First in a series….
Trying to determine the next wave of breakout prospects in the Blue Jays prospects in these pandemic times is a challenge.
We don’t have 2020 performances to go on. All we really have is a player’s last few weeks of 2019, and comments from Blue Jays player development people and a handful of observers.
But there are several players who could be set to bust out in 2021, whenever the minor league season begins (sometime in June is the latest we’ve been told, but who knows at this point?)
RHP Josh Winckowski would be at or near the top of the list of players in the Blue Jays system who are trending upward. The 2016 15th rounder has been brought along methodically, to say the least. Other pitchers in the system have been given more aggressive promotions, but Winky has been a true one-level-at-a-time guy, topping out at High A in 2019.
Winckowski has a starter’s build and repertoire of pitches. His 2019 was something of a tale of two seasons. He got off to a blazing start with Low A Lansing, tossing scoreless outings in three of his five April starts. But a finger strain late in the month landed him on the injury list for a week, and hampered his ability to spin the ball as well as he would have liked. The injury lingered throughout the rest of the season, through to his promotion to Dunedin, and Winckowski went on the IL a second time in August. The injury was not significant enough to sideline him for an extensive period, but it did cut down on his spin rate, and he gave up more contact at the higher level (56% GB rate at Low A, 49% at High A). In Wincky’s words, “it dulled out my stuff a tad.”
Now fully recovered, Winckowski was one of the stars of October’s Florida development camp. He sat 94-97 with his fastball, and impressed all with his secondaries.
Eligible for the Rule 5, Winckowski was not added to the 40 man, but went undrafted. He should start the season at AA New Hampshire, and if his fastball velocity and spin rates hold up, he could be on the cusp of a big league job. The 2018 NWL PioY doesn’t get a lot of top prospect love, but he does profile as a weak contact-inducing, back of the rotation innings eater that teams covet.