The Twins’ current front office selected Matt Wallner with the 39th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. The Minnesota native dominated at Southern Mississippi in three collegiate seasons by hitting .337/.461/.652 (1.113) with 39 doubles and 58 home runs in 189 games. He compiled these tremendous offensive numbers while still being a part-time pitcher during his freshman and sophomore seasons. An arm injury forced him to focus on hitting as a junior, and his raw power made it tough for potential organizations to ignore.
After signing with the Twins, Wallner played 65 games in his professional debut. In rookie ball and Low-A, he posted an .810 OPS with 31 extra-base hits and an 80-to-24 strikeout to walk ratio. With no 2020 minor league season, Wallner spent most of the 2021 campaign at High-A. He broke his hamate bone and missed a chunk of the season but hit 15 home runs in only 66 games. Following the season, the Twins sent him to the AFL, where he posted a 1.011 OPS with six home runs in 79 plate appearances.
Wallner used his AFL time to jumpstart his 2022 season. In 78 Double-A games, he hit .299/.436/.597 (1.033) with 15 doubles and 21 home runs. Since being promoted to Triple-A, he has continued to get on base over 32% of the time and has nine extra-base hits in 29 games. Unlike many power hitters, his OPS is only separated by seven points between right- and left-handed pitchers. For the first time in his pro career, Wallner has been younger than the average age of the competition throughout the season.
Wallner’s swing-and-miss approach comes with the associated flaws of a power hitter. He has accumulated 148 strikeouts in his first 107 games this season. In 2021, he struck out 31% of the time, but he was dealing with an injury and missed an entire season of development during the 2020 campaign. There are also concerns about his eventual defensive value, but the organization continues to use him regularly as a right fielder. Wallner has been charged with six errors in 173 chances this season.
MLB Pipeline recently updated their top-30 Twins prospects, and Wallner moved into the organization’s top-5 prospects. Part of their scouting report on Wallner said, “he does have a Joey Gallo-esque offensive ceiling.” Gallo is in his sixth full-time season at the big-league level and has hit .202/.328/.475 (.804) with three seasons of 38 or more home runs. Like Wallner, he strikes out a lot, with three seasons of 196 or more strikeouts.
Strikeouts have become a more regular part of baseball in recent years, so Wallner should carve out a role at the big-league level. Minnesota likely would have called him up this season if he were a right-handed hitter as the team deals with injuries to Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, and Byron Buxton. Wallner has the potential to be as good as Gallo, but he will need to continue to improve some of his flaws.
Do you think Wallner can have a similar career to Gallo? What is Wallner’s ceiling? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.