Continuing our coverage of the 2018 MLB Draft, we turn our attention back to the college ranks with a look at University of Oklahoma outfielder Steele Walker. That’s an 80-grade baseball name for sure but Walker has the talent to back up the nomenclature and has a shot at the first round. Let’s take a look.
Hailing from Prosper, Texas, Walker was known to scouts in high school but it was felt he would best be served by going to college. He wasn’t drafted when eligible in 2015 and fulfilled his University of Oklahoma commitment. He took over a regular spot in the Sooners lineup as a freshman in 2016 and held his own at .290/.352/.414, then followed up with an impressive summer in the Northwoods League where he hit .406/.479/.557.
The increased power he showed that summer carried over to 2017, Walker boosting his line to .333/.413/.541 as a sophomore. He then thrived for Team USA during the summer of 2017, hitting .333/.417/.514 and putting himself in line for an early spot in the ‘18 draft.
In 2018 he’s hitting .352/.441/.606 in 216 at-bats with 13 homers, 31 walks and 48 strikeouts across 54 games; note the continued surge in isolated power. He’s also made just one error in the outfield.
Born July 30th, 1996, Walker is a left-handed hitter and thrower listed at 5-11, 190. Physically, Walker is almost never the toolsiest player on the field with average running speed, arm strength, and raw power. That said, he’s usually the most instinctive player on the field, often the best pure baseball player, which isn’t always the same thing as being the best athlete.
His key skill is simple hitting: he has a mechanically sound swing that works drives to all fields, although he’s also strong enough to turn on pitches for surprising power. His batting eye has steadily improved, his walk rate moving upward each year.
Part of that is pitchers simply being more wary of him, but Walker has legitimately been more selective in his approach. His track record with wooden bats makes scouts comfortable that he’ll continue to produce as he moves up.
With so-so running speed and arm strength, Walker will fit best in left field in pro ball although his instincts and reliability are another positive and he’s held up in center and right field for the Sooners.
Overall, the more people watch Walker play, the more they like him. Walker was viewed as a possible comp round or second round pick six months ago but his stock has risen along with his production and he has a real shot at the first round now.
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