JUPITER, Fla. — At some point during Friday’s rout of the Miami Marlins, maybe it was after Masyn Winn’s triple or between his double and single, catcher Willson Contreras walked over to the young, pyrotechnic prospect with a question.
“What’s your name?” the veteran asked.
Winn looked at him, curious.
“Masyn Winn,” Contreras said, spicing it with an adjective not suitable for print.
The catcher’s point: So no one will ask his name.
They’ll know it.
“I love the way he plays. I love his work ethic,” Contreras said. “Also, he can pitch. Talk about a good talent. I really love him. If you don’t know his name, his name is Masyn Winn.”
It’s a name that was all over the game again Friday as Winn added to his impressive spring with a bases-clearing triple, and he finished three-for-four with four RBIs in the Cardinals’ 16-2 thumping of Miami. It’s a name that is pushing toward the top of the Cardinals’ prospect rankings, right behind his best pal Jordan Walker. It’s a name that is likely to be written onto the roster of a minor-league affiliate, possibly Class AAA Memphis, when the Cardinals head north for opening day.
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And Winn recognizes that because of the names before his on the depth chart.
“I think that’s why I’m so comfortable with where I’m at,” he said. “I understand the guys ahead of me. I could go 50-for-50 with 50 bombs in my next 50 at-bats, but the dudes out there — you’ve got Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan, two Gold Glovers right there. Paulie (DeJong), he’s hit 30 home runs one year. Not a lot of guys can say they did that. Nolan Gorman. There are a lot of bats. In order for me to get up there, I’d have to take somebody out of the lineup and I think that’s going to be difficult. We’ve got a lot of sluggers up there.”
Several events have combined to give Winn a spring spotlight. Edman headed for the World Baseball Classic and injuries have cost DeJong starts at shortstop. But most of all it’s been Winn’s performance that continues to get him games.
Winn, who turns 21 on Tuesday, arrived in camp more advanced as a hitter than expected, manager Oliver Marmol said. The shortstop also took quickly to instruction from coach Jose Oquendo on how to slow his game down. There wasn’t always a need for speed. Marmol said Friday that Winn is “tooled” out — a compliment to the facets of his game.
“We came into camp and my thought was the bat would be a little bit behind, and the reality is it isn’t,” Marmol said. “He continues to take a good approach. It’s one thing to run into some balls and show that you have tools. It’s another thing to take a professional at-bat and understand the situation and how you want to miss if you do miss. That’s what we’re seeing. Which is pretty impressive.”
In the Cardinals’ nine-run second inning Friday, Winn drilled a line drive to left-center field for a standup triple. An inning later, he laced an RBI double off Marlins’ lefty Trevor Rogers, an All-Star in 2021. This spring, Winn is seven-for-eight against lefties with three doubles, five RBIs, a home run, and a walk.
“I love a good lefty,” he said.
All of the skills that Winn has shown in spring play well for a young player promoted to the majors because, as Marmol said, “there are a lot of different ways he can beat you.” Winn has an elite arm, solid range, speed to steal a base or score from first, and he’s shown a feel for the strike zone. Those are all traits that help a young player contribute and remain in the lineup in the majors even during the oscillations of production at the plate.
Which, the Cardinals have stressed, is where Winn’s name must be — in the lineup.
“With someone like him, you just have to be very careful, and that promotion has to take place at the right time, and you have to be smart about how you want to navigate that one,” Marmol said. “If you’re going to take someone like Winn, he has to be able to play short every day. There’s no reason to take Winn if he’s going to come off the bench and play multiple positions and kind of get at-bats here and there. That is a guy who has the potential to play short for a while, and establish himself as a really good piece to what we’re doing here for a long time. So you want to be sure he develops properly. I’m in zero rush to say he has to break camp with us because of what he’s done. …
“The kid’s doing really well. I mean, extremely well.”
And then Marmol dropped the question.
“Where does he play?”
Marmol’s point: What name does Winn replace in a lineup that has Edman starting at shortstop, Donovan set to play at second unless Gorman does? All of the names that Winn listed on his own.
“I’ve always had the utmost confidence,” Winn said. “I understand if it’s not right now, someday I’m going to belong in the big leagues. That is something I truly believe.”
Mikolas makes cameo
On Team USA’s workout day in Miami, Miles Mikolas instead rejoined the Cardinals briefly for workouts in Jupiter. He will be back with the national team Saturday ahead of its quarterfinal game against Venezuela. Mikolas appeared once, in relief, during pool play and would be on turn to start if Team USA advances to Sunday’s semifinal against Cuba. The Cardinals had hoped that he would pitch more regularly, and even after his relief stint for Team USA he had to throw simulated innings in the bullpen after the game to maintain a throwing program.
Gorman will backup third base
When the Cardinals score third baseman Nolan Arenado a day off this season or start him at designated hitter, the plan is now to start Gorman at Arenado’s corner. In Gorman’s rookie season, the Cardinals were reluctant to move him from second base, a new position, or remove him from that spot to DH. Instead, Donovan often played third on days Arenado did not and his play there helped earn him the utility Gold Glove Award.
Marmol revealed the dugout wondered “in our gut if that should have been reversed” with Gorman playing his original position and Donovan at second.
That’s how it will be if both are in the infield this season.
Drafted as a third baseman and a third baseman through much of his zoom through the minors, Gorman has played the position well this spring. On Friday, he had a backhand play that took him into foul territory, and from the third base coach’s box he threw the runner out.
“You’ve got to be a hockey goalie over there,” Gorman said of returning to third. “It’s been fun. I’ve got a lot of action over there, too.”
Matz, DeJong delay & more
Steven Matz got a dozen outs without the ball leaving the infield in his five strong innings Friday against Miami. Seven outs came on the ground, three via strikeout, and Matz was a part of turning two double plays. He needed only 64 pitches to get 15 outs. … DeJong (sore lower back) remains limited in his ability to field and appear in games, and while his injury has not worsened, Marmol said the team does not yet have a timetable for his return. “He has not gotten to the point we can evaluate what that progression would look like,” Marmol said. … Ryan Helsley struck out three in a scoreless inning Friday. He has struck out 11 of the past 13 batters he faced, and he has three consecutive appearances with at least three strikeouts.