this post isn’t about a relief pitcher. i’d be worried that this would kill my audience, luckily i don’t have one.
This fella Colin Walsh was drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round in 2010 as a second baseman out of Stanford. He made it to low-A Quad Cities in his draft year, 2010, and then spent the whole season there last year, but his stats never even really fogged the mirror – .695 OPS the first time, cranked it all the way up to .738 the second time. Apparently he wasn’t dropping the jaws of the scouts with his tools or intangibles either, because going into this year BA didn’t even list him on the Cardinals depth chart thing in the handbook, let alone the top 30.
But then 2012 started. Walsh got sent back to Quad Cities again, which is better than getting promoted to Groinstown, maybe. Only this time he’s doing a better job boosting his year-over-year OPS. Actually, as of this morning he’s raised it 321 points, to 1.059 – .324/.439/.620 – which tops today’s midwest league high scores board. He’s second only to Tyler Austin in all of low-A. He’s got 12 homers, 26 total XBH, more walks than strikeouts, not many strikeouts at all (13%). His line is so generically, across-the-board good that it’s almost boring. It’s hard to really get much specific information out of it beyond the sense that this guy should probably be playing at a higher level than he is.
So that gets your attention. But there are plenty of curves to grade him on here. He’s a college hitter in low-A, and he wasn’t even drafted recently – depending on how you look at it this is his third year at the level. He’s played most of his games this year at DH. Just looking at his listed height and weight (6 foot even, 190) and the fact that he got drafted in the 13th round and nobody’s ever heard of him, it really doesn’t look like he’s some kind of untapped tools kraken.
But there’s also some factors here that seem favorable. One is age. Considering the college, low-A, and repeating low-A factors just mentioned, you’ll notice that he’s still only 22, which is the normal age for fresh college draftees in their first full season, even though that’s not what he is. So he was unusually young coming out of college. Another is the fact that in spite of spending parts of 2 years at low-A before this one, the prior experience still only adds up to 396 total plate appearances before this year. I’m not sure why he didn’t play more last year, but he didn’t.
And finally – and this is kind of speculation on my part – but it’s worth noting that the college he came out of is Stanford, which is notorious for being Weird About Swings. If you google Walsh, there isn’t a lot to find, but in every article you do find from this season, you’ll see Walsh talking about how he’s decided to “swing harder” this year.
“The whole year, I’ve been trying to swing harder and hit balls harder to both right and left field and that seems to be working,” Walsh said. “The whole approach has been to swing the bat harder. That’s where it starts.”
So what does that even mean. Is this a shed-the-Stanford-swing thing, or just a Colin Walsh thing? I have no idea, really. But when a guy “decides to swing harder” and the result is a tangible power spike while his walk rate stays the same and his strikeout rate actually goes down, it seems like that beats most of the alternative outcomes, at least. Like, if Yuniesky Betancourt came out this year saying he was going to “swing harder” I’d be worried he was going to helicopter a bat into the stands and kill a family of 5 by april 17th on the outside. But it seems like this Walsh cat can handle it, no pun intended.
Then there’s a couple of recent reports that the Cardinals, after playing Walsh as kind of a utility dude in LF and DH and wherever the past year or so, are now kicking around the idea of letting him take another stab at 2B. He’s only played 5 games there so far this year but it sounds like he’s being worked out at the position with an eye to giving it another real shot. Even beyond the obviously positive implications of keeping his bat in the middle of the field, this seems like a more general sign that St. Louis management is beginning to take Walsh seriously as a prospect, even if nobody else is. That’s their job, I suppose, but still, better to see them taking him seriously than to see them not taking him seriously.
I’m not sure what all of this means and I’ve never seen this guy, but I thought I’d mention it in case you, the internet, can take this and run with it. Here’s one last tweet I turned up.
Did I just like the bat speed of a 22 y/o DH in 3rd stint @ LowA after being a 13th rounder? Weird. Quad Cities’ Colin Walsh can swing it.