Walden’s Heat

Jordan Walden has thrown 40 pitches in the major leagues, 30 being fastballs, but one thing is evident: he throws really, really hard. How hard? Baseball Info Solutions has the average velocity at 98.9 miles per hour. If Walden qualified that would rank second only to Joel Zumaya’s 99.3 MPH heater. Back to Walden, though, he throws hard and he’s been a top prospect with the Angels for a few years now. Here’s what Marc Hulet penned about him in February:

Walden’s 5.25 ERA in ’09 was pretty ugly but he was hurt by a .377 BABIP and his FIP was just 3.77. Overall, he allowed 72 hits in 60.0 innings and made just 13 starts due to a forearm strain. The injury is worrisome (because it can lead to Tommy John surgery), but he appears healthy and ready to compete in 2010. He showed a pretty good strikeout rate in ’09 at 8.55 K/9 but his control was modest at 4.35 BB/9. He had a lot of troubles against left-handed hitters and posted a walk rate of 7.83 BB/9 against them in a smaller sample size. The right-hander has top-of-the-order stuff if he can harness it.

Hard-thrower with an ugly technique is usually another definition for “reliever” and the Angels decided to shift Walden to the bullpen permanently this season. Walden responded by striking out 38 in 43 Double-A innings and, while the walks were still there, you would have to think he can lower his total or at the very least leverage them better in shorter stints.

This is too early of a stage for anyone to decree whether Walden’s career will go the route of dominant closer or unsuccessful hype. The early returns do have him striking out three of his first 10 batters faced while only walking one, but … I mean, that’s 10 batters faced. That tells us virtually nothing. Even the velocity readings are skewed by small sample size. If that velocity does maintain Jeff Mathis will have to dust the ball for ashes before returning it to Walden.

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10 Responses to “Walden’s Heat”

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  1. Brandon says:

    I wonder if there’s a point where Scioscia will actually stop giving Mathis ABs every night. Seeing his .214 OBP in the lineup a couple of nights ago made me double check the stats to see if it was some kind of typo.

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    • Alireza says:

      Main issue now is that Napoli is the team’s best option at 1B, which gives Mathis more ABs. What has been happening is Mathis losing playing time to Bobby Wilson, who is his defensive equal and a better hitter.

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  2. Aaron says:

    A good rule of thumb; if your BABIP equals your FIP then you’ll probably make it as a major league pitcher.

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  3. MetsFan says:

    Coming from a reliever, that doesn’t seem like a great strikeout rate in AA. It’s obviously tough to project guys who throw this hard because there aren’t too many who make it to the majors, but you’d want to see something north of 1 per inning I’d think.

    I’m guessing his secondary stuff is really subpar and guys can sit on his fastball, or the fastball doesn’t have much life. Pitch f/x should provide some insight on that front, in time.

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  4. Scottathan says:

    I’ve seen this kid pitch, his secondary stuff is fantastic. His issues have been solely mechanical and health related. Simple enough, if he repeats himself, he’ll throw strikes. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a dominant reliever.

    People here need to question his control and durability, not his stuff.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    Hard-thrower with an ugly technique is usually another definition for “reliever”

    See: Dibble, Rob

    As for Walden, how many guys average 99mph on fastballs but have less than 8.5 K/9?

    Something doesn’t jive … e4specially with one commenter posting that his secondary stuff is excellent. Shouldn’t we be expecting some type of K/9 in MiLB of 10+?

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  6. BJsWorld says:

    He does have great stuff. It’s been a very frustrating ride for Angel fans who get nothing but amazing scouting reports that haven’t translated to results (sans 2008).

    The kid is still young and has dealt with some injury issues. Maybe he just needs time to mature more and develop some command.

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  7. Rally says:

    His strikeout rate in AA had me wondering all year. Was he using all his pitches? I remember when Felix Hernandez was in the minors they wouldn’t let him throw his slider. This is his first year in the pen, he was a starter who had injury problems.

    Walden works down in the zone and gets a lot of groundballs. It seems like balls lower in the zone are easier to contact at a high velocity than high fastballs. If he continues to pitch that way maybe we should expect results like Brandon League as opposed to Daniel Bard.

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