White Sox Keenyn Walker Is All Tools

Last June, the Chicago White Sox plucked outfielder Keenyn Walker from the junior college ranks with the 47th overall pick in the amateur draft. After seeing him in person late in the 2011 season, it became apparent the organization tried to have their cake and eat it too to some extent with the selection of Walker. How so? For a touch under $800,000 in signing bonus, Walker has tools better than players I’ve scouted who have received two to three times as much in signing bonus, but his baseball skills are on par with somewhat skillful teenagers seen at the level.

And while lottery tickets are found in every organization, the White Sox system is notoriously thin at present forcing one to wonder how prudent it is to select boom or bust prospects such as Keenyn Walker so early. Regardless of the answer which would make for a fine debate on draft philosophy while operating on a bare bones draft budget (hint, hint), it’s important to understand just how thin Kannapolis has been the past three seasons.

Between 2009 and 2011, The cream of Kannapolis prospects included pitcher Jacob Petricka, third baseman Juan Silverio, outfielder Trayce Thompson, shortstop Tyler Saladino and the aforementioned Walker. Yes, Outfielder Jared Mitchell, closer candidate Addison Reed and current Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson also appeared briefly in the “Sally”, but had come and gone by the time the team passed through my stomping grounds. Include the lot and it’s still not as impressive as what the Greenville Drive (A-level Boston Red Sox) rolled out in 2011 alone.

Back to Walker, his lead off triple to open the ballgame was breathtaking as he showed both the gap power and plus speed which led to his being drafted so highly. In terms of most exciting moments scouting players in 2011, this at bat ranked in the top-5 at worst. On a fastball middle-out, Walker drove the pitch into the right-centerfield gap which one-hopped the fence. Out of the box, Walker’s long strides appeared gazelle-like making top flight speed look easy. Rounding the bags, Walker maintained his stride and pulled into third base standing up. For me, truly premium athletes combine explosion with fluidity of movement and Walker had plenty of both to spare. After Blue Jays Anthony Gose, I’d be hard pressed to name a better pure athlete scouted in my three-plus years evaluating prospects.

Of course Walker’s athleticism is not in question – his baseball skill is. And as glorious as Walker’s triple was, the rest of his at bats paled in comparison highlighted by an above average run time to first base on a ground ball to the left side. In game action, it appeared as if Walker was actively working on pitch selection as he was overly passive at the plate leading to poor hitters counts in subsequent at bats. In flailing at a low off-speed pitch for a strikeout, Walker also may have provided a strong example of why his strikeout rate was phenomenally high at 35.6%.

In terms of hitting mechanics, his effortless bat speed was impressive, but his size and strength would likely play better a if he was more spread out and strong with his hands further back off of his ear. For me, his set up in the batter’s box led to my perceiving him as smaller and less powerful than he otherwise would have been. Also, limiting his movement by shortening his load would help with consistency.

Additionally, I was perplexed as to why he was playing right field as his offensive profile fits much better in an up-the-middle position. Yes, Trayce Thompson is a higher ranking prospect and the White Sox leaving him in centerfield until proving unable to man the position is the right decision, but a more even time split down the stretch may have benefited both. Walker was untested in game action, but the speed and stride length would play beautifully in center. My hope is that he returns to Kannapolis in 2012 while Thompson advances a level allowing both to play the most valuable position defensively.

In the end, any organization would be silly to not want a talent like Walker as exemplified by his being drafted on three separate occasions. However, as impressive as the 6-foot-2 Walker is from a physical standpoint, his floor is so low that it’s difficult to envision a surefire Major Leaguer at this time. However, a perfect development timeline would leave him an Austin Jackson-type with a decent amount of walks, plenty of strikeouts, a smattering of power and solid stolen base totals.




Print This Post



Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


13 Responses to “White Sox Keenyn Walker Is All Tools”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. MikeS says:

    This is one problem with the White Sox drafting philosophy. They seem more interested in athletes than baseball players when it comes to hitters. Joe Borchard, Josh Fields. Of course, their GM was a better athlete than a baseball player so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

    The bigger problem is that they really have no philosophy. For a while they liked control pitchers with poor velocity like Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch. Then around 2007 they decided it was power, power, power. One year they realize they have traded away everybody and try to restock by acquiring guys like Tyler Flowers and Gio Gonzalez (again) but within a year they move Hudson for Edwin Jackson. Pick a lane and stay in it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • steex says:

      I think you’re underselling management, they have a clear philosophy to have the worst farm system in baseball for as long as it takes to bleed over into having the worst major league team. You can’t do that solely by trading away talent in a series of losing deals – sometimes you need to hamstring the team financially with risky waiver claims, other times you have to just get back to basics and draft poor talent. Kudos Kenny for being able to take the risks to achieve his goal, but not being too proud to get back to his roots too.

