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Aussie ace with ‘lucky arm’ targets MLB dream

GIFTED Queensland pitcher and Texas Rangers prospect Kai-Noa Wynyard cannot wait for next year to measure up against the best young baseball talent on the planet.Wynyard, 18, will report to Rangers spring training in February-March in Arizona, depending on the COVID-19 situation, to continue his baseball education in the Minor League.Five MLB organisations scouted the…

GIFTED Queensland pitcher and Texas Rangers prospect Kai-Noa Wynyard cannot wait for next year to measure up against the best young baseball talent on the planet.

Wynyard, 18, will report to Rangers spring training in February-March in Arizona, depending on the COVID-19 situation, to continue his baseball education in the Minor League.

Five MLB organisations scouted the shortstop-turned-pitcher, who boasts a 150kph fastball, for two years before the Rangers secured the Redcliffe Padres junior this week.

Wynyard has been shut down by the Rangers to freshen for spring training, but the 18 year-old, who only started pitching properly last year, is likely to workout with ABL powerhouse Brisbane Bandits.

Despite an avalanche of interviews and congratulatory calls and texts, the laid-back Queenslander remains matter-of-fact about his own attributes.

“I just have a natural arm speed,” Wynyard told News Australia.

“I’ve got a lucky arm. I throw hard, I’m more a power pitcher, I guess.”

As impressive as Wynyard’s velocity is, the control of the curveball and slider prompted Rangers’ Australian scout Ben Moore to strike.

“He displayed the same velocity of his fastball, up to 93mph (149kph) maximum but … he started to really get a feel for (the off-speed pitches) and started to really throw them quite well,” Canberran Moore said.

“That’s when everything came together, being able to maintain the velocity but also develop those off-speed pitches, his slider and his curveball, that’s when I pulled the trigger.”

Moore tracked Wynyard for two years after first spotting the right-hander’s arm speed playing shortstop for Queensland in the national championships.

“I know the organisation there is a lot of hype internally (at the Rangers) around him,” Moore said.

“I only sign guys I see making it to the Major League level in time, I definitely project him to be a Major League pitcher for us.

“It’s probably a few years ahead … but he’s got a great work ethic (and is) from a great family, that together with great arm strength, I think he’s got a really good future and shot at making it.”

Wynyard represented Queensland and Australia at junior levels, including the fourth-place finish last year at the U18 Baseball World Cup in South Korea.

Wynyard is the fifth player on the Australian roster to sign with an MLB organisation, joining Solomon Maguire and Brandan Bidois (Pittsburgh), Jake Burns (St Louis) and Chris Burke (Philadelphia).

“It was very nice, especially after all my parents (Andrew and Nicky) have done, it’s a relief I’ve done something,” Wynyard said.

“It’s only the start I guess, so I’m trying to do more for them, try to get up the ranks quickly.

“It’s going to be a bit scary to start off with, obviously being in another country, but I believe I’m ready to pursue it.”

Wynyard has had various sounding boards over the journey, from father Andrew, a former professional rugby league player, to Australian baseball legend and two-time World Series champion Graeme Lloyd.

Redcliffe teammates and seasoned ABL pitcher Justin Erasmus have also provided Wynyard sage advice.

The resounding feedback?

“Don’t rush yourself too much,” Wynyard said.

“Take your time … keep fighting for your own and don’t give up for anyone.

“You’re all competing for positions over there, so you go hard at everyone.”

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