Cape Henry Collegiate Hurler Is on to the Pros, Maybe
Jack Wynkoop is likely the area's top high school prospect heading into today's Major League Baseball Draft, a towering left-handed pitcher whose potential draws scouts to every outing, radar guns at the ready.
Yet the South Carolina recruit is preparing himself for lots of possibilities, including that he won't even get a phone call over the next three days.
"It's been a great experience all along," Wynkoop said. "My attitude is I'm excited about school and South Carolina. Right now I'm set on going, but if something happens to change that, that would be great."
The Cape Henry Collegiate senior becomes draft-eligible during a year when baseball has re-vamped its draft rules, leaving high-school players, as well as baseball observers and executives, uncertain about how the draft will play out.
Kevin Goldstein, a prospects and draft expert from Baseball Prospectus, said Wynkoop likely would have been drafted between the fourth and eighth rounds under the old rules. Nathan Rode, an expert from Baseball America, said he would have gone in the sixth to 10th.
Baseball's new rules, including restrictions on how much teams can pay out in signing bonuses, could make it more difficult for teams to pay enough to persuade players to forgo college.
"He could go higher, lower or not at all," Rode said. "With the new rules, it's different. It makes things a lot more interesting. No one knows what to expect."
Like most prospects, Wynkoop has a dollar figure in mind. If he doesn't get it, he's signed to a scholarship to play for the Gamecocks next season.
"Whatever happens, I'm prepared for it," Wynkoop said.
Wynkoop is well-versed in dealing with uncertainty, his fate in the hands of others. As a groundball pitcher, he has to be.
"I tried to pitch my game which is to get ground balls, get balls off the end of the bat," Wynkoop said. "I tried to rely on my fielders."
"You can't control what the radar guns say, what the scouts think," Cape Henry coach Tim Hummel said. "We tried to make sure he knew that all he had to do was perform and the rest would take care of itself."
Wynkoop finished the season with a 0.54 ERA and an 8-0 record in 64 ? innings. He earned his final two wins in the final two games of the VISAA Division II state tournament, pitching a complete game in the state championship on short rest.
The approach takes things out of Wynkoop's hands, but that's something that's never bothered him.
"He's very smart, very mature," said Greenbrier Christian coach Gary Lavelle, who has mentored Wynkoop since he was 9. "We talk a lot about the mental game - don't worry about things you can't control. He got that at a younger age than most."
Well-hit groundballs can find either holes or fielders.
In a game against public-school power Great Bridge earlier this year, the Wildcats found more holes than most, putting Cape Henry behind. Wynkoop settled down and left with the lead.
In the state championship final, Wynkoop found himself in a similar position, but kept the Dolphins close until he scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"I think a lot of times kids just wanted to get a hit off Jack," Hummel said. "If they saw something they thought they could hit, they swung at it. They weren't really going up with a plan. That didn't change what he wanted to do."
While some pitchers unravel with runners on base, Wynkoop managed 80 strikeouts to seven walks, proof that, even under pressure, poise won out.
Wynkoop also is a 6-foot-6 left-hander, a species coveted in professional baseball. At 18, he throws five different pitches with a fastball that sits in the high 80s and has reached as high as 92.
The college scouts began following him during his sophomore year and he committed early to South Carolina. The next year, the pro scouts arrived. The experts from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America say he'll be drafted more for what he can become, than what he currently is.
"He's 6-foot-6 and he's left-handed," Goldstein said. "He's skinny. When you think about projectable arms, oh my God, that's what we're talking about. When he physically matures, maybe that 92 (velocity) becomes regular.
"You start dreaming on what he could be. He's not going to blow anyone away right now. He's a dream kid."
Maybe the dream will come true this week. Maybe it will have to wait. Wynkoop will be fine either way.
Reprinted with Permission / The Virginian-Pilot