      I truly believe being a White Sox fan requires either a good sense of humor or being a confrontational alcoholic. I’m a weakling who doesn’t drink, so I guess it’ll have to be the yuk-yuks. [/Sad]

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Shane says:

      Billy Beane was also a better athlete than a baseball player (I’m sure no one reading this site knew that) but he realized a flaw in drafting on athleticism partially through his own failures. Their is some potential long term value in drafting athletic inexperienced players but way to many never make it. I would say one thing this young man does have going for him is that if he can switch to center only Alex Rios stands in his way.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Eminor3rd says:

    The philosophy seems to be pretty clear at this point, I think: draft high ceiling/low floor guys. The problem is that they refuse to spend enough money on the draft ot get enough of these guys in the system to make it work out. If you’re going to buy lottery tickets, you’re going to have a lot of busts. You need to get enough of them in the system to hit on a few.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Shane says:

      Going forward the spending issue should not be an issue due to the restrictions of the CBA. Any fan of any team should be severely dissapointed if their team is not maximizing their spending pot in the proper manner.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mike Newman says:

        I’m actually curious to see what a player of Walker’s ilk goes for under the new CBA. I don’t think there’s any way he could command or receive nearly 800k under the new rules.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • baty says:

      I’ve always wondered what guys like Terrell Owens could look roaming centerfield. The problem is that the White Sox have a distorted perspective as to what “high-ceiling” is. It’s really not a “high ceiling” because you have to have some sort of tangible baseball skill set for storing at least some of these tools. Otherwise you’re a better football – track and field prospect, but the Sox still think they can crack the code of how to convert these non-baseball players into baseball players. I honestly think that the White Sox confuse “high ceiling” with “high maintenance”. They are obsessed with “high maintenance” prospects and that’s how I’d describe the philosophy in which they draft hitters and pitchers.

      The Anaheim Angels have Mike Trout and the White Sox have Jared Mitchell… two athletic center field first rounders drafted almost back to back in 2009. Lots of teams passed on Trout, so I’m not saying that the White Sox should have known to pick him, but what separates the Sox from the rest is that Trout probably never received proper attention because he was a high school draft pick and Jared Mitchel was the college 2-sport athlete. That’s what they love. They snag the guys who have flipped a coin between football and baseball all their life. Honestly, If they had the first pick in 2009, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they would have considered breaking the “no high-schooler” rule of thumb to select Donovan Tate over Strasburg, haha.

      The Sox just can’t help themselves… and it continues with Mitch Mustain.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        And to clarify… I’m not trying to knock the so called “baseball fire and passion” of a two sport athlete (I think Keenyn gave up football after high school), but there’s something real here… When other prospects are finishing their in season leagues, they’re already prepping for Summer then Fall wood bat leagues. Your two sport athletes are instead lacing up for football training camps. I think there’s something to be said about the limitations in scouting the more shallow experience of a 16-21 year old who delays some pretty significant growing pains until becoming an actual signed professional. With the more extreme cases, these 18-21 year old prospects probably have as much reliability in projection as your highly touted 16-17 year old International Free Agents.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Ben G. says:

    I think they’re budget(or lack thereof) impacted how they drafted as all high-ceiling, low-floor guys came cheaply. I’m guessing the hard-cap for draft spending that was in the recent cba was heavily endorsed by reinsdorf.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Why do you call me Mr. Tibbs? says:

    Remember when the Brewers drafted Taylor Jungmann? I can’t believe he had a HOF career with 279 Wins, 3.39 ERA (3.64 FIP) and 3,179 K’s. Too bad Jed Bradley flamed out, but still a great draft by the Brewers

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. BoSoxFan says:

    funny you mention the Greenville team because they were absolutely stacked.
    They had like 10 legitimate prospects there at some point in the year.
    A quick list I have is
    Bogaerts,Brentz, Coyle, Ranaudo, Jacobs, Workman, Head, Ramos, and Vazquez.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Mike Newman says:

      Yes, but remember Ranaudo pretty much received as much in bonus in 2010 as the White Sox spent in their entire 2011 draft combined. Not many organizations run out a 10-12 million dollar A-ball roster. I’m certainly happy they do as it keeps me writing for months, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>