Next up in our MLB Draft profile series is one of the best college bats and the best name available in Steele Walker, an outfielder from the University of Oklahoma.
5’11, 190 pounds
DOB: July 30, 1996
Slot recommended bonus (No. 30): $2,275,800
Note: All information of draft prospects compiled from Internet sources, scouting reports and video.
The first college profile of the series, Walker is a bit older than Parker Meadows or Connor Scott. However, the improvements he’s shown as a Sooner definitely merit a first round pick.
As a freshman, Walker posted a very respectable .290/.352/.414 triple slash line with three home runs and 17 doubles in 57 games. He followed it up with a .333/.413/.541 triple slash line in his sophomore, adding power with eight home runs, 16 doubles and three triples. As a junior this year, Walker has improved even more, with a .369/.465/.631 triple slash line and 11 home runs in only 46 games so far. The offensive improvements have also come with a spike in strikeout rate (11.5 percent as a freshman, 17.7 percent as a junior) and walk rate (8.1 percent as a freshman, 13.5 percent as a junior).
Walker’s hit tool is very clearly his best asset (other than his obviously 80-grade name). He grades out at average to slightly-above-average everywhere else, but has sneaky power for his size. He’s not going to be a big-time base stealer, with only 13 steals in 18 attempts in nearly three years of college ball. However, he’s a good enough runner to defend at all three outfield positions and can play anywhere in the outfield.
Walker has a very simple swing with very few moving parts. It’s short and compact with a very minimal follow through at times, almost like the swing of Chase Utley. For a guy his size, there’s definitely some violence to his swing. His power is probably more gap power than home run power, but as his body matures he could settle in as a legit threat at the plate. His durability shouldn’t go unnoticed, as he’d only missed one game in two seasons coming into this season. He has good instincts on defense, but a lack of top-end speed and a less-than stellar arm probably keeps him from sticking in center field long term.
Videos courtesy of Taylor Porter, 2080 Baseball and Baseball America.
It’s tough to say that the Dodgers have an in-house comp to Walker. At the plate, Andrew Toles might be a solid comp, as both hitters have solid approaches and clean swings from the left side of the plate, with a surprising amount of power considering their size. Walker doesn’t nearly have Toles’ speed or arm. The best comp might be to just think of the opposite of the Dodgers’ first round pick last year, Jeren Kendall. Kendall is a prospect with elite speed and defense and good power, but a problematic and inconsistent swing that could keep him from becoming a regular.
Walker seems to be a realistic pick for the Dodgers at 30. It might take a bit of slipping, but he should be in the late-first range. The Sooners currently sit in first place in the Big-12, so a big Big-12 tournament and potential NCAA Tournament showing by Walker could help elevate his draft status. The late-first round is ripe with high school outfielders, but Walker could be a lower-ceiling, higher-floor type of pick.