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  • Adam Walker: Power and Potential

    Two weeks ago, Adam Walker was one of four Ft. Myers Miracle players named to the Florida State League All-Star team. It proved to be quite the weekend performance by the powerful prospect. First, Walker put on a tremendous show for the crowd with a incredible performance in the home run derby. He followed that up by going 3-4 with a double and a home run in the All-Star Game itself. He was named the MVP.

    While Walker may be an imperfect prospect, he has some traits that make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the Minnesota Twins minor league system.



    However, let's start with the All-Star performance. It meant a lot to Walker to be named an All-Star, and he enjoyed the weekend. "It was definitely an honor to be selected as an All-Star this year. I had a little bit of a rough start, so to be able to come back and still be selected was a great feeling me. Its nice to know others liked the way I played the game. Its definitely an awesome feeling." He continued, "It's a great experience to be able to play in the game. You are out there with the best players in the league. You get to know other players and make friends while you're there. After the game, being selected as the MVP is just another honor to me. I was able to get a couple hits and played right field. The whole weekend was a great time."

    As impressive as his performance was in the All-Star Game, he made a name for himself with his performance in the Home Run Derby. It was another experience he truly enjoyed. "For me being able to be in the home run derby was awesome. Its always fun when you get to step into the box and go hit some home runs. I love winning. So going into it, I wanted to win, of course, but I wanted to have some fun and enjoy the experience. When I was able to come out on top at the end, I was pretty pumped up. Having all my teammates and the fans cheering for me and supporting me was a great feeling."

    A couple of his Miracle teammates were on hand to watch Walker's power display.

    LHP David Hurlbut earned an All-Star Game berth. He was 3-3 with a 2.05 ERA in the season's first half. He said of the evening, "Adam's performance at the Home Run Derby was like a crescendo of power. He effortlessly hit home run after home run in the beginning, but as time ran down, he really started to show his power. The crowd reacted with gasps, increasing in volume with each swing. His last few home runs were the most impressive. One ball went over the net that stood 20 feet beyond the left field wall, another on top of the overhang for the stands in left, and finally on top of the batter's eye in center field. At the end, the entire team jokingly bowed and yelled 'We aren't worthy!' It was an impressive performance."

    Brett Lee, a left-handed starter with the Miracle, was also an All-Star. Before the All -Star game, he was 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA. He was also in awe of Walker's power. He said, "It was definitely something I've never seen before! Someone with that much power to hit the ball like that isn't human! I already knew what to expect playing on his team the past few years, and he started off hitting the ball hard! But when the guy said he had 15 seconds left, Walker unleashed everything! I've never seen someone swing that hard! The last five balls he hit were absolute blasts! The last ball he hit disappeared in the sky! What made it even better was that the people in the stadium were going crazy! He put on a light show for everyone!"

    Moving to the Florida State League has certainly been challenging for Adam Walker. On the season, he is hitting .241/.293/.434 (.727). However, his 18 homers are six more than anyone else in the league, and his 64 RBI are seven more than anyone in the league.

    Walker has noticed some of the differences in pitching between the Midwest League and the Florida State League. "I think the difference in the pitchers you see from the Midwest League to this league is not a huge. It's not like every pitcher is throwing a lot harder, but I think they are more consistent at throwing more pitches for strikes. I have noticed the pitchers are doing a better job of attacking the strike zone but can do it with their secondary pitches. There aren't many times when I get the generic game plan of: throw a first pitch fastball for a strike and go to your off- speed with two strikes. They have pitched backwards more and usually use the fastball as a show pitch to set up another pitch. I just need to make sure when I do get pitches to hit I don't miss them."

    Therein lies the area of Walker's game that needs improvement: contact. In 346 plate appearances, he has struck out 95 times (27%). His walk rate this year is right around 7% after finishing at 5.6% a year ago. Twins Director of Minor League Operations, Brad Steil, talked briefly about the contact concerns. "We understand there is a trade-off between power and strikeouts, so Iím not sure concern is the right terminology. While weíre looking for improvement in those areas, a key for him is being aggressive to the fastball. As he gains more experience, we expect that the selectivity and discipline will improve."

