With their first pick in the 2011 MLB Draft the White Sox selected switch-hitting outfielder Keenyn Walker from Central Arizona JC.
Walker, 6’03”, 193 lbs, is a highly athletic outfield prospect who flashes good tools across the board. Speed is Walker’s best tool, where he grades out at anywhere between a 65 (Baseball America) and a true 80 (John Sickels, Keith Law), and he stole 65 bases this year against just 3 CS (96% SB%). He has some pop, particularly from the left side, but will likely be more of a doubles/triples threat than a home run hitter.
Walker has decent patience at the plate as he led his team in walks this year with 36 (16.8 BB% (BB/AB)), which, combined with his speed, gives him potential as a top of the order hitter, but in order to reach that potential he will need to watch the strikeouts, which have been a problem for him. Walker struck out 45 times this year (21% K% (SO/AB)), which again led his team.
Defensively, Walker has the range to play center. He shows a solid arm and should prove to be at least an average defender at a premium position, though he does need to work on his route running.
Baseball America had Walker ranked as the #92 prospect in this class, and I’m sure the last thing many were hoping for was another athlete with strikeout issues in the mold of a Jordan Danks, Jared Mitchell or Trayce Thompson, after watching that trio struggle mightily in making consistent contact. But the White Sox stated a few years ago that they wanted to get more athletes into the system and they’ve certainly done that here.
There’s no denying that Keenyn Walker is a premium athlete, but with major question marks over his hitting ability, he’ll need to do a lot of work before we can start to think about him patrolling center field in the Cell.