The SF Giants opened up a 40-man roster spot after designating shortstop Dixon Machado for assignment. Oddly enough, they did not fill it immediately, but that changed on Sunday after they claimed outfielder Steele Walker from the Texas Rangers.
SF Giants add power-hitting outfielder in waiver claim from the Rangers
Since there was an opening on the 40-man roster, the Giants did not have to make a move to add Walker. The left-handed bat will report to Triple-A to play with the Sacramento River Cats.
Walker was designated for assignment along with old friend Steven Duggar by the Rangers earlier in the week to make room for pitcher Cole Ragans and infielder Bubba Thompson. Duggar was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels, whereas Walker was scooped up by Duggar's former team.
Walker was originally selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Chicago White Sox out of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. The Giants have had some success with recent White Sox draft picks on waiver claims, so maybe the left-handed bat is the next in line?
Like many prospects, Walker lost a critical year of development time due to the canceled 2020 minor league season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, the left-handed bat was shipped to the Rangers in exchange for Nomar Mazara in December of 2019, so he has been on the move a lot for a recent draftee.
With all that being said, Walker moved quickly up the minor league ladder, reaching Triple-A in just his second full pro season in 2021. Across four minor league seasons, he has slashed .259/.330/.417 with an 8.5 percent walk rate against a 17.4 percent strikeout rate.
This includes a 2022 campaign in which he has registered a .278/.354/.435 (98 wRC+) with seven home runs, 26 RBI, and 32 runs in 215 plate appearances with the Rangers' Triple-A club. The 26-year-old even earned a promotion to the Rangers where he recorded one hit in 14 at-bats.
It was not that long ago when Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranked Walker as the No. 5 prospect in the Rangers farm system with a Future Value of 45+:
"Now his swing is different — he’s opened up his stance. I saw him hit an oppo bomb on a pitch out away from him this spring and a couple of scouts who I really trust loved their extended look at him early this year. Walker’s cut has big lift through the zone even though it’s a pretty compact swing. He hits the ball hard (43% of his balls in play in 2019 were hit over 95 mph according to a source) and I like his chances of making a viable amount of contact more now than I did with the old swing"- Eric Longenhagen
The left-handed bat has experience at all three outfield positions, but he has been limited to either corner outfield spot in 2022. Walker is athletic enough with a quality arm to be able to handle center field as a spot starter, so it will be interesting to see how the Giants decide to deploy him.
The Giants add an intriguing bat in Walker with no risk. It was not that long ago when he carried nice upside and San Francisco has had plenty of like with waiver claims like Walker.