White Sox select Keenyn Walker with 47th pick (updated)

With their first pick of the draft and 47th overall, the White Sox selected Keenyn Walker, a switch-hitting outfielder from Central Arizona College.

It's fitting that Walker is a sandwich pick, because he fits perfectly between a recent first-round pick (Jared Mitchell, 2008) and a recent second-round pick (second round, 2009) with his scouting report. He's raw. He's toolsy. He has contact issues. He's a top White Sox draft pick.

Given that neither Mitchell nor Thompson have projectable timetables, Walker's similar skill set isn't particularly inspiring.

Walker is a junior college outfielder with the University of Utah as a backup plan, so he's not a lock to sign. In recent years, though, the Sox have reached ultra-swift agreements with Mitchell and Chris Sale. We'll see whose agenda wins out, but the Sox feel confident that a deal will get done.

Below, you'll find amassed information from a smorgasbord of sources.

 

The party line (Doug Laumann)

Obviously, you'll find the most glowing representation of Walker's abilities from the team that selected him, and Laumann tells Scott Merkin what the brain trust saw in Walker.

Laumann starts out by saying that the Sox scouted him extensively, and "he plays in a competitive junior college program in Arizona." Put those two things together, and one might be able to infer that Walker benefited from playing in Coolidge, Ariz., where Kenny Williams could watch him play and then sleep in his own bed. Similar geography played a big part in the Sox targeting Arizona Fall League participant Tyler Flowers in the Javier Vazquez trade.

But that's me reading between the lines. As far as Walker the prospect is concerned, here's Laumann's description:

"Probably the body type is more like a Devon White, with the wiry thin [look], but strength in his frame as well," Laumann said. "He's a plus, plus runner and a good defender, has arm strength and actually showed some pop for a wood bat.

"Like I said, the impressive thing is, if you are just an athlete that doesn't know how to play the game, you won't steal 65 of 68 bases in a high-level JUCO program. There are some instincts to play the game as well."

Baseball America

Walker scored the No. 92 spot on BA's Top 200 Prospects list. Its scouting report:

Walker was drafted in the 16th round out of high school in Utah in 2009 and last year at Central Arizona, in the 38th round. Scouts have always been intrigued by the 6-foot-3 switch-hitter with standout tools and impressive athleticism. The raw tools don't always translate on the baseball field, however, and he didn't even start regularly last year. This year is a different story. Walker has performed well with wood and he should get more than the $250,000 he reportedly turned down out of high school. Walker has more power from the right side, but his lefthanded swing is more pure. He's mostly a gap hitter with above-average speed, so he profiles as a good defensive center fielder. He has the speed to hit at the top of the order, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts. If he doesn't sign, Walker will head to Utah.

To underscore one point, the BA live blog said Walker can stick in center, unlike a guy like Thompson who most figure will grow out of it.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball)

If Baseball America put him at No. 92, and the Sox drafted him with their 47th pick, what gives? Well, Sickels had planned for this. He put Walker on his "Who Is That Guy?" list of players who might be drafted earlier than most people anticipate:

Keenyn Walker, OF, Central Arizona Junior College: The blazing fast, 80-speed Walker showed greatly improved hitting skills this spring, and in some draft classes would be rated a first-rounder. The deep nature of this class, plus the fact that junior college players get less attention than high school or four-year college players, pushes Walker back to second or third round slots for most. However, someone in love with his athleticism could easily choose him in the supplemental.

Sickels placed Walker in the 75th spot on his draft board. He also put him on his "Four Top Junior College Prospects" list (h/t Barold), and the first comment on that post by ScottAZ has some additional impressions. Mixed bag, if you haven't caught on at this point. Sickels also linked to this video:

ESPN.com/Baseball Prospectus

Since they participated in a cooperative venture this draft, let's combine them. And while we're operating collectively, let's count Kevin Goldstein as somebody who backs this pick. In the Baseball Prospectus post-draft chat, Goldstein fielded the question:

msambor (chicago): thoughts on keenyn walker?

Kevin Goldstein II: I like him! Risky pick, but I like going with upside when you don't have a first rounder. He definitely could flame out early, but it's worth the risk.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com's scouting report plays up his speed, but also elaborates on the rawness:

Walker is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, and one of the fastest runners in the draft this year. He's consistently timed at less than four seconds from home to first, and that speed could eventually translate into outfield range although it doesn't yet.

His routes are not good and the swings from both sides need a lot of help, with a real tendency to get his hands out front and make weak contact when he makes contact at all. His plate discipline also isn't strong. However, he's a special kind of athlete that we rarely find in the baseball draft and will still go in the top few rounds despite the flaws.

Keith Law and Jason A. Campbell's names are tagged on the bottom of that write-up, but it might have been more Campbell. On Law's Twitter account, he said he didn't pay particularly close attention:

Never went to see him. Plays an hour from my house. + Run. Bat LONG way off. RT @NateRittenberry: @keithlaw did you even scout walker?less than a minute ago via Seesmic Desktop Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Adding it all up

It seems like a pretty clear-cut case on what kind of prospect Walker is. He's a burner who can throw, so he has the skills to play center if his flyball reading and tracking is commensurate with his physical abilities. The reports on his bat vary some, but even the most encouraging appraisal puts Walker on a slow track to the majors. Without any special insight and no exposure to pro ball, I'd put him on the same developmental level as Thompson. Their ceilings aren't the same, but at this point, I'd cross my fingers and hope for a good year at Winston-Salem before thinking of any kind of big-league ETA.

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