    Walker is not a guy who looks at his stats much. Coming into the season, he didn't formalize any numerical goals for himself, but he did have several things he wanted to accomplish this season. He said, "I didn't make any goals about my stats being at a certain spot. I try not to worry about my stats, but I just wanted to make sure I was improving my game. I wanted to become a better outfielder and to become a better hitter. I know I have power but I wanted to work on becoming a better overall hitter. That is something I have been working on with the coaches. Making sure I am swinging at good pitches and having more consistent quality at-bats. If I start doing that more, the power numbers will be there."

    Regarding Walker's defense, Steil said that he's improving, but still has room to grow. "I think itís still a work in progress. Heís definitely a good athlete for his size, and itís something he works at, but itís also not something that comes easy for him."

    One thing that Walker has been able to do is come up with huge, clutch hits. In Elizabethton, his three-run homer in the 9th inning of the Appy League Championship final game sent it to extra innings (where Dalton Hicks' grand slam won it). Last year, Hicks led minor league baseball with 110 RBI. Walker had 109. This year, he again has performed incredibly well in clutch situations. With runners in scoring position, he has hit .276/.336/.581 (.917) with ten home runs. He has added three grand slams already this year. According to Walker, he just really enjoys being the guy who comes to the plate in this types of situations.

    "I love hitting with runners in scoring position because I know if I can score them it's going to help the team win. I try to make sure when I have free RBIs with runners on third with less than two outs, I put the ball in play and score the run. That is the easiest way to help your RBI total. We have done a good job of scoring runs this year and that shows our offense is doing well. You can't get RBIs if your teammates aren't getting on base in front of you. I love winning so I really take pride when I have opportunities to change the game. I've always wanted to be the guy that is up with the game on the line. I don't see many kids grow up dreaming of getting a base hit when your team is down by ten. Usually you always picture bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and you want to be that kid that gets the big hit to win the game. I love to have that feeling because when you can get those hits to score runs you are helping the team win and winning as always fun."

    According to Steil, "Some hitters have the ability to stay with their approach in RBI situations, whereas other guys might get anxious or over-aggressive and chase more. So itís probably a combination of his mentality and the reality that pitchers donít have as much leeway to pitch around him in those situations."

    Walker went to Milwaukee Lutheran High School before heading to Jacksonville University for three yeas of college ball. The Twins used their third round pick in the 2012 draft on him. He has strong family support and a strong faith that has helped him get to this point in his career.

    "I've grown up with a Christian background and as I've grown up, having that faith in Jesus Christ has helped me handle certain situations I've been through. I try to live a certain way and be a good person to show I'm a Christian through my actions. I am definitely not perfect but that relationship with God is important to me. My family is also very important to me. They all have been there for my whole life and made many sacrifices for me to be where I am now, and I am very grateful and blessed to have such a great family. I've been very lucky to have a family that can come watch me play a few times a year. I know there are other players that may never have their family there to watch them play. So I do appreciate my family for being so supportive of me and always believing in me. I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for them. I love my family."

    So, what are his goals for the rest of the season? Walker said, "I think my goals for the second half are the same as the first half. I think I did a good job and have seen improvement defensively and offensively. I know there is still room for improvement so I just need to keep working on those parts of my game, and I think things will work out for me."

    Walker will not turn 23 until October. As you would expect from any player in the Florida State League, there are certainly areas where he needs to improve. However, Walker has all the tools to be an impact player in the big leagues. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, he's got the size and strength to be a great power hitter. He has some sneaky speed. He has a great attitude and strong makeup. Fans will need to show some patience, but there are reasons to be very excited about the future of Adam Walker.

    Twins beat up Seattle last night, so on Thursday you can get a half price large or extra-large pizza from PapaJohns.com by using the promo code 'TWINSWIN'.
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I'd be curious what his splits are from when he was below the mendozaa line till now. His overall stats don't say much, but he got off to a terrible start and now has respectable numbers... in a pitchers league I might add.

