Right-handed pitcher Cole Winn went from being the Colorado High School Pitcher of the Year in 2017 to the Gatorade California High School Player of the Year this season.
Now he is headed to Texas, although he isn’t saying whether it will be to sign with the Rangers as the 15th overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft or to honor his commitment to pitch at Texas Christian University.
“Right now, I am trying to soak it all in and have fun with my family and friends,” Winn said Monday night.
The Rangers expect to sign him.
“We wouldn’t have taken him if we didn’t think we could sign him,” Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg said.
With their second-round pick (55th overall), the Rangers took right-handed pitcher Owen White from Jesse C. Carson High School in China Grove, N.C., just outside Charlotte. He has a college commitment to South Carolina and was the No. 59 Draft prospect by MLB.com. The Rangers have taken high school players with their top two picks in four of their last five years.
“You want guys who are athletic, good feel and throws strikes,” Fagg said. “These are two guys we identified early in the spring. We’re excited to get both in a Texas Rangers uniform.”
The Rangers did not expect Winn to be available with the 15th overall pick. But Fagg said the latest trend of clubs pursuing offensive players high in the Draft left some attractive pitchers available to be taken.
“The genre that falls is right-handed high school pitching,” Fagg said. “We are not deterred by that. The three or four times I saw this guy, I thought there was no chance he would get down to the 15th pick. The whole [Rangers Draft room] was ecstatic. We did a lot of work on Cole. An exceptional young man with an exceptional family.”
The Rangers have a potential slot bonus of $3,738,500 waiting if Winn is ready to start his professional career now. He is a 6-foot-2 senior at Orange Lutheran (Ca.) High School who was 8-2 with a 0.20 ERA this season and was ranked as the No. 9 Draft prospect by MLB.com. Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole also pitched at Orange Lutheran, which won the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in March for the second straight year.
Winn was 9-0 with a 0.73 ERA as a junior at Silver Creek (Colo.) Longmont High School. His father, Randy, has a data marketing business, and 80-90 percent of his clients are in Southern California. So his father made the suggestion that moving to California for Winn’s senior year might be the best for his son. Winn agreed, and pitching for one of the top high school baseball programs in talent-rich Southern California helped improve his draft status.
“I was ready for a new experience and to be around a little better baseball,” Winn said. “The league we were in was one of the best in the country and the way I competed, I was very proud of myself.”
Winn did so with a fastball that is clocked at 93-96 mph with a sharp slider and curveball. His goal is to develop a changeup to complete his pitch mix.
“What I do best is throw strikes and pound the strike zone,” Winn said. “I try to eliminate the walks and throw as many strikes as possible.”
The Rangers like hearing that. Steve Flores, the Rangers’ Southern California scout who has been with the organization for 15 years, did much of the homework on Winn.
“I like the history of the [Rangers] and the pitchers that have come through there,” Winn said. “I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
White was the Gatorade North Carolina High School Player of the Year, going 10-1 with a 0.22 ERA at Carson High. The 6-foot-3 righty has a similar repertoire to Winn, with a fastball at 93-95 mph and a plus slider. He also throws a curve and changeup. White was a quarterback and a shooting guard in high school but gave up football and basketball to concentrate on baseball.
“I always felt there was something special in my right arm,” White said. “I pound the zone, I have multiple pitches and I’m able to compete on the mound.”
White’s scholarship to South Carolina also comes with the opportunity to play in the infield and be a two-way player. But he seems intent on signing with the Rangers.
“It has always been my dream to play professional baseball with any organization,” White said. “We haven’t discussed money or anything, but I am excited about Texas.”
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage beginning at noon.