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Twins Daily 2022 Top Prospects: #10 Josh Winder


Twins Daily Contributor

As we here at Twins Daily continue our First Great Prospect Rundown of 2022, it may become easy for you, the wise reader, to lump the glut of right-handed pitching prospects together in your mind. It’s easy to do—most of the great arms in the system are knocking on the door of the majors. The Twins will certainly shuffle them around so quickly that their names and faces seem to exist within a weird baseball uncanny valley; is Jordan Balazovic real, or did you imagine him? But I implore you, do not ignore Josh Winder. There may be more hyped pitching prospects in the Twins system, but no one else who toes that raised 24 by six-inch slab of rubber in the middle of the diamond can dominate the strike zone with four pitches as Winder did in 2021.

The Twins selected Josh Winder in the 7th round of the 2018 draft (the second process headed by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine) out of Virginia Military Institute. Winder spent the next two years milling around prospect list No Man’s Land with occasional phrases like “repeatable delivery” written to let you know his name can be forgotten. In retrospect, those rankings seem harsh, given that his 2019 season was more than serviceable. Winder tossed 125 2/3 innings at low A-ball with a 2.65 ERA, and a 3.44 FIP; plus he struck out then uber-prospect Wander Franco in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Heading into the mid-levels of the minor leagues, Winder appeared set to fly under the radar amongst people-in-the-know.

Then 2020 happened.

For most prospects, 2020 either knocked them off trajectory or at least shifted industry opinions to the negative; it was an entire year of development gone, after all. Winder went against the grain. He did not pitch at the alternate site, but some mechanical tweaks combined with a different workout routine netted him a few ticks of fastball velocity—an adjustment that adds to every pitcher’s prospect stock. When even a curmudgeon like Keith Law is intrigued to see you pitch, the game is tilting in your favor. Given this excess of previously non-existent attention, it would have been understandable if Winder fell flat in 2021, victimized by the weight of his own hype.

That did not happen.

Winder dominated AA to the tune of a 1.98 ERA. Over his 54 ⅔ innings pitched at the level, his 31.3% K rate provided the melody, while his outstanding 4.8% BB rate served as the harmony. Just five qualified starters in MLB struck out hitters at a higher rate; only one starter walked batters at a lower rate. 

It’s not difficult to see why Winder was so good, I lamented the “repeatable delivery” comment before, but he easily owns one of the smoothest windups I’ve seen from a Twins pitching prospect:

 Hitters have to be prepared for 96 at the pits, a breaking ball dropped in glove-side, and a changeup gliding away arm-side. That’s an impossible task.

After embarrassing AA hitters for a month and a half, Winder received the call to AAA, where he hit a minor roadblock. He started just four games which in itself is both a sign for relief and mild concern; four games is a sample too small to analyze closely, but he made such few starts due to a shoulder injury that ended his season prematurely. Those AAA stats—a 4.67 ERA, a 5.15 FIP, and a reduced strikeout rate of 22.4%—ultimately lessen his excellent 2021. In total, Winder tossed 72 innings with a 2.63 ERA, a 29.1% K rate, a 4.7% BB rate, and a FIP of 3.40. Amongst 251 pitchers who threw 70 innings in the upper minors (AA and AAA), Winder posted the 12th best K-BB% and was the highest placed Twins starter with those qualifications. Yeah, I know that stat is a bit of a stretch, just understand that Winder was unusually dominant amongst pitchers around his league placement. 

When we were dicing out which writer would cover which prospect, I immediately leaped at the chance to post Winder’s writeup. His 2021 season greatly intrigued me—what soulless Twins fan wouldn’t find interest in a pitcher who netted results after improving their raw ability? There are pitching prospects with more impressive stuff, a higher ceiling, a more regal pedigree, or a more dominant individual pitch, but few, if any, can harvest a plethora of crucial pitching characteristics like Winder. He is, in many ways, the total package.

Previous Rankings
Honorable Mentions
Prospects 16-20
Prospects 11-15
#10: Josh Winder, RHP
#9: Coming Soon 


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Very nice writeup!! If healthy I see him as the pitching prospect most likely to debut in the Twins rotation this year.  His main competition would be Balazovich IMO but with Winder WHIP\ability to throw strikes he still looks the most ready.  Certainly Sands and Strotman could have something to say about that if Strotman harnesses control and Sands stays healthy they could be in the mix as well just more ifs with those two.  Other guys might be ranked higher but he looks the most ready to me.

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Do we know anything about his 'shoulder injury' that should concern us?  Or was it more of a tired shoulder due to his not pitching an inning in 2020?  

