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The New Look Phillies: Mitch Walding

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Clinton Riddle continues his close-up look at sleepers in the Phillies farm system

MiLB: OCT 04 Florida Instructional League -  FIL Phillies at FIL Yankees Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mitch Walding (.236/.327/.516 with Double-A Reading in 2017)

Looking deeper into the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, Mitch Walding is a bit of a toss-up at this point.

A 5th-round selection in 2011, he’s a third baseman whose sudden game-time power production hasn’t been a total surprise; his five-o’clock hitting displays have drawn the attention of more than one scout.

However, before 2017 Walding had produced a season-high of 32 extra-base hits in 2016 while a 23 year-old repeating High-A Clearwater, and only ten of those hits were homers. He did make it into 23 games with Double-A Reading near the end of 2016, but it during this past 2017 season that his power truly emerged.

Walding popped 25 homers and drove in 62 runs in only 99 games with the Reading Fightin’ Phils in 2017, which makes one wonder if he can keep it up with Lehigh Valley in 2018, his likely destination. The caveat, as with most power hitters: strikeouts in bushels. Walding has always been a high-whiff bat (127 in 99 games in 2017), but he draws just enough walks that his OPS was respectable both in Clearwater and Reading (.812 in 2016; .843 in 2017).

A lot rides on 2018; if he can manage to make more contact, especially vs. top-end breaking pitches, and perhaps get some work at first base, he could be a power bat off the bench.

He’s been a pull-hitter the last three seasons (47.3% pull pct. in 2017), and that could limit him at the MLB level significantly, but his HR/FB% was 21.9% in 2017 (overall FB% of 51.4%), so if he gets it in the air it’s going to travel.

That said, keep in mind that Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium is a bit of a launching pad: he slugged .587 at home but .447 on the road.

He’s not entirely one-dimensional; he’s dependable in the field in stretches, though he did make 15 errors in 96 games at the hot corner this year. A move to first base may be in his future, if his bat can carry him.

At age 25, Walding isn’t a young prospect but he is entering the mid-to-late-20s window where breakouts can occur. With his raw power, even a slight improvement in his contact ability could get him to the majors. He has a non-roster invitation to Major League spring training so he does have an approaching opportunity to impress the brass.