Self scouting report: Blue Jays' Winckowski

May 26th, 2020

While baseball’s hiatus continues during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no shortage of nostalgia abound as the list of things to miss about the game seemingly grows longer.

For Blue Jays’ No. 30 prospect Josh Winckowski, his time away from the mound has helped him realize exactly which moments the right-hander will be fighting for when he returns to it.

“I miss striking people out, to be honest,” the 21-year-old hurler said. “Especially when you’re in the sixth or seventh inning and you know you’re getting towards the end of your outing, and then you punch out the last guy to close out the outing. That’s just one of the better feelings in life.

“Hopefully most of the time you’re leaving with the lead and you can have the feeling of just knowing you’ve done your job that day and you’ve done everything you can for the team. Wrapping it up with a K and getting to walk off the mound and know you dominated the other team that day is a feeling that’s hard to beat.”

In his first full season last year, Winckowski racked up 108 strikeouts over 73 2/3 innings at Class A Lansing and 53 2/3 frames at Class-A Advanced Dunedin. The 2016 15th round pick of the Blue Jays posted a 2.69 ERA between the two levels, holding opponents to a .231 average, and was looking forward to seeing what more he had in the tank for this season before it was postponed indefinitely.

“We got one live [batting practice] in before being sent home, and in that live BP my fastball was already 93-96 [mph],” Winckowski said. “That was barely into Spring Training, so I was hoping I would be able to get into the 95-99 range this year. I’m not sure if that would have happened or not, but I was throwing harder earlier than I usually do.”

Evaluating himself using a Major League Scouting Bureau report and the 20-to-80 scouting scale, basing his grades on the standards set by the Bureau, Winckowski offered insight into what his long-term future might hold.

Top tools
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Florida native gave his slider a future well-above-average grade, jumping the pitch a full grade from where he believes it is presently.

“What makes the slider so good is the velo on it,” Winckowski said. “Then it also really comes out like my fastball, and it breaks really, really late. But it’s about keeping it there, the consistency is the biggest thing, and locating it.”

Room for improvement
Jumping his fastball movement a grade-and-a-half from present to future, Winckowski offered an above-average evaluation of his movement currently, with potential to work up to making his four-seam fastball one of the best in the game.

“I’m mostly a big sinker guy right now,” Winckowski said. “But I was really working on the Gerrit Cole-like ride and life in the zone, having a higher spin efficiency and making the ball look tougher to hitters. If I could sink the ball, and carry the four-seam through the zone, that’s something not a lot of people can do. It would really be a huge tool.”

Scouting the scout
Offering insight into his own game, the right-hander had very little experience in the realms of scouting and grading when he filled out the evaluation.

“I don’t have a lot of familiarity with it. I’ve seen a few scouting reports, and I’ve had input from coaches on what they think my strengths in specific pitches are, but I’m not too familiar with the whole grading scale and all of that.”

What the scouts say
“He’s a guy I like a lot,” one National League evaluator said. “He’s young and he’s got plus pitchability, he’s not just a thrower. I gave him a present 50 with his control, which is very unusual. He has an excellent three-piece mix and his slider is a solid out pitch. He throws strikes, and has an idea of what he’s doing. He has a below-average arm action but he locates and gets the job done. He’s a little bit of a short armer, and short armers have a lot less injuries. He’s aggressive and he competes and he was up to 96 last year. There’s a lot to like.”

What's missing
“Personality and competitiveness,” Winckowski said of what the report doesn’t say about him. “Not that other pitchers don’t compete, but when I go out there it’s my day and I really look at it as my time to take over and do whatever it takes to get the team a win.”