      It will be interesting to see if he starts next season in AA or if he returns to Fort Meyers. He seems like a good kid. I hope he succeeds.

      Side note, and slightly off topic, but the 2012 class was considered pretty weak. With Buxton and Berrios likely top 100 candidates, and Walker probably falling into the 'honorable mention' category, I think the Twins came out pretty good.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Side note, and slightly off topic, but the 2012 class was considered pretty weak. With Buxton and Berrios likely top 100 candidates, and Walker probably falling into the 'honorable mention' category, I think the Twins came out pretty good.
      Yeah... I think "pretty good" is an understatement. Any draft that nets Buxton and Berrios is outstanding, with or without Walker.

      I'm still pretty skeptical about Walker given his OBP issues, age (22 in A+), and strikeout tendencies. That doesn't bode well as pitchers get smarter and better further up the MiLB ladder.

      Either way, he's an interesting guy to keep an eye on, that's for sure.
    1. tarheeltwinsfan's Avatar
      tarheeltwinsfan -
      I hope Walker makes it to the big leagues and is a success as a major leaguer. However, he already is a success in life. What a nice article about a fine young man, who happens to be a baseball player.
    1. chopper0080's Avatar
      chopper0080 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Yeah... I think "pretty good" is an understatement. Any draft that nets Buxton and Berrios is outstanding, with or without Walker.

      I'm still pretty skeptical about Walker given his OBP issues, age (22 in A+), and strikeout tendencies. That doesn't bode well as pitchers get smarter and better further up the MiLB ladder.

      Either way, he's an interesting guy to keep an eye on, that's for sure.
      Yes, and I feel that his ability to drive in runs is what is going to make him a success over time. Two things are in demand right now in Major League baseball, one being power and two being the ability to capitalize on pitcher's mistakes. Walker is not going to be a .325 hitter, but there aren't as many of those as their used to be. What Walker is going to become is a hitter who, when the pitcher makes a mistake pitch, will be able to crush it and do significant damage. The ability to do that is what will make him stick in my opinion.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by chopper0080 View Post
      Yes, and I feel that his ability to drive in runs is what is going to make him a success over time. Two things are in demand right now in Major League baseball, one being power and two being the ability to capitalize on pitcher's mistakes. Walker is not going to be a .325 hitter, but there aren't as many of those as their used to be. What Walker is going to become is a hitter who, when the pitcher makes a mistake pitch, will be able to crush it and do significant damage. The ability to do that is what will make him stick in my opinion.
      Three true outcome players are valuable. See Dunn, Adam.

      My only question is whether Walker is a two true outcome player, which isn't nearly as valuable (and often turns the player into a bench bat).
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      I love hearing about guys with tape measure power. Seems like we don't get many of them (not that they grow on trees)
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Dunn gets a few too many BB's for my Walker comp.

      My comp: Half-Caff Jose Abreu

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...breujo02.shtml
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Roy Smalley made a very interesting comment about hitting in the clutch with a guy on 3rd and less than two outs. He said you should time your swing for a fastball over the plate or the outside corner and think hit up the middle or to the opposite field. That way you are ready for outside stuff and breaking balls and the only pitch you are susceptible to are good inside fastballs. If you are ready to pound on inside fastballs you are going to make outs on so many more pitches. Sure enough Dozier was a little slow on an inside fastball that he might normally have hit out of the park but still got the run in from 3rd which was the main goal. Good piece of hitting and interesting approach. I have seen way too many strikeouts the last few years from guys trying to pull it out of the park when a base hit, sac fly or even grounder to a middle infielder was all that was needed.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Yeah... I think "pretty good" is an understatement. Any draft that nets Buxton and Berrios is outstanding, with or without Walker.

      I'm still pretty skeptical about Walker given his OBP issues, age (22 in A+), and strikeout tendencies. That doesn't bode well as pitchers get smarter and better further up the MiLB ladder.

