Last Saturday, I wrote a post here titled “Braves Go Older, Add Boyer and Suzuki.” In it, I briefly went over how for a rebuilding team, the Braves are mighty old. I received three responses which may have all been from the same person as all were authored by “Anonymous” and I doubt it was the hacktivist group. Each reply went over the possible benefit of going younger with Adam Walker, an outfielder who had been recently DFA’d by the Orioles. I agreed he was worth a flyer. Turns out: I may have been talking to John Coppolella.
Probably not, but there’s a chance because just a few days later, the Braves have added Walker off waivers. In a corresponding move, the Braves dumped Tuffy Gosewisch, who heads to the Mariners. There’s not much to talk about with Gosewisch, who was picked up earlier this offseason off waivers from the D’Backs. He can’t hit and had no chance of unseating the aforementioned Suzuki.
With that in mind, let’s look at Walker, or as my Anonymous brother called him, Walk-Off Walker. By the way, I’m stealing that.
Walker is a Wisconsin native who was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Jacksonville University. He quickly showed his power potential in 58 games with Elizabethton. With 14 bombs, he tied Patrick Leonard for the most homeruns in the Appalachian League that year. It was four more homers than teammate and future big prospect Max Kepler.
The 6’5″ behemoth headed to the Midwest League and Cedar Rapids. He bashed 27 homers there. He knocked 25 more in the Florida State League in 2014 and then set a new personal high with 31 homeruns in the Southern League. It was 14 more homeruns than second place. Last year, Walker made it to the International League and smacked 27 more dingers, good for second in the league and 16 more than Matt Tuiasosopo, who led the Gwinnett Braves.
Despite 124 homeruns and a .235 career ISO, the Orioles decided to waive him. They weren’t the first team this offseason to do that. The Brewers claimed him from the Twins in November before designating him for assignment ten days later. In a game where cheap power is hard to find, why would Walker be waived not once, but thrice in one winter?
Strikeouts. More specifically, a lot of them. His strikeout rates are the stuff of nightmares for hitting coaches. There are three seasons where he struck out at least 30% of the time with an absurd total of 38% last year – or 202 strikeouts in 531 PA. With shoddy plate discipline leading to low walk totals, Walker is an example of a True Two Outcomes hitter. Or, as Atlanta Braves fans referred to it a few years ago, all-or-nothing.
Comparables for Walker often include Rob Deer or Mark Reynolds. I’ll throw a third name into the fray – Pedro Cerrano. Yes, the fictional Cuban defector from the Major League movies. This quote sums it up – “I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid.” I don’t know if Walker has already tried to offer Jobu some cigars and rum, but it’s not the worst idea he could try. Walker simply can’t put the wood on the ball enough. Watching him from the 2015, his swing looks a bit wonky at times.
It is okay to strike out a lot when you hit a lot of homers while also getting on base enough to supplement your game. This is where Walker struggles the most. He walked 9.1% of the time in 2015, a new high. Last year, it was 8.8%. In doing so, he did something that’s never been done in the majors – strike out 200 times while walking less than 50. Only two players (Drew Stubbs and the aforementioned Reynolds) have ever struck out 200 times and walked less than 70 times.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Walker’s defensive capability. He’s decently athletic, but nothing about his defense stands out. Walker fits into the mold of “will make all the plays he can get to.” He can challenge for double-digit steals, but gets caught too often to be considered much of a stolen base threat.
Kevin Seitzer and company have their work cut out for them. Their mission is to take a player with major league power and get him to make enough contact to make him a viable major league player. It’s a worthwhile endeavor considering how legit Walker’s power is.