Christian Walker Earns Starting Role
Coming out of Spring Training, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker believed his playing time for the 2019 season with the team would be as a “platoon” player and as the first guy off the bench as the pinch hitter. Though he’d be a backup at first base to Jake Lamb, he knew he’d get some occasional starts. He figured all he had to do to stay in Arizona with the big-league club was to be a consistent hitter. How quickly things can change in the major leagues. That backup position at first has turned him into a full-time starting player after Lamb suffered a strained left quad that is keeping him out for the next six to eight weeks.
Walker’s Road to the Major Leagues
Walker was an outstanding college player at South Carolina, helping to lead the Gamecocks to consecutive College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011. Those were followed by a third championship appearance in 2012. He is tied for the most hits in College World Series history.
Drafted in the fourth round by the Orioles in 2012, he moved quickly through their system. In two years, he hit 26 homers between Double A and Triple A and was a September call-up. He appeared in a few games that September and a few more the next year. To his surprise, he was not called to the majors in 2016, and on February 21, 2017, the Orioles designated Walker for assignment.
In a one-month period in the spring of 2017, Walker was waived by the Orioles, Braves, and Reds. The Diamondbacks then claimed him and assigned him to Triple-A Reno. The problem? All those teams all had outstanding first baseman. That could have been the lowest point of Walker’s career. He could have wallowed in his ill fortune of being blocked by almost every prominent first baseman in the game at the time—Chris Davis, Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt. Walker didn’t let these setbacks get to him. Instead, he worked harder on his game, especially his hitting.
While he was never really considered a big power guy, he is known as a good hitter who just needed a chance to play on a consistent basis. During his tenure with Reno Aces at Triple-A, Walker and hitting coach Greg Gross worked on gaining better control of his swing. He changed his hitting approach and started choosing better pitches to swing at. He wound up hitting .309 with 32 home runs and 114 RBI, the best of any of his previous seasons. That earned Walker Most Valuable Player honors in the Pacific Coast League.
This is Walker’s Chance
Those years of being blocked by the glut of outstanding first basemen were opportunities for him to hone his swing and study the game, including the way a hitter approaches the plate. We already know there is one thing he has already proven after 500+ games in Triple A, Walker knows what it takes to get to the Major leagues. Now he is the Diamondbacks’ everyday first baseman and has played it well. His bat is backing up his defense. Through Tuesday’s game, he was hitting .296 with seven home runs, 16 RBI, and 20 runs scored. If Walker maintains this level of performance, Manager Torey Lovullo might have to consider moving Jake Lamb to the reserve role when he recovers from his injury.
Bonus… Christian Walker, Rookie of the Year Candidate
You might be surprised to hear that a 28-year-old who is in his fifth major-league season is still rookie eligible. This was verified by the Diamondbacks PR department, who checked with the MLB. They were informed that Walker’s rookie status is indeed intact for the 2019 season. So, since it has been endorsed by MLB, the Diamondbacks have a Rookie of the Year candidate!
What do you think of Christian Walker being at first base full-time?
Do you consider him a Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate?
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