The early parts of Masyn Winn’s development as a professional ballplayer can be summarized with one term: addition by subtraction.
Winn was selected by the Cardinals with the No. 54 overall pick in the 2020 Draft. By then, the Texas high-schooler was touching 98 mph with his fastball and drilling homers in the same game. St. Louis drafted him as a two-way player, but he’s only pitched one professional inning since. And it seems things are going to stay that way as the club is focused on his development as a shortstop and hitter.
The club’s fifth-ranked prospect played up to the competition in his first Minor League season with Single-A Palm Beach last year. He compiled a .262/.370/.388 slash line with 21 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases before being promoted to High-A Peoria. Winn struggled toward the end of the season and finished with a .680 OPS and 39 extra-base hits overall, including five homers. Although he drew 46 walks and stole 36 bases, Winn’s chase rate was a little high and he ended up with more strikeouts (100) than games played (98).
Now in his second tour with Peoria, Winn seems to have a better handle on things over the first few weeks of this season. His strikeout numbers are down and he leads the Minors with six triples – there were only 79 players throughout all levels of the Minors with at least six triples all of last season.
In the latest Prospect Q&A, the 20-year-old from Katy, Texas, discusses the work he put in to become more selective at the plate and boost his power numbers. He also talks about the decision to move to a full-time position player role, participating in a Home Run Derby on the water and what it’s like to work under the tutelage of fielding guru Jose Oquendo.
MiLB.com: You've gotten off to an excellent start -- what's been working for you in Peoria?
Masyn Winn: I think it's just me being a lot more comfortable. I went through my first year of pro ball, and I was probably a little too anxious. And this year I probably settled down a little bit. I got some at-bats under my belt. I worked a little bit with one of my teammates, Chandler Redmond. And he got me feeling real comfortable at the plate. So I think I just relaxed a lot more rather than being so uptight.
MiLB.com: Was there anything that was a point of focus in your offseason work?
Winn: I think the biggest focus for me was putting on some weight. I went out to Florida a couple months early to go train at our facilities and get right for the season, but the biggest thing for me was probably just gaining weight and being able to keep that weight on during the season.
MiLB.com: What went into that? Was it lifting heavier? Did you also get to indulge a bit and enjoy a few more meals?
Winn: For sure, for sure. I love food, so I was really trying to put down as much food as possible. I mean, hitting at least one workout a day. But the biggest thing was just eating. I think I woke up at 6 a.m. every day with some eggs and some oatmeal and stuff like that. Just trying to snack throughout the day, put on some weight. Obviously, hitting the gym, just trying to put on weight the right way. Lifting, trying to get into my muscles rather than my stomach. And then going down to Florida, they really helped me out. They kind of put me on a nice weightlifting program in order to maintain the weight that I was putting on, and I put on a little bit more.
MiLB.com: Did you notice anything change in your game as a result of this body transformation?
Winn: Definitely seeing the ball come off the bat a little better this year. Definitely not as many singles, for sure. I think that had a little to do with me putting on weight, but at the same time, just me swinging at better pitches as well. Rather than just putting balls in play, I'm trying to drive balls. I think putting on the weight definitely didn't hurt. I think it's benefited me the right way.
MiLB.com: Some scouts had mentioned after your first season that it might benefit you to be more selective. Was that something you worked on this offseason?
Winn: I think that was big on the Cardinals' part. I got with one of our hitting coaches, Daniel Nicholson, and we kind of went over my spray charts and were like, 'Look, you don't hit this pitch well, you hit this pitch really well.' So, I kind of just got used to, 'OK, if it's in this area, I want to just let it go, no matter where it's at, until I get to two strikes.' So, for me, it's like I'm shrinking my zone until I get to two strikes, and then I'm attacking. But I want my pitch early in the count. I'm trying not to swing at it if it's not there when I want it.
MiLB.com: Defensively, the Cardinals and Jose Oquendo have a reputation for being the best at coaching that side of the game. What do they do that makes them so special?
Winn: I think the way Jose goes about it -- I was out there for two months before the season working every day. He would hit me ground balls, as many as I wanted, just working on the fundamentals rather than the highlight plays. Just do everything simple the right way, and then once you get older, you can get your own style. I think listening to him and having the respect that he has from everybody in the organization, I mean, he's got like the second highest fielding percentage of all time. That's kind of like if Barry Bonds comes up to you and is like, 'Hey, man. Want me to give you some hitting lessons?' Like, you're going to say yes. I think other orgs have guys that might resemble him, but I think he's the best at what he does.
MiLB.com: Speaking of highlight reel plays, you had one of the best earlier this season. Can you take us through what you remember?
Winn: I know there was a lefty up to bat, and it kind of hit off his hands a little bit. Our left fielder probably couldn't get the best read and I was going to have to go a little bit farther, I mean, I turned around and I was running for the ball. I was calling it until I got called off, and I never did. I took a quick peek at him, looked back at the ball, and in my head I was like, 'He's not going to catch it, I'm going to just give my best try.' And three seconds later it was in my glove, and we were walking off the field. It was pretty fun, and it happened so fast. I almost blacked out a little bit.
MiLB.com: You were able to take part in one of the coolest things that happens every offseason in ‘Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise’ in the Bahamas. How did you get involved, and what was that experience like?
Winn: I got involved with my agency, Roc Nation. We had a few guys go down there -- Tahnaj [Thomas], Dom Smith, Jazz [Chisholm Jr.], a few other guys. ... It was one of the best experiences of my life. The guys who went down there, there were some big leaguers down there and you wouldn't have been able to tell. They were just normal people having a good time. Everybody was in good spirits, playing baseball on a beach. It really couldn't get any better than that. It was my first time being there, so they definitely do things right down there.
MiLB.com: Is this something that goes on the calendar every year now?
Winn: I'm hoping so, man. If I can go there and do that every year, yeah, for sure.
MiLB.com: I have to ask about the possibility of you pitching again. Has there been any indication that it's possible for you to be a two-way player?
Winn: Sadly, I think the only way that I pitch is if I hit about .100 for the next three years. I think they have a plan for me at short, and I'm cool with that. But, in my head, it's like if that doesn't work out, I'll easily go and step on the mound and get up there within two years. I'm not too worried about it. If they think I'll be a better long-term shortstop, that's great. That just means they have confidence in me, so I'll do that. It's definitely in the back pocket, but it probably won't be pulled out anytime soon.
MiLB.com: How do you feel about this decision?
Winn: I put a lot of thought into it and really started thinking about it, like, it's really just the organization wanting to take care of me. I mean, being Shohei Ohtani is very impressive. Because I know he doesn't play too much in the field, he's really a DH, for him to be able to start and then go to the outfield some times and then still swing it, man, I got to tip my hat because that's a lot of strain on the arm. I think hitting is definitely a lot harder, so they want me to do that first, see if that works out. But it wasn't too hard to give it up. Especially with my personality, I think me being on the field everyday would benefit the team a little bit more. As much as I love pitching, I definitely don't think I can sit out four days a week.
MiLB.com: What does a successful 2022 season look like to you?
Winn: Honestly, I really need to get my slugging numbers up, in my opinion. I think I need some more extra-base hits. Turning singles into doubles, doubles into triples. And I definitely need some more bombs this year, for sure. I think the power factor needs to come back sooner this year, and I'll be happy with that.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.