2018 MLB Draft Profile: Steele Walker
Another year has passed, and as the summer approaches, it is almost time for the MLB Draft again. Each year the writers of Astros Future write up a draft profile for players we are expecting to be in the discussion in the first round for the Houston Astros.
In years past, the Astros have been towards the top of the draft, scouring the elite talent in each draft class and selecting from a talented pool of potential cornerstones. In the last two years the Astros have picked in the middle of the draft and actually walked out with two stellar players in Forrest Whitley and JB Bukauskas.
This year however, the Astros are defending champions of the world, and such a prestigious title comes attached with a low draft pick, though it’s not like we’re complaining. This year the Astros pick at #28, and we will start off the 2018 Draft Profiles with Steele Walker from Oklahoma.
Steele Walker is an OF prospect from OU, one who bats and throws left-handed. Walker is from Prosper, TX where he also went to high school and was awarded a scholarship to Oklahoma after a solid career in the prep ranks, one that concluded without his name being called in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Walker entered Oklahoma as a solid hitter and has only improved his numbers each year. As a freshman starter, he hit a respectable .290/.352/.414 with 61 H, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 17 2B, 19 BB, and 27 K in 210 AB.
As a sophomore he raised the bar, hitting .333/.413/.541 with 74 H, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 16 2B, 25 BB and 39 K in 222 AB.
So far in his junior season, Walker is putting up the best numbers of his career by far, slashing an eye-opening .369/.465/.631 with a career high 11 HR, while on pace to set his career highs in a number of other categories, currently with 66 H, 47 RBI, 12 2B, 29 BB, and 38 K in just 179 AB so far.
It is also well worth noting that in his first taste of wooden bat baseball in the Northwoods League, Walker slashed a ridiculous .406/.479/.557 in essentially a full-season slate of games. In 53 games, Walker hit 86 H, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 11 2B, 26 BB, and just 17 K in 212 AB.
Walker simply hits, and he does it well. He won’t surprise anyone with power, but he holds his own in that aspect and has the ability to hit HRs, but won’t hit any tape measuring shots or break any HR records. Walker has a fluid and effortless swing and has the ability to recognize pitches and is an aggressive hitter early, but not in a way that will limit his production at the plate.
Walker has stayed pretty even in the BB/K ratio throughout his OU career, keeping it around 1:1, and while his strikeout numbers has seen his strikeout rate increase in his junior season, he’s also seen a spike in his walks as well, showing that he has not sacrificed his batting eye for the sake of power. Walker possesses an average arm, one that will hold its own on defense but will probably keep him at a corner outfield spot at the next level.
Walker is short in stature, standing 5’11”, 190 lbs, creating a question as to whether he’s already untapped all the power in his swing. For an OF prospect, his speed is below average (13 steals in his 3 year OU career), but he is not slow.
Walker is a hitter and a good one at that. However, his other tools are lacking in that if he were to struggle at the plate, there’s not a whole lot to fall back on. If he continues to hit once he gets into professional baseball, then such concerns will be a non-issue for whichever team drafts him.
Walker and Benintendi has very similar frames as both hover around 5’10 or 5’11, but Benintendi put up more impressive power numbers and showed greater speed than Walker in his junior year at Arkansas. However, as a hitter they stack up very closely. Both are hit machines with a keen batting eye who keep the strikeouts too minimal. Walker will continue to develop and has shown already that he can handle wooden bats, a common flaw that has been exploited in a number of blue-chip prospects.
Late First-Early Second Round
Walker could catch the eye of a team in the early 20s but his lack of plus tools could push him down the draft board come Draft Day. Nevertheless, as a hitter he is an intriguing name to teams for his presence and ability to get on base early and often. He is an interesting name to look for when the Astros are on the clock at pick #28, one I would expect to still be on the board when Jeff Luhnow looks to work his draft magic once again.
**Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images**