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Masyn Winn and the Marlins: A Match Made in Heaven?

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The Marlins front office has established their proclivity for high-upside talents since taking over, and one of the biggest ceilings in this year’s class could potentially be had with their second pick.

@MasynWinn/Twitter

It’s difficult to predict what will happen in this year’s truncated draft, but my expectation is that prep players will get pushed down the board a bit by the added uncertainty created by the season shutdown. A prep prospect’s senior spring can move their draft stock dramatically, and while teams are always more comfortable with college prospects, I’d think that that will be doubly true in 2020 given the circumstances. This could result in some high-ceiling prep prospects going later than they would’ve in a typical year with a solid spring, which could give the Marlins a greater opportunity to mine that group.

Since the Marlins’ new regime took over, they have consistently chased high-upside prospects with loud physical talent. Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Jazz Chisholm all fit into this category, and this tendency held true in the 2019 draft, when they stopped Kameron Misner’s fall at pick 35. It’s a sensible strategy, especially when combined with Miami’s emphasis on player development and fostering chemistry on the farm, and one I’d expect to see the club continue to employ as we head into the 2020 draft.

One such player who I was immediately captivated by in my looks at him, is Kingwood High’s Masyn Winn. The Houston area standout shows immense upside as both an infielder and pitcher. While he doesn’t have an immediately eye-catching physical makeup, it doesn’t take long for him to make his presence known on the diamond. Winn is fast by pretty much any definition of the word. Not only is he quick of foot, every action he makes in-game seems to happen at lightning speed. The young Texan plays both shortstop and pitcher, and his physical talent translates incredibly readily in both roles in a way that is uncommon for players so young.

Winn may not be the most advanced baseball player in the 2020 prep class, but he’s not a complete ball of clay by any stretch. Every draft class has elite athletes described as raw baseball players. What sets Winn apart from the typical player in that group is his body control and natural understanding of how to use his natural gifts to his advantage. To illustrate, Winn already regularly sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, shows real feel to spin the baseball, and makes a lot of hard contact at the plate. While talent certainly plays a role in all of these areas, nobody comes out of the womb throwing 94 and Winn shows a baseline mechanical understanding that I’m sure teams covet.

As a position player, Winn shows at least three plus tools with the potential for more to develop. He’s an easy plus runner who also sports impressive short area quickness, giving him more than enough range for the shortstop position with potential to move to center field. His arm, which is as strong in the field as it is on the mound, also projects as an asset at either of these positions. He will need work on defense, but has the necessary ingredients to handle a premium position. He tends to overextend a bit in the field, and more reps should allow him to play a more relaxed, refined shortstop, and he projects as a fast learner in the outfield if necessary.

At the plate, his power already stands out. He doesn’t yet make contact at an elite rate, but when he does it’s, typically of the blazing line drive variety. He’s already capable of putting balls into the seats, and there’s still room for him to grow into more power. Winn’s twitchiness and explosive rotational ability drive his now-power and velocity—once the strength in his 5’10” frame is maximized, it could approach the top of the scale.

Courtesy of @ShooterHunt/Twitter

His approach does leave a bit to be desired, as he tends to expand the zone frequently. This is always concerning—-it may portend deficient pitch recognition which has doomed many promising talents—but to my eye in Winn’s case it’s more of a plate discipline issue.

There’s just as much to work with on the mound here. As a pitcher, Winn has a live, 94-96 MPH fastball right now, which is already elite velocity. On top of that, he shows a flashy slider with big two-plane break at its best. Many view feel to spin the ball as more of a tool than a skill, myself among them, and if that’s true it’s definitely another that Winn possesses. As you’d expect, he’s a two-pitch guy at present, but with his body control and feel for the breaking ball, I think he’ll be able to develop a strong third pitch if asked, be it a changeup or a curve.

The weakness for Winn on the mound is his command, but he’s not completely scattershot. Again, this is an area where I feel Winn projects well going forward, as athleticism plays a big role in locating your stuff and Winn has that in spades. He does throw with some effort, and that coupled with his smaller size gives him a hearty dose of reliever risk. Even so, he projects as a high-leverage, late-inning type in that role.

When looking at the totality of his profile, Winn has four to five tool upside at shortstop with three easy plus tools, and shows two different pitches that easily project as plus. It’s an Ohtani-ian embarrassment of riches.

Many high-end prep prospects—and draft prospects in general—play both ways. It’s much more common at amateur levels of play, all the way up to high major NCAA baseball, but most such players are never given a chance to do in the pro game. There’s good reason for this—it’s incredibly hard to train two skillsets that are disparate in practice in the limited time window that players have to prepare for the major leagues—but teams are showing more of a willingness to give it a go recently when the appropriate player comes along. Winn may be the next player to follow this path. Teams seem relatively split on his future home, and not because they’re lukewarm on him at both spots. Rather, it is because Winn shows so much talent on both sides of the ball that teams are hesitant to scrap him in either role.

So, how would Winn playing both ways as a pro look in practice? That may depend on who drafts him, but it would certainly necessitate a slower development plan than if he is asked to focus on a single role. This is an important consideration, as Winn is far from a finished product on either side of the ball and development time is limited. The best way I see to mitigate this concern is to work Winn as a relief pitcher exclusively—while he does have potential to start if everything clicks, his lack of a third pitch and small size make it an uphill battle. The narrow arsenal and below-average present command aren’t really concerns in that role, and Winn’s stuff profile is a natural fit for the pen. He’s already topping out at 98 as a teenager, so it isn’t at all difficult to imagine that he could be pushing triple-digits some years down the line, and his breaking ball back it up perfectly. No prep pitcher is ready to pitch in the big leagues, but getting Winn ready in that role would be far less demanding than ironing out the kinks necessary to get him ready as a starter.

With a less demanding training workload on the pitching side, Winn would have ample time to hone his approach and rein in his defense, which are his primary obstacles to pro success as a position player. Winn should take well to defensive coaching, and I don’t think it would be much of a challenge at all for him to adapt to the outfield if shortstop doesn’t work out. He’ll be a developmental challenge, but I’ve seen players with more to work on turn into successes, and the upside offered by a true-two way threat makes the endeavor worth it in my opinion. An extra roster spot is nothing to sneeze at, even in the age of 26-man active rosters, and the downside of giving Winn a go as a two-way guy isn’t especially great. If it isn’t going to work, that should become apparent fairly early on and he could move to either role full-time before he becomes too old for his level.

Despite the effervescent talent, Winn currently projects as a late top-50 pick by consensus. The shortened season made prep players especially difficult to evaluate, particularly players like Winn who require a little more projection than most. This could mean that the Marlins get a chance at him with their second selection, and if the men in charge still see stockpiling upside as a high priority, I can’t imagine many other players offering a greater opportunity for them to do so. We may see a bit of a strategic shift as the big league club approaches its competitive window, but if not I’d expect that Winn is the kind of developmental challenge that the Marlins would welcome.