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Draft prospects you should know: Matt Wallner, Southern Miss OF

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A big bat and big arm that could be hard to take a pass on come June

Big arm, bigger bat: Wallner is known more for his hitting and throwing than his fielding, as one of the most mature power hitters available.
University of Southern Mississippi

When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.

Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).

Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).


Matt Wallner

University of Southern Mississippi
Outfielder
Age 21
Bats Left
Throws Right

Rankings

Baseball America 37
MLB 26
FanGraphs 22

Wallner is easily one of the top eligible outfielders in this year’s draft. The Minnesota native was slated to play with the University of North Dakota, but due to budget cuts that caused the school to cut its baseball program, Wallner transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi and became the consensus NCAA Baseball Freshman of the Year in 2017. He’s been the model of consistency during his first two years with the Golden Eagles, as the stats below show:

2017: 235 AB, .336/.463/.655, 14 2B, 19 HR, 63 RBIs, 45 BB, 50 K, 4-of-6 SB
2018: 228 AB, .351/.474/.618, 13 2B, 16 HR, 67 RBIs, 48 BB, 53 K, 2-of-4 SB

Although Wallner’s strikeout rate isn’t all that bad for a power hitter, concerns arose in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he struck out 24 of 84 times (24.2%) while hitting just .250.

Wallner has the size and build (6´5´´, 220 pounds) to be a consistent power hitter going forward. MLB grades his tools as follows: 65 arm, 55 power, 50 hit, 50 defense and 40 speed. His arm is considered his best tool, as his fastball had reached 96 mph according to ESPN. However, with a 7.98 ERA in 12 outings last year, Wallner likely won’t choose the two-way path à la Shohei Ohtani.

Although he’s primarily played center field with the Golden Eagles, Wallner’s lack of speed will relegate him to a corner spot. Right field would be his most logical position, letting him show off his cannon arm. Wallner’s bat should profile well, as he’s not afraid to take the free pass, walking nearly 16% of the time.

Based on above rankings, Wallner likely wouldn’t be the first pick (third overall) for the White Sox. However, if he falls (like Steele Walker did, last year) to the the second round, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox snatch him up.

A decent White Sox comp is Blake Rutherford, with more proven in-game power and a stronger arm — but less speed and ability to make contact.