‘I feel close’: Winn foresees MLB debut in ‘22

January 24th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Cole Winn and his mother have matching tattoos on their forearms. It’s a simple minimalist outline of a shark fin poking out of the ocean. 

It was a spur of the moment decision they made one day while walking around Dallas a few weeks before Christmas, Winn explained when a group of top prospects met with the media at Globe Life Field after a leadership minicamp. And while Winn really does like sea animals and sharks in general, the tattoo had another meaning related to baseball. 

“Sharks are kind of like our thing,” Winn said. “I've grown up loving sharks and one of the sports psychologists that I work with, Brian Cain, he posted a thing one day that was like ‘Be a shark. They don't care what day it is, or if they're having a bad day, they’re going around doing cool shark stuff.’ So that's what my mom and I took and ran with it.

“It's just kind of having that mentality,” Winn added about applying that to pitching. “Obviously sharks are supreme in the ocean. So you're gonna have to have that mentality on the mound as in your self talk has to be confident, your body language has to be confident.”

And Winn hasn't had any trouble with confidence.

He was the Rangers' top-rated pitching prospect before the club drafted Jack Leiter at No. 2 overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. But Winn also vaulted into MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects (No. 60) this season, putting together one of the best of his professional career.

It’s easy to see why Rangers big league co-pitching coach Brendan Sagara called Winn “the most special pitcher in the system” earlier in the season. He speaks with a humble confidence that the Rangers no doubt desire in their top prospects. 

In 2021, Winn put together a stellar year as the Rangers' Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year and was part of the All-Star Futures Game in Colorado during All-Star Weekend. He posted a 2.41 ERA between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. His career year also includes holding opponents to a slash line of .146/.239/.259/.497 with a 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.

A 2018 first-rounder, Winn is anticipated to make his MLB debut in 2022, but the right-hander isn’t putting limits or too many expectations on himself.

“I've said this previously, but anytime you play professional baseball, it doesn't matter if it's your first year or what, you have it in the back of your mind the goal to get to the Major Leagues,” Winn said. “I think this year for me could be the best year for that. I do have that as one of my goals. Other than that, I'm just looking to build off the season I had last year and prove to be consistent.”

That was Winn’s biggest plus in 2021: consistency. He struggled in his professional debut in the spring of 2019, but has steadily become what the Rangers expected of him ever since. His four-pitch arsenal with a fastball that tops out at 97 mph combined with his ability to pound the strike zone is what makes him stand out in a stacked prospect list. 

Winn will almost definitely start 2022 back at Triple-A Round Rock, if all goes according to plan. The big league squad no doubt needs pitching help heading into the new season, but Winn headlines a crop of pitching prospects for the future of the organization. 

If he’s anything close to performing as advertised at the MLB level, the rotation will be in good hands for years to come. 

“I feel extremely close,” Winn said of his big league possibilities. “But at the end of the day, it's not my decision whether or not I make it to the big leagues at a certain point. I feel ready and the only thing I can do is put myself in the best spot possible to get there. With the work I've put in this offseason and getting into spring training and feeling good, I think I'm putting myself in a good spot.”