It’s not clear how highly Adam Brett Walker will rank in a stacked Milwaukee Brewers farm system, but he’s undoubtedly a high ceiling prospect. Did I mention he’s from Milwaukee?
The Milwaukee Brewers continue their unending efforts to stock-pile young talent. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweeted earlier that the Brewers had claimed AAA outfielder Adam Brett Walker from the Twins.
Walker is an intriguing player with a profile familiar to the Brewers; extreme power and extreme risk.
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In each the last four seasons, the outfielder has surpassed 500 plate appearances while working his way through the Twins minor league system. The fewest home runs he hit in any of those seasons was 25 in High-A in 2014.
He has undeniable power, both statistically and from a scouting perspective. MLB.com, who ranked Walker as the Twins 15th best prospect at season’s end, said he “has as much raw power as just about any prospect in baseball.”
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Similarly, in Baseball America’s 2016 prospect handbook, they wrote that Walker has “raw power that rivals that of Miguel Sano.”
Unfortunately, power is nearly all that Walker brings to the plate at this point in his career. Though he does draw solid walk rates, his batting average has hovered around .240 for the last three years.
More importantly, Walker’s already inflated strikeout rate ballooned in AAA in 2016. In 531 plate appearances, Walker struck out 202 times, or 38% of the time. That number has risen every year since 2013, when it sat at a more manageable 20.8% in Low-A ball.
Of course, high strikeout rates don’t always derail careers. The Brewers’ own Chris Carter frequently leads the league in K%. However, back when Carter was in AAA, his K% was usually around 25%. In fact, that’s about as high as a team would ever want to see a K-rate in AAA.
For example, the Rangers are still trying to make a starter out of one of the most powerful hitters in baseball, Joey Gallo. His strikeout rate was nearly 35% in AAA in 2016.
Gallo has struck out in nearly half (49.7%) of his 153 big league plate appearances. That rate, if indicative of his future, would guarantee he never stuck in the Majors.
Of course Gallo’s future can still be bright, but Walker’s path to the Majors will be even more difficult.
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Walker played first base in college, and appears to be overmatched even in left field, receiving below-average marks for his arm strength and overall fielding ability.
Additionally, Walker is 25 years old with just one season of AAA ball under his belt. His relative lack of experience in the higher levels of the minors isn’t ideal for his age, but it could also be a silver lining.
In each of the last four years, Walker has spent a season in Low-A, High-A, AA, and AAA. He has never stalled, or repeated a level, despite rising strikeout rates. Thus, repeating AAA could give Walker an opportunity he hasn’t yet had in his career; working at one level for more than one season.
Thus far, Walker hasn’t had the chance to improve at one level before being shipped to the next. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but Walker may have benefited from more time against AA pitching before being shipped to AAA.
Walker’s consistent call-ups are no doubt thanks to his solid overall production, despite his troubling strikeout rate. In each of the last two seasons, Walker has posted a wRC+ north of 120 (20% above league average offensively). His high RBI totals also make it clear that the Twins have consistently placed him in the middle of the batting order.
It’s unclear how Walker will fit into the Milwaukee Brewers crowded AAA outfield. Still, I’m excited at the idea of him hitting dingers in the thin air of Colorado Springs.