To be completely fair, it’s not that the great state of Colorado has never produced an MLB pitcher. In fact, one of the best pitchers the past 20 years, Roy Halladay, was born and raised in the Denver suburb of Arvada.
Kyle Freeland, who is enjoying a breakthrough season for the Colorado Rockies, went to high school in Denver.
There are others, but not nearly as many as have been produced in California.
The No. 5 player on the Star-Telegram’s list of the Top 10 Texas Rangers prospects knew that. Even though MLB scouts knew who he was and what he could do after starting his prep career in Colorado, he wanted to move to California to get better.
The Rangers like that kind of mature thinking.
No. 5: RHP Cole Winn
Born: Nov. 25, 1999
Height: 6-foot-2. Weight: 190 pounds.
How acquired: 2018 draft (15th overall)
When amateur scouting director Kip Fagg started to tell the media about Cole Winn on the first night of the June amateur draft, he couldn’t believe the Texas Rangers were able to select the right-hander at No. 15 overall.
Not only did they get a talented pitcher with the potential for three plus-pitches, but Winn is a dogged competitor and is advanced in the way he looks at pitching. His mind just works differently than others his age or even older than him.
It’s always been that way.
“My dad was a professional golfer, so he had learned his mental side of it and he preached to my brother and I to be mentally prepared,” Winn said. “We have to realize that we’re going to fail and how we’re going to build off of that.
“With the Rangers peak performance, everyone says you’re going to play to the level of your preparedness. That really hits home with how big routines are for me.”
Winn didn’t want to leave out the impact of his mother, who joined him as he met with a sports psychologist in Colorado during his junior season of high school. The focus of the sessions was how to slow things down when things were on the verge of getting out of control and how to be prepared for all that could happen in a game.
As for being the first-round pick for a team in the midst of a rebuilding project, Winn confidently took it in stride. He’s definitely not short on confidence.
“It didn’t really add any pressure,” said Winn, who had committed to TCU. “If I were to go out and throw like I did this spring and have everything going the way I did, I think I could compete at any level that they have me going to. I’m pretty confident about that.”
Winn has reason to be confident. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, topping out at 96 mph, and a curveball that he says is his best off-speed pitch. He also throws a slider and spent much of his time this summer working on getting the feel for a changeup.
But the key for him isn’t any one pitch. It’s the idea of throwing strikes, which has become a mantra in the Rangers’ system. Just look at Tyler Phillips, who walked 16 batters in 133 innings this season at Low A Hickory and High A Down East.
“Throwing a lot of strikes, not trying to be too fine with every pitch,” said Winn, who had a 0.20 ERA as a senior at Orange Lutheran High. “I feel like I did a good job of throwing strikes and trying to let them put the ball in play. From what I saw this year at this level, the more strikes that were being thrown, the more outs they were getting. Throwing enough strikes isn’t a bad problem to have.”
He didn’t throw for the AZL Rangers, nor did most of the other top pitchers selected in the draft, but will once games start in the instructional league. He reports there Wednesday after getting a couple weeks back home in Anaheim.
His family’s condo is located in a parking lot at Angel Stadium, where the Rangers play their next three games.
It offers pretty cool rooftop view for a pretty cool kid. That’s off the field.
“When I get on the mound I’m a completely different person,” said Winn, the Colorado Pitcher of the Year as a junior and the Gatorade California Player of the Year as a senior.
“That shows. I think that helps to my advantage, just having a chip on your shoulder when you’re pitching. I just try to be a bigger presence on the mound. On the mound, it’s go time. Even my own teammates are like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to calm down.’ “
He admitted that he can’t wait to get back in games, even though his instructs outings will be only one or two innings, after a summer of getting ready for professional baseball.
He’s ready, physically and mentally. It’s a combination the Rangers love.
“I’m pumped,” Winn said. “I think I’ve gotten stronger physically, and I think the classroom with some of the mental stuff, I was pretty far ahead but it helped refresh my memory. Just working my arm back into shape has been good, and just overall getting a feel of professional baseball is like was good for me now before it gets really hectic the next couple years.”
Star-Telegram Top 10 Rangers prospects
No. 10: Cole Ragans
No. 9: Tyler Phillips
No. 8: Joe Palumbo
No. 7: Taylor Hearn
No. 6: Jonathan Hernandez
No. 5: Cole Winn
No. 4: Tuesday
No. 3: Wednesday
No. 2: Thursday
No. 1: Friday