is extremely likely to have some role with the 2024 Braves, just that it’s hard to pinpoint what that is with other roster moves yet to be made.
Projections aren’t too high on Winans, considering that he wasn’t all that good at Triple-A and his is a very unorthodox profile where the fastballs are arguably unplayable, but he still projects as an adequate reliever if nothing else. Again, there’s clearly an unorthodox thing to try with him pitch-wise, but the question is whether the Braves have any real interest in shepherding a bizarre, no-fastball profile through a rotation trial in the near future.