Competing at a level where he's more than four years younger than the average player, Jordan Walker isn't just holding his own, he's putting his name into the conversation for the next big thing to hit the Midwest, if not all of baseball.
Walker's two long balls pushed his total to 15, eclipsing the 14 he slugged last season during his professional debut with Single-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria. Just don't ask him to go too crazy about reaching the seats.
"I focus on trying not to get too big," Walker explained. "My teammates bust on me all the time for not hitting more home runs, but honestly, I'm fine with that. If I start focusing on hitting home runs, I'll get into trouble. Hitting the ball hard consistently and driving in runs is what my goal is each game."
Walker, who turned 20 in May, evened the score, 2-2, with his 14th roundtripper in the sixth inning. It was his first homer since Aug. 10 and just his second since he left the yard four times in three games to end July. Walker's second jack of the game put Springfield back on top, 4-3, and gave him five multihomer games in his brief career.
"The prep work is really where it all starts," Walker said. "We use an [iPitch Machine] with foam balls and I love it. It really helps me feel comfortable when I get in the box during a game. Tonight, I was able to get into a few and I'm happy it helped us get the win."
The 21st overall pick in the 2020 Draft has been a model of consistency since Opening Night. Walker has gone consecutive games without a hit twice all year, contributing to an average of .300 or better in four of the first five months of the season. Ironically, his .290 average last month coincided with his best power surge of the season. Walker finished July with five homers and a .907 OPS in 69 at-bats, which was only an appetizer for what he's done in August.
Including Thursday's performance, the Stone Mountain, Ga., native is slashing a season-best .340/.410/.566. Walker has notched five multihit games in his last eight, going 15-for-35 (.429) in that stretch, which included the first four-hit game of his career on Aug. 12.
He's up to .310/.393/.522 for the year with 45 extra-base hits, 82 runs, 53 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 93 games. Impressive numbers to be sure, but Walker is quick to show his respect to the pitchers around the Texas League.
"I certainly don't think I'm making anything look easy," he said. "[The pitchers] are really good. These guys have great stuff and know what to throw and when to throw it. The best thing I can do is to just keep things simple, but it's been anything but easy. The pitching in Double-A is light years ahead of what I faced last year [in Single-A and High-A]. I'm not focused on my stats, just on each individual game."
If there is one thing Walker hopes continues this way s the season hits the final stretch, it is his health. Competing in his first full-season campaign last year, Walker missed roughly two weeks with injury. Walker has been healthy in 2022, which was his primary goal heading into the season.
"I missed more games than I would have liked last season," said Walker, who appeared in 82 contests. "This year, being in Spring Training around guys who have done this for awhile really helped me prepare for what the grind of the season would be like. Everything is feeling good. ... I feel comfortable in the box and I want to just ride that feeling while it lasts."