Some props for O’s prospect Walker, plus another Toronto take on Duquette

Orioles first base prospect Christian Walker got some props yesterday. He was ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the seventh-best first base prospect in the sport.

This is a nice ranking for Walker, which comes at a position that is usually plentiful with solid hitting prospects. Maybe it is a sign that he may have a chance to make the back-end of some top 100 prospects lists when they come out later.

Here is the MLBPipeline.com write up on Walker:

* A two-time national champion at South Carolina, Walker has moved quickly through the Orioles system, having a huge breakout and making his big league debut in 2014, just two years after being taken in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft.

walker-at-bat-white-sidebar.jpgAs a Gamecock, Walker developed a reputation as an excellent hitter, one with a good approach and more gap power than anything else. He unlocked his power in 2014, more than doubling his home run total from the year prior, while earning a promotion from Double-A to Triple-A before getting that first big league callup. The 2013 Futures Gamer is a capable defender at first, but his below-average speed limits him to that position only.

Walker has an outstanding work ethic, and he gets points for his overall feel for the game. That could help him play beyond his raw tools and eventually fit the profile of a regular big league first baseman, though he’ll have to wait for Chris Davis and/or Steve Pearce to make room.

At the end of October, Baseball America ranked Walker as the Orioles No. 3 prospect and top position player prospect behind only pitchers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey.

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Walker debuted that summer at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and was ranked by Baseball America as the O’s No. 12 prospect following that year. In 2013 he began the season at Single-A Delmarva, moved to Single-A Frederick and ended at Double-A Bowie. It was an impressive year where he played at three levels.

But with questions about his power and defense he was rated No. 18 on the O’s list after the 2013 season. But he answered all those questions with a breakout 2014 season.

He improved both his power and defense. He went from hitting 13 career homers in 474 at-bats prior to 2014, to bashing 27 in 550 at-bats, including one in Baltimore in September. His defense improved to the point where he was named the top defensive first baseman in the Eastern League.

Here is Baseball America’s scouting report on Walker:

* Known as a solid hitter with gap-to-gap power, Walker’s game took a big step forward in 2014. He went to spring training and asked new O’s minor league hitting coordinator Jeff Manto how he could increase his power and then some minor tweaks led to major results.

He began to use his legs more and went from 11 homers and 56 RBIs to 26 homers and 96 RBIs at Double-A and Triple-A. He was named the Orioles minor league Player of the Year. Walker showed good power all over the field and in a September callup hit his first big league homer to right-center in Baltimore on Sept. 20 off Boston’s Rubby De La Rosa. He keeps his bat in the zone a long time, recognizes pitches well and has good bat speed.

Walker’s defense also made gains in 2014 as he continued to work on his footwork. Scouts consider his defense average. Walker has a great desire to get better and strong baseball IQ.

Walker’s big 2014 has led people to take notice. That includes the Orioles brass which must be wondering if he is their future first baseman?

If Davis leaves via free agency after this coming season, could Walker move right in to that position and hold down the spot for years to come?

That all became much more possible after Walker continued to work on his game and took it to another level in 2014. Now the Orioles have the luxury of letting him continue to gain minor league experience this year and continue to improve.

A big opportunity could soon be coming his way.

Toronto take: Click here for another column out of Toronto on possible compensation and more if Dan Duquette is allowed to leave his O’s job for a position with the Blue Jays.

The writer refers to Toronto “ownership’s pratfall-laden pursuit of Dan Duquette.”

He also writes that, “So yes, (pitcher Jeff) Hoffman would indeed be a steep price to pay. But given the circumstances, it is easy to understand why Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos would expect the Jays to pay dearly; it is a perfectly logical position.”

My own take continues to be that the Orioles should ask for and receive a big price if they let an award-winning executive out of four years of his contract to join a direct competitor. Why some feel that should not bring a high price, I don’t really understand.

I don’t see a precedent with Theo Epstein, who went from the Red Sox to the Cubs for a relief pitcher (Chris Carpenter) who never amounted to much and is no longer pitching. Epstein had one year to go on his contract and switched leagues. Duquette has four years left and would be staying in the division.

I see a big difference in those situations and the resulting compensation packages for both.

Finally, it was sad to hear late last night of the passing of Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. It seems everyone in baseball is mourning his loss today.

Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said this on his Twitter account:

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