3,133. That’s the number of minor league plate appearances Diamondbacks 1B Christian Walker has accumulated from 2013 (first full professional season) to 2018. That is the 2nd highest total during that time (Christopher Bostick registered 46 more PAs) span. Walker has slugged 123 long balls in his minor league career (12th most [from 2012-18]). Most notably, he hit 32 HRs in 2017 (592 PA) at AAA.
There’s no denying the fact that Walker has legitimate raw power that has played big-time at the minor league level. Coming into this season, Walker had racked up six home runs in 88 at bats (14 2/3 ABs / 1 HR) in the MLB, which is extremely impressive despite the super small sample size. To put that in perspective, renowned Red Sox Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams hit 1 HR for every 14.79 ABs (according to Baseball Reference), which ranks as the 10th highest rate among hitters with at least 3000 career PAs.
In 2019, Walker has finally been given the full-time opportunity he deserves, and boy has he made the most of it and proved the doubters wrong. He leads all Diamondback position players with 1.2 WAR (per FanGraphs) and has bombed 7 home runs in 27 games. He’s hit to the tune of a .316 AVG and .385 OBP. While his average is likely inflated by an unsustainable BABIP (.400 — 7th highest among hitters with at least 80 PAs), Walker has still been tearing the cover off the baseball. His 11.9 Brls/PA% (according to Baseball Savant – 94.3 percentile) ranks as the 18th highest rate in the majors (minimum 25 batted ball events). Additionally, his 94.8 mph average exit velocity is the 6th highest in the MLB (98.1 percentile). Walker is making hard contact on a more frequent basis because of a change in swing/approach.
Walker’s Launch Angle by year
A launch angle in the “15 degrees” range bodes best for hitting for line drives, which Walker is doing more regularly…
2018 batted ball profile (as found on FanGraphs)
LD: 17.9% (+6.8)
GB: 41.8% (+4.8)
FB: 40.3% (-11.6)
Christian Walker has also toned down on his aggressiveness at the plate…
Walker’s Swing% by year (according to FanGraphs)
2018: 58.0 (+5.0)
2019: 48.0 (-10.0)
He’s been waiting for better pitches to hit and has been able to enact more damage as a result. Despite making less contact (2017:
68.5% [according to FanGraphs] vs 2018: 66.2%) in 2019, Walker has struck out far less than in the past (2018 K%: 41.5 vs 2019 K%: 28.4). This dip in K’s can presumably be attributed to the fact that he’s not chasing as many pitches out of the zone…
2018 O-Swing% (per FanGraphs): 39.2
2019: 30.0 (-9.2)
Here is a visual representation of his change in approach…
1. Walker is cocking his bat a lot farther back this year —> which is likely enabling him to generate more power
2. He is aligning his feet more (looks more balanced at the plate)
3. Walker is seemingly starting his leg kick earlier (in hopes of better timing), and the leg he is lifting appears to be more straight
The adjustments Walker has made have clearly put him in a better position to be successful. I think that natural regression is due to hit at some point, but Walker and the gargantuan power brings to to his game will continue to make him a valuable fantasy commodity.