Monday, January 25, 2016

Minnesota's Most Intriguing Prospect

When you have arguably Major League Baseball's best farm system, your bound to have an abundance of exciting young prospects. The Twins saw one of the best rookie classes in recent history embark upon Target Field during 2015, and there's still some big names yet to come. While Jose Berrios, Max Kepler, and Alex Meyer could all get significant time in 2016, there's another name that carries a whole level of mystery all his own. Enter Adam Brett Walker.

Walker's name is one that has started to make its rounds into discussions involved with those not even completely involved with prospects. Having elevated himself into the conversation of top Twins farm talents, it's Walker's biggest strength that has him developing quite a following.

A third round pick back in the 2012 MLB Draft from Jacksonville University, the 24 year old has spent exactly one season at every level thus far in his professional career. Having reached Double-A Chattanooga for the 2015 season, a stint with Triple-A Rochester appears to be his next stop. While progressing a level each year through the farm system, Walker has done two things consistently on a yearly basis. He hits home runs, and he strikes out.

Thus far in his four year professional career, Walker's home run numbers by season have totaled 14, 27, 25, and 31. He's driven in more than 100 runs twice, and he's tallied 31 doubles that same amount of times. Just a career .254 hitter, he's bolstered his average by owning a .311 on-base percentage as well as compiling a .799 slugging percentage. By all of those measures, he looks to be cut of a similar cloth to slugging phenom Miguel Sano. Then there's the strikeouts.

In his first four professional seasons, Adam Brett Walker has whiffed a total of 76, 115, 156, 195 times on a yearly basis. At one point during last season's torrid home run pace through Double-A, Walker was striking out more than five times as often as he was drawing a walk. The stark reality is that Walker remains the Twins most polarizing prospect. Although the power is likely the best in the organization, the detractors are also very real.

To Walker's credit, he has continued to produce at each level he's been assigned. Although the strikeouts have increased incrementally, the power production, as well as extra base hits, have continued to remain present. Contrary to a solid contingent of strikeout prone hitters, Walker also keeps his on base percentage at a high enough level to be more than ok with.

What makes Walker's situation difficult to project, is trying to pinpoint what he becomes at the next level. Two players immediately come to mind when talking about large home run totals with a ton of strikeouts: Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds. The comparison isn't a fair one though when considering the production at even levels.

Through his first 327 minor league games, Walker had hit 69 homers while striking out an astronomical 372 times. In comparison, Adam Dunn launched 63 homers in 343 minor league games while striking out a significant amount less, just 270 times. Taking a look at plate discipline, Dunn also amassed 230 walks while whiffing 270 times in the minors. To date, Walker has struck out 542 times while drawing just a paltry 145 free bases.

A better comparison to what the hope of Walker may be could potentially be no further than Minnesota's own organization, Oswaldo Arcia. Maybe more correctly put, a comparison to what Arcia was or is hoped to be. Once again however, the biggest detractor between the comparison comes down to strikeout rate. At the major league level, Arcia has struck out an above average 33% of the time. Conversely, Adam Brett Walker struck out 41% of the time at Double-A.

Comparisons are a fickle thing, and Walker's case remains an interesting one. His defensive ability, namely his arm, leaves something to be desired and helps to only cast more light on his offensive prowess. With the ability to smash home runs into what seems to be another orbit, the Twins unlocking that ability at a usable clip remains the key. As Walker is transitioned to the next and final level of the farm in 2016, we will see how his journey continues.

It's probably a good bet that we see Walker in the big leagues at some point in the coming year, likely as a September call up option. Now on the 40 man roster, Minnesota will give the best power prospect in the organization every chance to prove himself. The difference between being a minor league storyline and a potential big leaguer is still somewhere in a gray area, but one thing is for sure, Walker's narrative is far from over.

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