With their first selection in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft (54th overall), the Cardinals selected Masyn Winn of Kingwood High School in Texas. Winn was 54th on MLB.com’s draft prospect rankings, 47th on Baseball America’s list, and 39th on the FanGraphs list. Winn both pitches and plays shortstop with enough talent to be drafted at either position. Dan O’Dowd on the MLB network immediately compared him to Francisco Lindor (oh my!) and there are obvious Brendan McKay comps. Baseball America stalwarts Ben Badler and JJ Cooper, amongst others, were enamored with the pick:
Interesting Cardinals announce one of my faves in the class Masyn Winn as both a SS and RHP. Pure baseball player. Competitor. Athlete. Sign me up.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 11, 2020
Really like the Cardinals getting Masyn Winn at No. 54. Two-way player and one of my favorite HS pitchers in the draft.— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) June 11, 2020
Baseball America’s scouting report of Winn declared that, “pound for pound, Winn could be the most purely talented player in the 2020 class.” At the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship last fall, he put on quite a show. Per Derrick Goold, he tied the velocity record at the event by hitting 98 mph on the mound. MLB.com notes that he backed that up with two plus secondary pitches. That’s in addition to his performance at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with a homerun, triple, and single, and registered exit velocities over 100 mph three times. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention his defensive prowess at shortstop, where he possesses twitchy speed, quick hands, and (obviously) a cannon arm.
Here’s how he looks hitting:
Loud stuff in the first from Masyn Winn (2020 TX) as he comes out pumping 95-98. Double plus arm speed, attacking hitters & mixing in a sharp breaker @ 77-80 with very late bite to it. #Arkansas commit. #mlbdraft pic.twitter.com/9NlZFh5gEf— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) October 12, 2019
FanGraphs grades his fastball as a 55 current and 60 FV. His curveball is also a 55 current/60 FV, his changeup comes in at 30/50, and his command goes 20/40. Overall, he has a 40+ FV grade. Several sites laud Winn (the pitcher) for a high-spin fastball, which he can use to come right after hitters for swings and misses. Because of his frame (5’11”, 180 pounds), there are reliever concerns.
His scouting grades as a position player, via MLB.com, are a 45 hit tool, 50 power, 55 running and fielding, and a 60 arm at shortstop. It all comes out to a 50 grade overall.
It’s impossible to find a scouting report on Winn that doesn’t mention his athleticism and raw talent. Over at FanGraphs on The Board, he’s the highest rated pitching prospect to have a ++ in the Athleticism category.
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. The Cardinals certainly have a few specific types in the draft, and Winn somehow checks multiple. Let’s recap:
Winn is a two-way player.
Through the years, the Cardinals have drafted Robert Stock, Jason Motte, and Rowan Wick- each capable of pitching and playing the field professionally. They recently snagged a position player-converted-to-pitcher in last year’s Rule 5 draft- Jacob Bosiokovic. They made a run at Jordan Schafer as a pitcher/outfielder hybrid in the 2016-2017 off-season. Walker Robbins was drafted in the 5th round in 2016, had a brief run as a position player, then converted to pitcher last season. It’s not quite the same, but the Cardinals drafted Andrew Knizner as a third baseman knowing he could easily shift to catcher. Oh, and don’t forget Rick Ankiel.
The Cardinals love multi-position baseball players the same way I love beer and hot dogs. In Winn, they’ve found their most talented experiment yet.
He’s extremely athletic...
The Cardinals have long had an affinity for athleticism in the draft, particularly from their pitchers. Derrick Goold wrote a great piece about it last summer leading up to the draft. This section about Dakota Hudson from that article and the following John Mozeliak quote says a lot:
Elite pitch. Righthanded. Throws hard. Strapping frame. Athletic.
Straight out of central casting.
“It was something internally that when you’re looking at A vs. B, it seemed like a good place to defer — defer to athleticism,” Mozeliak said. “When you look back over that period of time, you see why it’s been an invaluable tool into allowing someone to grow.”
The trend crescendoed with the arrival of pitchers like Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and continued on to recent picks Jack Flaherty and Hudson. The preference never really left the organization.
Winn, the pitcher, is probably more athletic than any of them. He’s also righthanded, throws hard, and has an elite pitch (at least one) with his high-spin fastball. He’s slighter of frame than the others, but... we’ll get to that.
...with raw talent.
The Cardinals aren’t afraid to take on raw athleticism and talent. The FanGraphs Prospects Twitter account referred to this kind of player as a “big upside... tip of iceberg” type. They specifically brought it up when comparing Winn to last year’s second round pick, Trejyn Fletcher. You know... another massively talented player missing some polish. It’s not the first time “raw” has been used to describe a Cardinals draft pick. When Nolan Gorman was selected, folks were drooling over his raw power. For that matter, Jordan Walker in the first round this year had similar praise. Remember when Daryl Jones was a thing? There are countless others.
In Winn’s case, the “raw” tag applies more to his hitting ability, particularly the power... which is a lot of the same way folks described Delvin Perez coming out. At least in that way, Winn fits the mold. Nobody in the Cardinals organization flinches at unpolished talent, especially on the hitting side.
He’s a small framed pitcher with high velocity.
The Goold article cited pitchers mostly with bigger bodies, but the Cardinals have had a lot of success drafting and/or developing some smaller-framed pitchers, particularly those with high octane queso. Jordan Hicks is listed at 6’2” and (generously) 185 pounds. Joe Kelly comes in at 6’1”, 174 pounds. Carlos Martinez (6’0”, 190 but it was less early in his career) is the most impressive slight framed accomplishement in the organization. Jason Motte was... thick, but he was also 6’0”. Luke Weaver is a bit taller at 6’2”, but he’s a stringbean at 170 pounds.
All of those guys had small frames, either height or weight, and lit up radar guns (Weaver less so). All were targets of Cardinals scouting and all eventually landed on the mound at Busch Stadium.
Early in the quarantine, I rewatched The Sopranos. There’s a lesser subplot in the series in which Tony goes through a parade of mistresses who all match a very specific type. They’re all Italian-American (and in one case, Italian-Italian) with persecution complexes. A few of them even spit out the words “Awww, poor you” at Tony, just like his mother. They’re all archetypal versions of Livia Soprano. Like Tony, the Cardinals sure have a type. Masyn Winn somehow fits several at once despite having big league talent at two different positions.
Where Winn ends up is anybody’s guess. He has enough talent that he could have been drafted either as a position player or a pitcher. The Cardinals are lucky enough that they can let him try both for as long as they want. If they’re smart about this, they can put him on the Brendan McKay path and let the chips fall where they may. For now, we can all dream away on the superlatives buried in his scouting report and anticipate seeing those tools on display on the mound. And at shortstop. And at the plate. And on the mound again.