      Either way, he's an interesting guy to keep an eye on, that's for sure.
      There should also be some relievers from that draft too.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Sounds like a great guy. Unfortunately his plate discipline problems make him one of the more overrated prospects in the system.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      Roy Smalley made a very interesting comment about hitting in the clutch with a guy on 3rd and less than two outs. He said you should time your swing for a fastball over the plate or the outside corner and think hit up the middle or to the opposite field. That way you are ready for outside stuff and breaking balls and the only pitch you are susceptible to are good inside fastballs. If you are ready to pound on inside fastballs you are going to make outs on so many more pitches. Sure enough Dozier was a little slow on an inside fastball that he might normally have hit out of the park but still got the run in from 3rd which was the main goal. Good piece of hitting and interesting approach. I have seen way too many strikeouts the last few years from guys trying to pull it out of the park when a base hit, sac fly or even grounder to a middle infielder was all that was needed.
      Kudos to Smalley for his insight on a hitter's approach in this situation, I have thought that way since I was a kid and watching players try to go deep in a situation which only calls for a single or in some cases just a fly-out. Real quality hitters comport themselves in this manner in any era. To carry this further how many quality hitters are around now as compared to times past?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Not much bugs me more than not being able to get a runner in from 3rd base with less than two outs. (one thing that might is when people whine about the guy that came up with two outs and that same runner on third base not coming through when he would actually have to get a hit)

      When the other team is giving you the run, take it!! If the infield is playing back, there is almost no excuse for not scoring that run. It's something that Twins teams the last couple of years have not done. A sacrifice fly works as well.

      Yes, hits are better than outs, and productive outs (I think) are overrated, but getting the runs in that are easy to get in should just happen.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      Sounds like a great guy. Unfortunately his plate discipline problems make him one of the more overrated prospects in the system.
      Overrated in what sense? I doubt he'd be considered a top 10 pospect right now. In most systems, he is one.
    1. Beezer's Avatar
      Beezer -
      I agree with you Seth that the last couple years have been difficult to watch frequently because of the Twins inability to get those 3rd base runners across the plate. One former Twin who I always thought excelled in that area was Gary Gaetti. It seemed like he always had track power to get that sacrifice fly and get the run home. I don't know what his success race was or if that stat was even tracked but just from watching the games I always thought he was one of the best ever at it as a Twin. Hope Walker can continue to improve and make progress up the ladder. Making better contact is probably the area most likely to be his greatest impediment.
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      Sounds like a great guy. Unfortunately his plate discipline problems make him one of the more overrated prospects in the system.
      Great article Seth. Everyone knows I'm sold. Overrated how? Are we talking future "possible" issues that may affect production numbers down the line or current issues that still leave him 1st in production in the FSL. All I'm saying is that for a kid with such a poor OBP he still scores more than anyone on his team not named Polanco. He led his team in scoring last year and was second in the league in scoring - Meaning he must have gotten on base enough to be effective.

      The real question as this story outlines is: How effective could this kid become (scary numbers) if he did improve his plate discipline? He's already putting up league leadingnumbers (consistently & yearly) with the poor OBP. His teams have made the playoffs every year (Appy Championship 2012 / Best Record in all of Minors in 2013 (post Buxton) / 1st Half Playoff Qualifier in FSL 2014).

      I believe in the Potential with Seth. Keep in mind: If Walker were to ever get promoted to AA this summer - He would be the 2nd youngest player on the team next to Berrios! That's the reason for patience as it pertains to his potential (not promotions). The kid is still young people.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
      Great article Seth. Everyone knows I'm sold. Overrated how?
      Overrated in that he has severe flaws in his approach/swing that make is highly unlikely he ever plays in the Majors.

      If, at age 22, a player can't make consistent contact against FSL pitching, he's a huge, huge longshot to pan out at all. I'm not familiar with a single example.

      He's still an OK prospect because of the raw power. There's a tiny chance something clicks and he turns into a solid MLB corner outfielder. But that's not the profile of a top prospect.
    1. Lakeside's Avatar
      Lakeside -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      Overrated in that he has severe flaws in his approach/swing that make is highly unlikely he ever plays in the Majors.

