PEORIA — The Peoria Chiefs have a pitcher who can touch 98 mph on the mound, a shortstop with elite athleticism and a cannon arm, a hitter who can deliver contact or power and a speedy baserunner.
All of those are one guy: Chiefs shortstop/pitcher Masyn Winn.
His middle name is Blaze, he calls himself the Energizer Bunny and the Cardinals know him as their No. 4-rated prospect.
“I was told the Cardinals plan to fold (pitching) into my developmental plan,” said Winn, 19, a right-handed pitcher and hitter. “I haven’t pitched yet, but the plan is there. They want me to focus on hitting right now because once you stop swinging, it’s hard to get your bat going again.
“My arm strength, it’s always going to be there. Before I got drafted, I wanted to be a two-way player. I still do. But it’s so hard to do that in pro baseball. Shohei Ohtani, what he does is amazing. People don’t realize how hard that is to do.”
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Winn grew up in Kingwood, Texas, outside Houston. He was a three-sport athlete — basketball, football and baseball — at the age of 4.
By 9, he was pitching. He had a pitching coach named Anthony Young, who meant a lot to him. Winn has a pitching glove that is solid red, with the late coach’s initials, “AY” stenciled on it.
He learned the game from his stepfather, too: Longtime baseball coach Earl Luckett, who played four years at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas. In 1986, the Houston Astros signed the speedy shortstop to their Gulf Coast League team in the minors.
“He taught me everything I know about baseball,” Winn said. “He is an old-school guy, coached my summer league teams. We called him, ‘Lucky.’
Winn was all set to play college baseball at Arkansas when the 2020 MLB Draft came around, and everything changed as the St. Louis Cardinals took him in the second round (54th overall). He signed for the above-the-slot value of $2.1 million, bought himself a pair of Air Jordans and began his pro career.
‘He’s an explosive talent’
Winn’s pro debut came at low-A Palm Beach, this season, where he played 61 games, with three home runs, 16 steals, hit .262 and drew 40 walks in 284 plate appearances.
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Only 5-foot-10, 175 pounds (“Hey, I’m 5-11 in cleats though”), and newly promoted to high-A Peoria, he homered, tripled, singled, scored three runs and had a .976 OPS in his first three games with the Chiefs.
“He refers to himself as the Energizer Bunny,” Chiefs manager Chris Swauger said. “Probably the best word to describe him on the field is sparkplug. He moves around on the field differently than anyone I’ve ever seen here. His size can fool people. He’s an explosive talent, can hit the ball with power, and his arm, when he throws the ball, you can hear the seams rip.
“We selected him as a two-way player, and there is a progression, a plan in place for him.”
Butterflies and middle names
Winn’s middle name is Blaze, and yes, it has a special meaning. His mother, Tiffany Rawson, gave each of her four boys a middle name suggesting a color that might appear on a painter’s wheel.
Winn’s middle name is Blaze, and his brothers’ middle names are Sky, Jade and Gray.
Blaze is a reddish-orange. And it’s a perfect name for a guy whose speed and quickness is part of the show. He is a quick study, too.
“Growing up, I idolized Jose Altuve because he was small like me,” Winn said. “I was always the small guy on every team I played. But I see what he does and it inspires me.”
Winn put his two-way game on display in the 2019 World Wood Bat Association World Championship when he homered and hit 98 mph on the mound in the same game.
In 2020, he was at home in Kingwood on draft day, with family and a few close friends, amid the pandemic.
“I was sitting by the pool, trying not to get stressed, waiting,” Winn said. “Then I heard, ‘With the 54th pick the St. Louis Cardinals select …’ and it was my name. It was butterflies for me. Still is. It was just amazing.
“I hugged my mom, and my step brother, Nick, he’s my best friend.”
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During the 2020 pandemic season, with minor league baseball shut down, Winn worked out at the Cardinals alternate site, where he played every day at shortstop and went through throwing progressions on the mound. Then he was at home, working with a speed coach.
“I had surgery to repair meniscus in my right knee, and I was coming back from that,” Winn said. “I know I startle people with the way I move around on the diamond. A lot of that is baseball IQ, I think, I just know what to do, where to be. I feel like I can still get faster. And I’m 175 (pounds) now, but I want to get to spring training next year at 195. That’s my goal.”
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men’s basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.
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