With debut in reach, Winn wowing at camp

February 28th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One thing that stands out to Rangers assistant general manager of player development Ross Fenstermaker about Cole Winn is his willingness to throw a 2-0 changeup.

The right-hander is expected to be the next Rangers pitching prospect to make his big league debut this coming season, and Winn has proven he’s up for the challenge. Fenstermaker calls him one of the most complete pitchers in Texas' system.

"You don't see a lot of pitchers that are comfortable throwing 2-0 changeups,” Fenstermaker said. “They usually go to the fastball or whatever their most striking pitch is. What makes Cole unique and special is that he has the feel to [throw a] strike with anything at any time. So he can throw pitches in counts that hitters at any level -- Major Leagues included -- don't see.”

Winn is in Arizona at the Rangers’ Surprise complex for the club’s Minor League minicamp. The club’s third-ranked prospect stayed in Arizona all offseason, but this week has been the most time he’s spent at the complex since arriving, opting to work out on his own to prepare for the coming season.

Winn specifically worked on streamlining and fine-tuning his slider, which was a pitch he added during his senior year of high school.

“My hand-path and direction was getting a little off towards the end of the year,” Winn said. “It was looking and feeling more like a cutter than a slider. So we’re working to get the depth back and find the hand-path and the direction that I wanted.”

With a mid-90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, the slider -- when working well -- has been utilized as a solid wipeout pitch for Winn. Fenstermaker said all four of Winn’s pitches, including his changeup, are above average.

Because of that, Fenstermaker said, Winn is comfortable throwing any pitch in any count to any hitter.

“He can just really pitch,” Fenstermaker said. “I think he possesses some traits, he’s aggressive and intentional and thoughtful in the way he navigates his abilities. Cole can do so in an exceptional way. That’s what makes Cole so unique and special. … He's really aware of who he is as a pitcher, what his strengths are and how to really leverage those strengths.”

The physical attributes are clear. It’s what made Winn first-round talent in 2018, when the Rangers took him out of Orange Lutheran HS (Orange, CA) with the 15th overall pick in the Draft. But it’s everything else that makes him the “most special pitcher in the organization” to Fenstermaker.

Double-A Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews raves about Winn’s ability to make adjustments, both in games and between starts.

“The funny thing is if he has a bad game or there’s something that he didn't accomplish that he wanted to get done, you'll see that the next time,” Andrews said. “He corrects his mistakes quickly. He knows where to go. He's very focused and he knows what box each thing goes into.”

Andrews emphasized that Winn has put himself in a position where there’s not much else to learn pitch- and delivery-wise. He’s put in the work there and can now focus on purely playing baseball and facing big leaguers in the near future. It's a logical step for Winn, who rolled through with both Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in 2021, holding opponents to a .146/.239/.259 slash line and posting a 2.41 ERA over 86 innings.

Andrews said Winn has exactly what it takes to be one of the great pitchers.

“His drive and his competitiveness will put him on that track,” Andrews said. “It’s who he is as a person. What he wants to be certainly will be if he continues to pitch and to perform like this. He has certainly given himself the opportunity to do that. … He knows who he is as a person. But now he's learning who he is as a player.”

And while that learning process may take Winn on a path directly to Arlington this season, he’s only focused on controlling what he can control this spring and putting himself in the best place to succeed.

“I'm gonna keep my head down and work as hard as I can to meet my goals this year,” Winn said. “Right now is a good time to do that because none of the big leaguers are here, so you got all the big league staff, their eyes are on everyone here, so it's good. I know I'm just working hard, trying to stay consistent.”