      If, at age 22, a player can't make consistent contact against FSL pitching, he's a huge, huge longshot to pan out at all. I'm not familiar with a single example.

      He's still an OK prospect because of the raw power. There's a tiny chance something clicks and he turns into a solid MLB corner outfielder. But that's not the profile of a top prospect.
      I believe in the "Potential" of Walker. He has a strikeout pct of 27% in an A league. . . that's pretty high. I also believe like one poster said, "He has the ability to crush mistakes". . . That's a real positive. He certainly is one to continue watching and give every chance. . True HR hitters are hard to find and can change the game in an instant.

      My question, in changing the topic just a little, who has a better chance of being a regular MLB player. . Walker or Max Kepler?? I've never seen Walker in person but have seen Kepler. . . he has the swing to be a big HR hitter at some point. . Also, I think he could be placed at 1B or the OF. . .and he is over a year younger than Walker.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      I'd be curious what his splits are from when he was below the mendozaa line till now. His overall stats don't say much, but he got off to a terrible start and now has respectable numbers... in a pitchers league I might add.
      B-Ref doesn't have cumulative stats for each game in their minor league game logs, but you can see splits and sum any selection of rows here:
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/mi...=bgl&year=2014

      Best I can tell, he was last below .200 on April 25. Since then, he's got an OPS of .762, compared to his overall season OPS of .723. Although it's not all straight upward either: his June OPS was actually just as bad as his pre-Mendoza OPS, right around .600, with equally bad K/BB rates too.

      His league OPS is only .686, compared to AL OPS of .716 this season. Assuming a neutral ballpark in his league, he'd have a SLG-heavy OPS+ of 105, or 111 post-Medoza.
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lakeside View Post
      My question, in changing the topic just a little, who has a better chance of being a regular MLB player. . Walker or Max Kepler?? I've never seen Walker in person but have seen Kepler. . . he has the swing to be a big HR hitter at some point. . Also, I think he could be placed at 1B or the OF. . .and he is over a year younger than Walker.
      Note: Walker was a 2nd team All American at 1B in college behind CJ Cron (plays with CA Angels now). Rated the 2nd best defensive 1B by Baseball America in 2011 (all while hitting .409).

      To the age question - Who is older Trout or Harper? People want results! As long as your not old - what true difference does it make to your team if one prospect is 1 year younger or older? I repeat - Walker would be the second youngest player on Twins AA team if he were promoted. If I'm not mistaken, he was the second youngest overall college player drafted in 2012 (4 year schools).

      Don't get me wrong - I looove Kepler - but believe in Walker's potential more. MWL and FSL managers must think enough of Walker to nominate him as an All Star starter each of the last 2 years as well, despite low BA and OBP.
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      If, at age 22, a player can't make consistent contact against FSL pitching, he's a huge, huge longshot to pan out at all. I'm not familiar with a single example.
      *Joey Votto hit .256 his year in FSL with 17 HR and 83 RBI.
      Top player for Cincinatti Reds

      *Matt Kemp hit .306 his year in FSL with 27 HR and 90 RBI.
      Arguably one of the Top players in MLB before injuries

      *Marcell Ozuna hit .266 his year in FSL with 24 HR and 95 RBI.
      Now starts with Marlins after playing in FSL in 2012

      *Javier Baez hit .274 his year in FSL with 17 HR and 57 RBI (half season)
      Top 5 prospect in all of minor league baseball.

      Kennys Vargas hit .267 las year in FSL with 19 HR and 93 RBI
      Now everyone is in love with him (rightfully so) because he was hitting over .300 this year and producing at the same pace.

      Low batting averages do not neccesarily mean poor production, but it does mean poor contact. These guys are all successful because they produced results in their careers, not just average. If you are judging based on the success of a Matt Kemp then you are being unrealistic, because every prospect can't be considered amongst the best to play the game. Most are hoping to be solid (good) MLB players.
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