Double-A Bowie first baseman Christian Walker is off to another good start. The 23-year-old right-handed hitter was named the Eastern League’s Player of the Week yesterday.
Last April, while with Single-A Delmarva, Walker hit .360 with three homers and 16 RBIs on the way to being named O’s minor league Player of the Month.
He made it all the way to Bowie last summer and starts there this season. Through 17 games, Walker is batting .306 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, 10 RBIs and a .755 OPS.
Walker hit .421 (8-for-19) for the week ending Sunday, and has hit safely in nine consecutive games dating back to April 11 with five multi-hit games.
Right before this year’s season opener, I asked Walker what he wanted to work on this season?
“Defense is first and foremost,” he said. “But in the big scheme of things, I’m expecting my offense to carry me through to where I want to go. I’m definitely not going to let my defense prevent me from playing at the next level.”
The Orioles’ No. 18 prospect according to Baseball America, Walker was drafted in the 2012 fourth round out of the University of South Carolina. He hit .300 over three levels last season. The Pennsylvania native knows if he puts up good numbers at the Double-A level, his chance at a major league shot becomes more realistic.
“It is easy to stay motivated when you have that in your mind,” Walker said. “I like to think there is not too much separating me at this level and guys at the next level. It’s a motivator.”
What is still to come in his game?
“I have the power. A lot of guys say I’m not the most conventional first baseman, hitting more doubles than I do home runs,” he said. “You know, I strive to hit at least .300. Some guys you see .270 or .280 with a lot of homers. I think my power swing will come. It’s there and I hope to show it off this year.”
He did show if off hitting his first two Double-A homers on Friday and Saturday for the Baysox. He’s 8-for-17 over his last four games.
Scouts say Walker has solid gap-to-gap power right now. He keeps his bat in the zone a long time, recognizes pitches well and has good bat speed. He was described as a professional hitter.
Walker is off to another solid start, this time at a higher level as he looks to show he can hit Double-A pitching and maybe go beyond that in the future.
Good note for O’s hitters: Red Sox starting pitchers are among the American League leaders in quality starts. They produced 12 in their first 16 games of the season but just one in the just-completed four-game series against the Orioles. Boston starters had an ERA of 8.55 in that series. Take away Felix Doubront’s outing and the trio of John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz allowed 17 earned runs over 13 1/3 innings for an ERA of 11.48.
Not a good note for O’s pitchers: Meanwhile, O’s starters had no quality starts in the four-game series, pitching to an ERA of 5.40. The Orioles have one quality start the last seven games.
The Birds’ total of five quality starts ranks last in the American League. Four of the last five starters have pitched fewer than six innings.
It was disappointing to see O’s starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Wei-Yin Chen staked to big leads, but neither pitcher went as far as six innings in back-to-back games.
Chris Tillman has two quality starts in four outings to lead the club. The rest of the starters combined have just three in 14 outings with Jimenez going 0-for-4, Chen 1-for-4 and Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris each going 1-for-3.
Tracking quality starts and starters’ innings will be key stats to follow throughout the 2014 season.