ST. LOUIS -- As Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak looked through video of Masyn Winn as a shortstop and as a pitcher, there was a moment that he thought the Cardinals should go the "safe route" and just draft Winn the shortstop. He is considered one of the finest defensive shortstops in the Draft because of his athleticism.
But then Mozeliak saw Winn the pitcher. The 98 mph fastball. A high-spin slider. An above-average curveball. His stuff, Mozeliak said, was “electric.”
How do you choose? The Cardinals didn’t.
With their second-round pick and 54th overall, the Cardinals selected Winn to kick off the final day of the 2020 MLB Draft. They classified him as shortstop/right-handed pitcher. A Kingwood (Texas) High School product and the No. 54 prospect on MLB Pipeline, Winn is seen as a legitimate two-way player, and the Cardinals thought: Why not?
“For a modern game, a modern player, a modern athlete, being experimental or at least open minded to it is something that we would like to at least try,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t know what the right answer is, but the St. Louis Cardinals are going to try to find the right answer.
“He’s clearly a very special player. The more you watch him -- candidly, I can’t wait to see him in real life. He’s going to be a fun player to watch.”
It’s rare to see a high school two-way player be drafted as such, and player development “will have their hands full,” as scouting director Randy Flores said. But Winn’s age helps. At 18, there’s time to let him develop in the system.
“There’s also just a thing when you know you’re looking at a player -- does someone look like they should be doing that?” Flores said. “Often, when there’s a pitcher in high school, but is actually a shortstop, it looks like there is a shortstop on the mound. Or it looks like a big, tall, high school projectable pitcher is trying to hit.
“You watch [Winn], out of high school, on the day he pitches, he looks like a pitcher. And on the day he’s an infielder and a batter, he looks like a prospect as a hitter.”
Winn is committed to Arkansas, but the Cardinals expect to sign him. The have a bonus pool of $7,901,100 this year, and the second-round slot value is $1,338,500. The selection of Winn was first of the Cardinals’ six picks on the final day of the Draft.
Winn played in just one game in a shortened senior season at Kingwood because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a junior, he went 13-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. And he hit .417 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs. He put all his skills on display at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in October, when he touched 98 mph with his fastball, backed it up with two plus-secondary pitches and homered in the same game.
“The dude is super talented,” Kingwood baseball coach Kelly Mead said. “He’s got so many fast-twitch muscles. It doesn’t matter what he does. If he gets on the mound, he’s dominant on the bump. He’s dominant defensively. He’s dominant in the box. Once he reaches base, he’s a havoc. His baseball IQ is through the roof for an 18-year-old kid. The things he does and sees, you can’t really coach it. He has the ‘it’ factor. He has it. He has the stuff you can’t teach.”
Round 2, 63rd overall: Tink Hence, RHP, Watson Chapel High School (Ark.)
Like Winn, Hence is an Arkansas commit, and like Winn, the Cardinals expect to sign him. Hence is one of the youngest players of this Draft at 17 years old, but the Cardinals were drawn in by a jump in his performance this season. His arsenal includes a fastball, a plus slider and a changeup. He hit 94 mph with his fastball at the Future Stars Series in September and then kicked it up to 96 at the WWBA in October. He displayed similar velocity during a brief look this spring before his season ended.
“With Tink, he is so young that when he has this type of feel for his breaking ball, and you can see his body and physicality maturing over the fall, the leaps that he made from the summer circuit into that fall showcase in Jupiter, and into some of the looks we were able to get on video this spring, there was belief that his best days are ahead,” Flores said.
Round 2, 70th overall: Alec Burleson, OF, East Carolina University
The Cardinals will develop Burleson as a hitter, despite being one of the top two-way players in college baseball. He committed to hitting during the Cape Cod League last summer and is looking forward to adding strength that he kept off as a pitcher. The 21-year-old can make easy line-drive contact with his left-handed swing.
“My ceiling is pretty high as a hitter just because from a strength and conditioning aspect of it, I’ve been lifting as a pitcher just to take care of my arm,” Burleson said Thursday. “I think there’s a lot more in the tank from a strength and condition aspect of it. I’m just looking forward to focusing on one, and if they want me to get up there and get three outs, I’ll get three outs.”
Round 3, 93rd overall: Levi Prater, LHP, Oklahoma
The Cardinals have a type: College pitching. That’s where they turned with these next two picks. Prater is part of a dominant Oklahoma rotation, and in four games this spring, he struck out 33 in 23 2/3 innings. The lefty draws descriptions as a gamer who knows how to pitch through adversity. He only has two fingers on his non-pitching hand due to a lawnmowing accident when he was not quite 2 years old. He learned to switch-hit in high school and has been a strong fielder.
Round 4, 122nd overall: Ian Bedell, RHP, Missouri
Bedell grew up in Iowa, enrolled at Mizzou -- just two hours away from St. Louis -- a semester early and attracted his favorite team with a breakout Cape Cod League season: 0.59 ERA with a 36/3 K/BB ratio. His rising potential as a starter intrigued the Cardinals, and he said Thursday that he’ll leave Mizzou to sign.
“After pick 105, I gave up on trying to get my slot value that I was wanting,” Bedell said. “I was like, ‘Alright, great, I’m going to have to find an apartment in Columbia, (Mo.)’ And then all of a sudden I get the text from my advisor saying the Cardinals at this pick with this slot. And I was like, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’ … I would have gone back to school if the signing bonus wasn’t there, but they made a good offer, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Round 5, 152nd overall: LJ Jones IV, OF, Long Beach State
The Cardinals ended the Draft the way they started it -- with power potential. Jones hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year, when he hit .312 with 22 RBIs. He missed his sophomore season with injury and played 14 games in the shortened season this year. But he was off to a thunderous start, with a .509 slugging percentage.
“Our scouts who saw him both live and on video really liked the passes that he took at the baseball,” Flores said. “There is a chance at power there. And with his age being what it is, with time on his side, I think that we’re in a good spot to make that bet in the fifth round.”