If there's one thing South Carolina has done well the last few years it's produce very good hitters. Oh, and win National Championships. A Junior at South Carolina, Walker follows the likes of Justin Smoak, 11 overall 2008, and Jackie Bradley Jr., 40 overall 2011, into the draft. Like those two players Walker has shown power and a good approach at the plate.
Coming out of high school, in 2009, Walker was ranked the number one high school player for the state of Pennsylvania. He also participated and won the 2009 Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby At Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida. Normally I wouldn't mention something like that, but it's note worthy because Bryce Harper was another participant in that competition.
Two things stick out about Walker at the plate: He's got excellent pitch recognition and excellent hip rotation. I'm not great at breaking down swings, however, I've heard several broadcasters rave about his hip rotation and how well he uses the lower half of his body to generate power. He's also good at making contact and hitting the ball to all fields. On the base paths he runs well for a first basemen. Defensively he's athletic enough that whoever drafts him would be wise to give him a shot at playing third base.
He has a very good chance to get to the majors on his bat alone. Whether it's as a first basemen and third basemen is largely the question. His bat and excellent approach at the plate make me think of a Daric Barton type or even a Justin Smoak type without the defense.
If he proves he can handle the hot corner I could see maybe a Kevin Youkilis type player who gets on base with good power and has the versatility to play either third or firs, although I doubt he would be as good defensively. Still even if he can't play third base his bat should be good enough to a be a middle of the order hitter who plays first base.
Project Draft Round
The only rank source I found that ranked Walker was Keith Law who ranked him 76th on his list. He'll be an early to mid round selection, although Youkilis fell to the eighth round and I could see him dropping that far so it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Will He Sign?
With two National titles and a shot at a third I don't see what he would have left to do in the college ranks. With a pretty weak draft class this year I don't think he could do anything next year that would raise his stock significantly. Being the big bopper on the team and having already performed in high pressure situations has lead to teams pitching around him. They're more willing to allow him to walk than to give up an extra base hit. This is the year he goes unless he has a strong desire to finish his degree and/or go for yet another National Championship.
Bibliography, GIFs and Videos after the jump
In Walker's first plate appearance against LSU in the final series of the regular season we see LSU go outside with a breaking ball that he pops up to second base.
In his next at bat they do the exact same thing. This time he lets it go. LSU tried that same location through out the entire game and he always let it go after that first at bat.
Here's his triple against Auburn. To be fair it probably should of just been a single or maybe a double. The center fielder dove for the ball missed it and the ball rolled passed him. Still he's faster than a buffalo.
Walk Up Song
Walker is a total-package-type player who stands the best shot of all of our guys of making it to the big leagues. He's likely to be taken in the early rounds, mid at the latest. As such, this is likely Walker's last season in the garnet and black.
In addition to his light-tower power, he is also an incredible athlete. In addition to third base, he also played first and catcher in high-school. He was clocked in the low 80s off the mound at a few Perfect Game showcases and he has good enough range to handle either first or third as a pro.
If you're looking for a true home run hitter near the top of the draft, Walker is your man. He put on a show at the Powershowcase event in Tampa his senior year of high school, the same event that first made Bryce Harper such a household name. His swing is explosive, with a short stride and the kind of hip torque that can make a ballpark seem small in a hurry. Pure power isn't all Walker brings to the table, though, as he's shown a solid approach at the plate and the ability to hit the ball to all fields.
Some players will return to the dugout after an at-bat and try to help their teammates by saying they saw a breaking pitch of some sort — maybe a slider, maybe a curveball. Walker’s teammates notice how his brilliance as a hitter comes largely from his ability to recognize, in a split second, what the pitcher just threw. Senior right fielder Adam Matthews said Walker brings back descriptions such as, "It was a changeup, low and away, and it had some sinking action."