Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn ‘rolling together’ with starting jobs up for grabs

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ST. LOUIS – Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, fresh off their MLB debuts last season, have been through just about every stage of professional baseball together.

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Walker and Winn with their first two picks in 2020, both out of high school and months into a pandemic-altered baseball world. They’ve grown close as teammates on each of the Cardinals’ four minor-league affiliates over parts of the last three years.

Walker made his jump to the big leagues a bit earlier, breaking spring camp on the St. Louis Opening Day roster last year. Winn earned his big-league promotion in August and will retain his rookie eligibility for one more season, unlike Walker.

Key comments from John Mozeliak at Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up

Ahead of the 2024 campaign, their bond comes full circle yet again. Walker and Winn will have the opportunity to earn starting roles for the long haul this spring. Walker presumably in right field, and Winn presumably at shortstop.

Walker and Winn, both speaking Sunday at Winter Warm-Up, say they try to bring the best out of each other throughout their professional baseball journeys.

“I’ve seen him hit for four years now, and I know he can handle it,” said Walker on Winn. “I know the type of player he is.”

“If he’s going, I feel like I’m going a little bit,” said Winn on Walker. “Whenever he hits a double, I feel like part of me hits a double. I know he feels the same way. When we’re rolling together, it’s a lot of fun.”

Both now 21 years old, Walker and Winn talk almost daily one-on-one and say they’re both constantly seeking a competitive edge.

“We got back and forth, whether it might be video games or weight gain,” said Winn. “He told me he gained a bunch of weight [to develop strength], so that pushed me.”

“We’re always competing, whether it’s on the baseball field or off, playing video games,” said Walker. “He’ll say he’s better than me at video games. I disagree with that. But he’s always competitive in everything we do. When it comes to arguing who’s the best basketball player of all time, I argue [Michael] Jordan, he argues LeBron [James]. He’s always competitive with that. I think it’s the competitive spirit he has.”

While pushing each other, Walker and Winn both realize the need to step up their games individually.

Walker opened his MLB career on a historic 12-game hitting streak before he was abruptly optioned back to the minor leagues weeks later. He says the experience was eye-opening.

“The biggest thing is you got to be a lot more consistent,” said Walker on playing at the MLB level. “I’m not saying the minor leagues are easy, but in the big leagues, they make less mistakes. I have to capitalize on them when [opponents] make mistakes.”

Winn enjoyed a strong Triple-A season before his August call-up, but he couldn’t find top form offensively as the Cardinals grew further away from the postseason picture.

“Going from trips [Triple-A] to the majors was a complete shift,” said Winn. “It completely changes the maturity of the game, the pace of play. But the difference, I think, is that everybody told me the game would speed up. It did a little bit at first.”

Walker and Winn, touted as the team’s top two prospects last season, are motivated to build off of last year’s learning experiences.

Walker worked to gain muscle through a rigorous offseason program and now stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and roughly 260 pounds. He hopes the routine will help him build endurance and refine his power hitting.

“Training and conditioning coaches told me they want to have their eyes on me,” said Walker, who’s spent much of his offseason in Georgia. “They’ve been working with me, and I’ve been really happy with the results so far.”

Walker, a former infielder now in the outfield, says he’s looking toward versatile players like Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman on ways to improve his play defensively. He also wants to become a more complete hitter.

“Now that I’ve seen how [opponents] pitched me last year, I know what to expect,” said Walker. “I want to hit for average. I want to hit for power. I believe, based off the first season, if I can make adjustments this offseason, I can do both of those.”

Winn says success for him comes down to fundamentals. Offense has been his point of pride this offseason, looking to build upon last year’s .172 big-league batting average.

“Been working on the mechanics of swinging, trying to get my swing right,” said Winn. “Trying to get better. Trying to get stronger. … I’m really just trying to take the same swing path every single time.”

FOX 2 ARCHIVES – March 2023 Spring Training Interviews: Jordan Walker & Masyn Winn

Walker feels optimistic things will take a turn for Winn this season.

“Everybody struggles, I just think for him it happened in the beginning,” said Walker. “Once he fully relaxes, he can fully play his game. He’s going to be a great hitter and a great defender.”

Winn similarly has high expectations for Walker.

“I expect to see a lot of Jordan Walker things,” said Winn. “I’ve seen him play for four years now. He’s only gotten bigger and better every year. … I think he’s going to show up this year and handle business. … He’s really going to go out there. Play for his family. Play for his brothers. I think he’ll have great year again.”

Now past the coldest weekend this winter, Walker and Winn begin spring training in roughly a month with new perspectives.

“I want to go out there and compete for a spot,” said Winn. “I’ve never felt entitled for anything. I don’t want to be given a spot. I want to go out there and earn it.”

“I look back, and it went by really quickly,” said Walker on his rookie season. “I have to remind myself to enjoy every part of baseball because it is a really fun sport to play.”

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