The plan is to talk about some of the Tampa Bay Rays’ non-drafted free agent signings today and tomorrow, but before I get up to them, I need to talk more about the Rays’ 40th round pick, Pikai Winchester. I found almost nothing about Winchester when I was researching and asking about him after the draft, but it was brought to my attention shortly afterwards that I was asking people about “Kahiau Winchester” when Winchester actually goes by his middle name, Pikai. Winchester is extremely unlikely to sign with the Rays, but let’s give him a full report.
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Winchester, who is listed at 5’10”, 185, was drafted by the Rays as a left fielder for some reason. In reality, though, he does have the ability to remain on the infield and has the offensive tools to potentially profile as a starter at second base. Winchester stands out for good bat speed as a lefty batter and shows good raw power to right field during batting practice, although he has more of an all-fields approach during games a this point. The inevitable comparison for Winchester is going to be to Kean Wong, another second baseman below 6′ from Hawaii, and Winchester may not be quite as good of a pure hitter but does a better job driving the ball than Wong did when he was drafted.
It’s always nice to have the hit tool, but Winchester does have some concerns with regards to his plate approach. He is over-aggressive in the batter’s box at this point and also needs work recognizing pitches. However, the same is true for almost every high school player coming out of the draft and Winchester’s feel for hitting gives him a good chance of becoming average or better in that regard in the future. That’s the type of risk that teams are willing to take when the upside is a .280 to .290 hitter with 15 home runs.
Defensively, Winchester is unlikely to be great at second base because he is an average or worse runner without much arm strength, but smooth hands and a good first step give him the ability to keep playing there at higher levels. He could also be solid at third base–although he won’t have enough power to start there–and he will unquestionably be good enough for left field. Winchester will always be an offense-first player, but the fact that his defense will not be a liability only increases the chances that he can reach that potential.
Pikai Winchester is an interesting second base prospect, but evidently his commitment to the University of Hawai’i scared teams enough that he dropped to the 40th round of the draft. It would be quite surprising if Winchester signed with the Rays at this point, but best of luck to him as he hopes to play well on campus and be drafted much higher in a few years.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.