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Cardinals prospects Walker, Winn thriving and learning with extended spring looks

By Joey Schneider,

2023-03-14

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JUPITER, Fla. – Two top prospects are taking care of business and then some in their highly-anticipated spring auditions with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Twenty-year-olds Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn have worked their way into lineups on a near-regular basis this spring as many Cardinals stars embark on the World Baseball Classic. Between both youngsters, the ultimate package of baseball goods has been unlocked this spring: contact, power, speed, defense and arm strength.

Walker leads all qualified spring hitters with a 1.212 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Winn recently fired the fastest-tracked spring throw for infielders, a 99.9 mph dart to first base. Along with these spring-leading feats, the dynamic duo has combined for 5 HR, 12 RBI, 14 runs scored, four stolen bases and some occasional web gems here and there in just around two weeks of action.

RELATED – Albert Pujols makes surprise spring visit, at peace with post-baseball life

Recently ranked baseball’s fourth and 50th best prospects by MLB Pipeline , Walker and Winn both see this spring campaign as a major learning experience.

“Being out here all these guys, all these big league guys and a lot of prospects with big-league potential, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Walker. “Not just playing with them, but also playing against some of the guys you see on TV. Learning a little bit from how they play their game up close and personal is really cool.”

“I was a little nervous coming into [this spring], but now I feel really comfortable,” said Winn. “It’s a lot of fun playing with those guys, watching them hit, watching them throw. It gives me confidence to do what I do. I’m loving it right now, every part of it.”

Walker, drafted as a third baseman, has his eyes on the outfield for the foreseeable future.

“I just want every day to feel a little more comfortable out there,” said Walker on his recent positional adjustment. “I’m not where I want to be quite yet as the peak defender, but just working out there every day and getting closer to what I want to be, it’s really truly helpful.”

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Winn is holding the fort at shortstop, though has earned some time at second base this spring and even has some limited experience pitching in the minors.

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Masyn Winn in the on-deck circle for a March 2023 spring training game. (Photo courtesy: Joey Schneider)

One of Winn’s baseball idols – Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith – has devoted lots of time to the rising infielder in recent weeks.

“The Wizard, that’s my guy,” said Winn, who has worn Smith’s uniform No. 1 throughout his minor league journey. “I did get to meet him [this spring], and it was fantastic. Honestly, something I didn’t ever think was going to happen. I thought about him watching highlights doing backflips and making crazy plays, jumping over a runner. To see him in person and shake his hand, it’s fantastic.”

Smith recently treated Winn, Walker and young pitching prospect Tink Hence to dinner, an experience that Winn compares to none other.

“He is a really genuine person,” said Winn. “It’s really different when you got a Hall of Famer like him talking to you on the same level as you. It’s something unreal. I can’t even put it into words.”

Walker has spent many mornings over the past month working with another 1980s Cardinals star, Willie McGee, on outfield drills. He also credits St. Louis’ big-league core for some friendly feedback in his switch to outfield.

“Just a little closer to look at the big leaders, like working in the outfield with T.O. [Tyler O’Neill], Noot [Lars Nootbaar] and [Dylan] Carlson,” said Walker. “Just seeing them up close and personal, how they go about their work, they’re really amazing athletes. It’s really fun to watch them work and be able to work with them outfield, and it’s truly been a joy.”

RELATED – Cardinals face ‘tough decisions’ in building 2023 pitching staff

For Winn, two rookies from last year, Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez, have been close companions this spring.

“Donny specifically, the first few days I was at shortstop, he was third with me,” said Winn. “When I had a couple bad throws, he just looked over, took a deep breath, and was like ‘Dude I still get nervous, you’re good. I feel the same way. I was in your shoes last year.’ He was a Gold Glover last year, to hear that, it kind of helped me relax a little bit.”

“Yepey is the same way,” added Winn. “[Last Thursday], I felt like I could’ve made a play on defense, but Yepey pulled me aside and just talked to me for two minutes. Just, ‘Hey man, there’s a reason we’re all out here working right now. You want to make that play during the year, but it’s just practice, right now.’ Just talking to me, helping me calm down a little bit, those two guys have been great.”

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Jordan Walker fist-bumps Dylan Carlson after a pregame catch in March 2023 spring training. (Photo courtesy: Joey Schneider)

The Cardinals first two draft picks of 2020 agree that sharing this spring together, representing the next wave of Cardinals prospects, has added to the excitement.

“Playing with Tink [Hence] and Masyn [Winn] is awesome,” said Walker. “We hype each other up. We love seeing each other play well, so it’s just a lot of fun being here with them in spring training. We’ve spent a lot of time together, fall leagues, minor leagues. Having all of us in the same spring training, it’s been it’s been a lot of fun.”

“To be able to do it with these two guys [Walker and Hence] and watch them go out and ball every day, it’s a smile on my face everyday,” said Winn. “We’re not going out there trying to be anybody else, we’re not trying to do too much. I’m going out there playing like Masyn Winn, Jordan Walker is going out there playing like Jordan Walker and Tink Hence is doing Tink Hence things. We’ve got several great prospects.”

Nearly halfway through this year’s slate of spring training games, Walker and Winn say their work is far from done.

“I came here to show what I can do,” said Walker. “Keeping it as simple as I need to be, don’t overthink things, and that’s pretty much the game.”

“I’m just going to play my game and whatever happens, happens,” said Winn. “We got a really good groups of guys, and I can’t wait until we’re all up there to win a championship.”

RELATED – Sights and sounds from St. Louis Cardinals spring training

Walker, two days after a one-on-one interview with FOX 2, suffered a shoulder strain and is considered day-to-day. He will likely be eased back into action this spring, but the Cardinals don’t view his current setback as a serious one.

Winn, in his one-on-one interview with FOX 2, also wanted to give a shout-out to former MLB prospect Milton Ramos for designer chains he has sported throughout the spring.

“He takes care of his guys and will drive out to wherever they’re playing [to deliver],” said Winn. “He’s a dude, and I’m excited to see where his stuff goes.”

For Jordan Walker’s full one-on-one interview with FOX 2’s Joey Schneider from March 9, 2023, click here .

For Masyn Winn’s full one-on-one interview with FOX 2’s Joey Schneider from March 10, 2023, click here .

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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