There is no question in my mind that he should be ranked higher than #10.  I see him as the best pitching prospect the Twins have, albeit, Canterino and Balazovic may have slightly higher ceilings.  But Winder is getting downgraded because of his last few starts at St. Paul where he likely was pitching with whatever was wrong with that shoulder.

Watched a lot of his starts at Wichita last year.  Also watched many of those by Balazovic.  Yes, Balazovic was unhittable, except when he wasn't.  Winder was just so bloody consistent that I kept thinking he could become another Brad Radke.  Not the same type of pitcher, but similar results.  We can hope, can't we?

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I see him as a higher floor lower ceiling when compared to Balazovic / Duran / Canterino / SWR / Raya and Petty.  Ryan / Winder / Sands and Enlow are all guys with a good chance to be solid contributors with Ryan / Winder maybe having a little more upside.  Strotman and Valimont seem like they are the biggest wildcards.

A couple of those 1st 5 guys reaching their potential would be huge for this team's chances of eventually contending.  Povich / Haijar / SGL and Varland are so new it will take a while to figure out their future role but the takeaway is the system is so deep that the odds are pretty good they develop enough guys to full a rotation and add some BP arms from failed SPs.  Now can they come up with some legit front of the rotation guys?

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Deception. Josh Winder's "repeatable" delivery makes it very hard to distinguish one pitch from another, and he throws them all for strikes. Even pitching from the set, he looks smooth and unreadable. 

Frankly, Winder looks right now like a professional pitcher that belongs somewhere in a starting rotation. I hope he gets that chance very soon.

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1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

I agree. Canterino's injury problems have been worse than Winder's. Petty hasn't done anything yet. Duran hasn't had success above A-ball.

I agree the only pitchers I would rate above him are Ryan, Balazovic, and maybe SWR. And only below Miranda, Lewis, Martin, so he should be IMO 6 or 7.

Unless the belief is that Canterino could make his way though AA and AA and to the majors this year, but if he does I don't see that happening as a starter (just based on the expected innings this year), his stuff seems better than Winder, but with the amount of innings he has pitched the last 2 years,  I don't know if I expect to see him in the majors until late 2023.

 

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The plus is: He is a starter and just needs the work, even if limited to 3-4 inning starts to begin his season. But this is the type of guy that will be hurt more with the lockout (not to mention any other arm prospect on the 40-man), since they have to go thru a training period before even reporting to Triple-A, which means they will get screwed on development when the major league club is trying to get the north 26 play.

 

Balazovic and Strotman will start at St. Paul, but again , pushed back. Duran, Sands and Vallimont might all start, sadly, at AA ball. What a mess.

 

Not to mention if Jax is a rotation or bullpen arm for the Twins.

 

Players already hurt by a non-esixtent 2020 are getting killed with any lockout.

 

Major league baseball is a broken broken mess...money rules.

 

 

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Everything about Winder looks good except his health. If he has a full season, that probably goes away. He's got a full package and he's close to being ready to pitch in MLB. I might go higher than #10, but I don't know that I care that much about the distinction between #6 and #10?

He probably starts in AAA since he finished last season on the injured list...but it's going to be really interesting to see who the first guy up from AAA is this season. Could be Canterino. Could be Duran. Could be Balazovic. Could even be Strotman. But I wouldn't bet against Winder.

At this point I'm not really interested in having a veteran retread starting the season with the Twins in AAA, because you can fill out the whole rotation in Saint Paul with legitimate prospects. Can't wait to see which one is the first to bust out. Winder might be the one most ready to pitch in MLB, even if someone else might have better stuff.

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10 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

Rated too low.  I think he is ready if his injury is behind him.  Why not both Winder and Balazovic in the rotation?

Agreed, I had him 6th in my ranking. He's my third favorite pitching prospect after Jordan Balazovic and Joe Ryan. 

Which reminds me, we should call these guys "The Killer J's" or something.

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5 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

Trades.

You removed all the context which was they have a ton of depth.  The question remains can they produce a couple of front of the rotation guys from this group of prospects.  This whole line of thought is presuming the need for two front of the rotation guys.  Trading for 2 or even 1 true top of the rotation guy would be extremely costly.  There is no way around mortgaging the future.  It would be a whole lot more advantages if they developed them from within.  Also, if they develop 4 solid starters or even 5 where a couple are stacked, they would be positioned to afford a true top of the rotation free agent.

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I love the easy delivery and off-speed stuff. Looks like he doesn't command the change quite as well. But if his shoulder is alright and he continues working to spot the change, he could be pretty fun to watch in the big leagues.  

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