For better or worse it seems like Keenyn Walker is going to be attached to Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson. All three were highly drafted, athletic outfielders with raw skills and supposedly high upsides. They have shown various abilities and weaknesses since joining the system, but how fair is it that they’re often lumped together?
Walker is showing progress in his game and was just promoted to Winston-Salem. His offensive production improved each month he spent with Kannapolis this season after a shaky start (April OPS .675, May .716, June .894, July .953). Walker joins Thompson in the Dash outfield, making for an interesting decision regarding their future prospects. Both players manned center field before Walker’s promotion so seeing that Thompson remained in center while Walker moved to left in his first start with the Dash could be a sign that the Sox view Thompson as the better fielder. Then again, it’s just one game and there could be other factors at work.
Other than athletic profiles, Walker and Thompson are very different players. Thompson has struggled with contact (he leads the Carolina League with 125 strikeouts) and has shown huge power (he’s second in the CL with 17 home runs) while Walker hit just one homer with the Intimidators. Though Walker is the most recently drafted of the three, Thompson is actually about seven months younger.
As more of a leadoff hitter, Walker is more similar to Mitchell. Both players have top tier speed. Mitchell is 20/24 in stolen bases with Birmingham while Walker stole 39 in 50 tries for Kanny. Unfortunately all three outfielders are whiffing enough to make you think wind power could be a viable energy source. Walker struck out in 29.1% of his plate appearances with Kannapolis, which is actually better than the other two (Thompson is at 30.1%, Mitchell 30.7%).
Walker is in his first full season of pro ball so bumps along the road are expected. His speed and on base percentage (.395) show that he has the tools to become a prototypical leadoff hitter, but like Thompson and Mitchell he needs to make more contact.
There’s still hope for each of them, but don’t pencil them into any future White Sox lineups until they are able to show a leap forward in their games. It’s harsh that all three are often mentioned together, but the similarities are there. Heck, even 2012 first round pick Courtney Hawkins has a similar profile and could be joining this conversation soon. The key for now is that Walker is showing improvement and will be tested in the Carolina League.