LOS ANGELES — When he first met the man who would become his defensive mentor, Cardinals prospect Masyn Winn wondered what it was like because, he explained, that coach with his exercises and demands were “really hard on me”.

An older player assured Winn that the longtime guru “knows what he’s talking about”, and to research him, dive into Google and check out his highlights.

Winn went to YouTube and typed: JOSE OQUENDO.

“You can just say whatever he’s trying to teach me, whatever he’s trying to get me to do, you go back and it’s all there in the videos of him doing it, like speaking the same language” , Winn said of his work with the Cardinals minor league field coach. “He wants me – well, it’s not that he wants me to be like him. But he wants me to be consistent. He wants me to be as good defensively as he is.

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Winn and his best friend and Class AA teammate in Springfield, Jordan Walker, represented the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on Saturday during the Futures Game, the annual All-Star Week showcase of the game’s top prospects. Walker, a first-round 6ft 5in with the advantage of an OPS giant, made his Futures Game debut as scheduled. He started at third base and hit the cleanup for the National League formation. Another step in this steady ascent to Saint-Louis.

Taken a turn after Walker in 2020, Winn was a two-way talent – ​​a fleet-foot outfielder and a gifted athlete with a snappy bat but a snappier fastball off the mound. His path to the majors was less linear than Walker’s. Some teams thought Winn could move faster as a pitcher and have a higher ceiling with his elite speed. He loved throwing, knew he was good too. Hitting was less sure, a longer way. Fielding was not as immediately gratifying as overpowering a hitter. Then he started working with Oquendo.

How far and how fast he’s come – and perhaps how close he is – has been revealed in his Futures Game role: the NL’s starting shortstop.

“I love shooting, really, but I’m here for a reason, and that’s because I play pretty well at shortstop,” Winn said. “I fall in love with hitting and, above all, defending. Working with (Oquendo) made me very proud to work in defence. I try to be good there. And it’s a lot of fun thinking about the next piece. I want to make a big game. I don’t want to just wait there.

In his locker Saturday, Winn found two jerseys, one with No. 3 because that’s the number he wears at Double-A Springfield, and the other with No. 1 on it. He asked for that one because it’s his favorite number, the one that was taken out of the Cardinals system. He learned from his stepfather about the last player to wear it for the Cardinals – Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith – and he chose to wear No. 1 on Saturday because of the position Smith was playing and was about to play.

Walker and Winn spent most of Friday traveling, with their flights from Springfield, Missouri, to Hollywood delayed and diverted. But along the way, Walker challenged Winn, berating him to see if he could make a 100mph throw. Win accepted.

If he got a grounder at shortstop, he was going to channel his inside pitcher.

“I could drop one,” Winn said.

In the second set of the AL’s 6-4 win, Winn was blasted by a ground player from Houston prospect Yainer Diaz. The pace of the ball was just right so Winn could glove it, grab it, and tear it apart. He later learned that he was clocked at 100.5 mph.

“He said he was going to give up, but honestly, I didn’t expect it,” said first baseman Mark Vientos, a Mets prospect. “That’s crazy. He has a gifted arm. I’ve never seen that before. Hundred?”

It was that electricity that crackled through his fingers as a pitcher that Oquendo helped Winn harness as a shortstop. A common refrain young infielders will hear from Oquendo on the backcourts of Jupiter, Florida is, “Don’t panic. Oquendo once explained that young outfield players will rush to show off everything they have – be it reach or arm strength – and fail to recognize that they are better when using those gifts under control. . Not all games are panic.

Save the heat for that backhand game in the hole.

This will bring consistency and contribute to sustainability.

“He doesn’t want me to baby anything,” Winn said. “If I have to let him eat to get him there, then do it. But, he wants that same level of intensity every time.

With the pitch in Saturday’s game, Winn said he wanted to put on a show. Walker was thrilled to be a part of it.

Walker, like Winn a few months shy of his 20th birthday, said he was 11 or 12 when he told his father he wanted to play the Futures Game. His father, in the stands near a sign that read 200 feet from home plate, confirmed that his son had made a list of games he wanted to play. Futures Game was there, and the young Walker could list the prospects he had seen in previous ones.

“They’re closer to me in age, so it was more real to me,” Walker said. “That could be me in a few years, right there, close to MLB. That was another springboard for hope, to be honest.

Walker went zero for two in the Futures game, connecting on a 96 mph fastball for a steal to center field and crashing into his other at bat. DeSmet graduate Erik Miller, a Phillies prospect and left-hander on the verge of the majors, retired the only batter he faced. Winn hit in both of his plate appearances. On his first, he saw pitches he won’t be able to make until he reaches a higher level: back-to-back sliders at 91 and 92, then a 98 mph fastball past his bat.

Winn joked that upon leaving high school, he thought of himself as “more of a Jordan Walker, thinking I was going to hit some bombs.” After a month with coaches last winter, Winn saw results in reimagining himself as a table hitter with an underhand pop. He has six Double-A home runs, and this season overall he has a .342 on-base percentage.

In several corners of both pavilions on Saturday, there were players with a clear vision of their road to the majors – as a high-speed reliever, as a dynamic hitter, as a stable glove receiver – and then there had prospects like the Cardinals duo. They both have multiple routes that lead to Busch Stadium. Winn could come in as a shortstop or any position on the field if he keeps pushing forward as a hitter, or has 98 mph in his back pocket from the mound. Walker has worked as an outfielder this past offseason and continues to take flyballs during batting practice – all with the idea of ​​being able to play at least four positions in the field so he gets one. to this plate.

“Being able to know how to play those positions really helps my game, gives me more opportunities to get my bat in the big league roster,” Walker said. “This is where I really want to be. I want to give myself as many opportunities as possible. »

Winn had two opportunities to flash that arm on Saturday.

He succeeded on the first attempt, made a mistake on the second.

He got the one – well, 100 – he wanted.

From there, he wanted to experience the Futures Game at a different pace for once.

“I was trying to absorb it all, slow down, enjoy the moment,” Winn said. “And I have work to do.”


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