Twins in AFL: Walker working on 'plate discipline'
Certain numbers stand out when looking at Adam Brett Walker II's offensive production.
On the positive side, of course, is the power and run production: Walker finished fourth in the Minor Leagues in 2015 with 31 home runs and third in RBIs with 106. The flip side of that coin is his strikeout total. Walker led the Minors with 195 K's in 502 Double-A Southern League at-bats. "I usually don't really look at my numbers, positive or negative," Walker said while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. "At the end of the year, I'll take a look at them and see where I was at. I just try to take it one day at a time. I'll have positive at-bats and whatever happens, happens."
What has happened is that Walker has led his league in home runs every season of his pro career, starting with his pro debut after being taken in the third round of the 2012 Draft. He's hit 83 home runs in his three full seasons of pro ball, showing at each level that his power will play. The real question has always been about whether the corner outfielder would make enough contact to be a consistent run producer at the highest level. His strikeout totals have gone up in each of those three full seasons as well, something Walker is trying to address in the Fall League.
"Always working in the box on plate discipline, that's a big key," Walker said. "I'm just working on getting pitches I can handle, laying off the bad ones. "
He's managed to do that over the first few weeks of the AFL. He's still struck out 12 times in 31 at-bats, but he's also drawn five walks, leading to a .355/.459/.677 slash line heading into Thursday's games. He stood sixth in OPS and slugging percentage and eighth in on-base percentage. Walker sees it as building off lessons learned in Chattanooga during the 2015 regular season.
"I definitely feel like I'm moving in the right direction," said Walker, who added he's also working on his reads and routes in the outfield. "This past year went pretty well, but there's always work I need to put in. I'm going to keep trying to get that work in, getting more at-bats always helps. I'm just going to keep working so I can get to the big leagues."
Watching his organization-mates get there certainly adds fuel to that fire. At various stages of his Minor League career, Walker has played alongside Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana and Max Kepler, all of whom made varying degrees of contribution to the Twins' postseason push this season.
"It definitely motivates me," Walker said. "I was able to play with a couple of those guys, and to see them in the big leagues, helping the ballclub out, they're in the playoff hunt, it looked exciting. I was able to talk to some guys, and they just talked about how much fun it is. It's definitely motivating. I just have to keep working so I can join them.
"It's a great opportunity to be here. I'm honored they selected me to come out here and play. There's a lot of great competition. Hopefully, I end up moving up the ladder and can reach my goals."
Twins hitters in the Fall League
• Mitch Garver, C: When the Twins took Garver in the ninth round of the 2013 Draft, it was unclear whether he could stay behind the plate. One of the better college seniors from that class, he's shown he can, and the time in the AFL will help get him used to handling more advanced pitching while continuing to refine his advanced approach at the plate.
• Stuart Turner, C: Turner is another backstop from that 2013 Draft, one of four the Twins took that June. He can flat-out defend, but will need to find a little more bat -- something he's undoubtedly working on in Arizona -- if he wants to be more than just a glove-first backup.
Twins pitchers in the Fall League
• Nick Burdi, RHP: Burdi was supposed to come to the AFL a year ago, but didn't. Now he's there working on becoming more pitcher than thrower. Burdi finished the year in Double-A well, after scuffling upon his promotion, and he's using his time in Scottsdale to continue to get used to his move to the third base side of the rubber, a big reason for his improvement.
• Trevor Hildenberger, RHP: A 22nd round pick out of Cal in 2014, the 24-year-old reliever led the Twins in saves in 2015 with 17. But he's yet to pitch above A ball. Getting some AFL innings should help him prepare for the jump to the upper levels.
• Jake Reed, RHP: The 2014 fifth-rounder took Burdi's spot in the AFL last year and threw well, but he struggled in Double-A in 2015. He righted the ship with a move down to Fort Myers, and he's hoping this return engagement gets him back on the right track.
• Taylor Rogers, LHP: Rogers has been one of the most durable starters in the Twins' system, and he set a career high with 174 innings pitched during the 2015 regular season. He's fresh off five scoreless innings on Tuesday, with the AFL stint perhaps a springboard to a shot at the big league rotation.