Orioles prospect Christian Walker said he has followed the club's attempts to retain first baseman Chris Davis, and concedes he can't help but think about how that might affect his opportunities with the major league club in the immediate and long-term future.
"I try to follow it as much as I can through Twitter and television and all that, but to be honest, regardless of whether I follow it or not, what's going to happen is going to happen," Walker said this month at FanFest. "I don't want anything to affect how I'm going to prepare for the season, so whether it's an opportunity or any other circumstance, I just want to make sure I'm ready to play."
The 24-year-old Walker has been in professional baseball long enough to know there are certain things you can't control. And this year, he said he took control of something he could: getting in the best shape of his career.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," Walker said. "I'm excited for the season. Last year was a good year. I stayed healthy all season. All things considered, it was a solid year for me, so I'd like to build on that and keep it going. ... Just really been cleaning up what I've been eating. I really enjoy working out and I really enjoy being in the weight room a lot, so that's usually a part of my offseason agenda. My defense has been good. I think losing some weight helped my footwork a lot. I didn't lose any power. I feel like I'm stronger than I've ever been."
Walker was the Orioles' minor league Player of the Year in 2014 and was the club's third-ranked prospect heading into 2015, according to Baseball America. Despite another strong year playing a full season in cavernous Harbor Park at Triple-A Norfolk, Walker slipped off of the Baseball America top-10 prospects list this offseason.
After hitting .288/.357/.489 with 26 homers and 96 RBIs in 2014, splitting the season between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, Walker's numbers slid a bit this past season. He hit .257/.324/.423 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs, but also hit 33 doubles in Norfolk's vast outfield.
"That place is a graveyard for sure, but it probably forced some good habits because I probably stopped trying to hit the ball a mile," Walker said.
But Walker said his biggest improvement last season was getting into better shape.
"It started about midseason last year," Walker said. "I guess it was good timing. I wasn't trying to lose weight. I was just trying to clean up my lifestyle and get the most out of my body. I ended up losing a few pounds and getting into better shape out of it, so it was a good situation."
Walker's time with the big league club the past two years has been brief – he has just 27 major league at-bats to his name. But he has used his time in Triple-A working to improve his defense, which is something he knew he had to hone in order to make the next step to the big leagues.
"Just working real hard around the base," Walker said. "I want my infielders to be 100-percent confident in me that I pick anything and catch any ball that they throw to me. We've got a lot of good infielders, good defenders on this team, so I don't want to be the weak link, if you will, in the chain. I'm confident. I feel like I'm good defensively. I worked really hard.
"Any experience helps, no matter the situation or how short term or long term it is. I just try to take everything I've learned from being there and being in the situations I've been in and just use it to my benefit and let my hard work and everything take care of itself."