When you have a Double-A team that's light on hitting prospects, it certainly helps when those you do have are among the best hitters at the level. His running buddy, outfielder Dariel Alvarez, has tapered off in June, but first baseman Christian Walker is still pacing the Eastern League’s power categories as Bowie nears the All-Star Break.
Walker, a 23-year-old first baseman out of the University of South Carolina is hitting /.314/.376/.552, and leads the league in home runs (18), RBI (65), and total bases (160) through 74 games with the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate. He has kept up the pace from his torrid May with a strong June. Through 20 games this month, Walker is hitting .295/.349/.513 with four home runs, five doubles, and 19 RBI.
As we noted earlier this month, Walker’s power burst hasn’t compromised his approach, and he’s not selling out for power at the expense of the rest of his game.
The next few weeks are important for Walker. Though the Baysox are well past the halfway point in the season, the Eastern League All-Star break is still three weeks away. The Orioles moved several players from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Frederick at that ceremonial midway point in the season, and could be waiting for Walker to have that honor this year before he goes to Triple-A. That, however, is an “if” he goes, not necessarily a “when.”
I’m not sure Walker would be blocked if the organization wanted to move him to Triple-A, though whether the team moves him up or keeps him in Bowie could indicate his availability ahead of next month’s trade deadline.
Traditionally, teams tend to keep prospects that might be on the trade block at their current level to keep them from being exposed by the higher level of competition, which would hurt the player’s value. The Orioles showed last year by bouncing on Scott Feldman in early July that when the front office saw a trade it liked, it would bounce regardless of when the deadline is.
The Orioles certainly have players who are untouchable in most deals—Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Hunter Harvey, in my mind—but Walker is part of an intriguing group of second-level prospects who could fill out a trade. To ensure his value is at its peak should it come to that, I think he’ll stick around in Bowie for a little longer than people would expect.