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Adam Brett Walker's unreal power

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There's only one question that needs to be answered: can he make enough contact to survive?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In September of 2015, somebody asked Double-A Chattanooga manager Doug Mientkiewicz whose "best shot" goes further: Miguel Sano, or Adam Brett Walker? Mientkiewicz praised a number of Sano's traits before answering: "But best shot? Walker's goes farther."

So Patrick Reusse reminded us on Friday in an article discussing one of the Twins' most enigmatic prospects. Long known to be of massive power potential and massive strikeout totals, Walker has been promoted to the point where he's just one phone call away from the Major Leagues. He hit well enough in Double-A to earn a promotion to Triple-A this season, whether from Day One or a few weeks into the summer, and he's now a member of the 40-man roster. He turned 24 in October.

Year PA HR BB% SO% OBP SLG
2012 252 14 7.5 30.2 .310 .496
2013 552 27 5.6 20.8 .319 .526
2014 554 25 7.9 28.2 .307 .436
2015 560 31 9.1 34.8 .309 .498
4 Seasons 1918 97 7.6 28.3 .311 .488

That's a lot of home runs and, yes, a lot of strikeouts. He doesn't walk often enough to be considered an Adam Dunn-esque "Three True Outcomes" type of player but the draw is clear. While a pedestrian .254 career hitter in the minor leagues, Walker derives immense value by being an extra-base hits machine. Yes, his home run and strikeout totals led the Southern League, but his 31 doubles was good enough for sixth. He collected 65 extra-base hits in 2015, and the next-closest player in that category was...oh hey, another Twins prospect - Max Kepler with 54.

FanGraphs presents additional data, telling us how Walker performed versus the rest of his league. Indeed, in spite of lackluster batting averages and less than impressive on-base numbers, the right-handed slugger has posted wOBA marks of .357, .373, .340, and .367 in his four years in the Minnesota system. Since wOBA is on the same scale as OBP, you'll understand that those numbers are excellent. By the measure of wRC+, which measures a hitter's run creation versus the league average, Walker has strung together marks of 118, 130, 111, and 125.

No matter how we look at it, in spite of the massive red flags in Walker's game (perhaps just red flag, singular, since it's just contact we're really worried about) he's continued to produce offense at a rate worthy of a middle-of-the-batting-order hitter. His power is so prodigious that it overwhelms strikeout rates, pedestrian batting averages, and some very "meh" on-base averages.

Going back to Reusse's article, Walker understands his challenges. He knows that he's tempted by balls low in the zone, because that's his sweet spot, but he also knows that this is where pitchers will try to challenge him. As he climbs the ladder, the pitchers - and how good they are at getting him to chase low and outside of the strike zone - will just get better and harder to resist.

Ballooning swinging strike rates mean lower batting averages, less opportunities to create those extra-base hits, and therefor less run creation. That's the danger for Walker.

But man...that power. Rating his raw power on the 20-80 scale, Kiley McDaniel gave Walker's raw power a 65. The Twins' own list rates his power a 60Bernie Bleskoff said 65. For those unfamiliar with the 20-80 scale, 50 is average and 60 is considered a "plus" tool. These people all expect Walker to hit at least 25 home runs a year, and that would only improve with more discipline.

One more look in on Reusse's article:

"Adam hit one in a game at our park … there’s a berm that has to be 50 yards behind the left field fence, and he hit it over the berm," Allen said. "One of our coaches who had been in baseball a long time said, ‘Chad, that might be the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit.’

"Obviously, with those strikeout numbers, Adam’s still in the process. But if he continues to learn what a pitcher is trying to do to him, and stays aggressive in the zone where ‘he’ likes the ball …

"I’m telling you, raw power, the only guy I ever saw who hits ’em where Adam hits it when he gets one was Mark McGwire."

Wily Mo Pena will be the first guy to tell you that pitch identification and discipline will go a long way in determining what kind of a player Adam Brett Walker turns out to be for the Twins. Fortunately for Minnesota, their outfield is in a pretty good position with talent like Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and even rebounding slugger Oswaldo Arcia in the mix. It means they can give Walker all the time and attention they believe he needs to become as strong of a hitter as possible before he's dropped into the deep end.

Whether Walker has a long-term future with the Twins, due to that aforementioned depth, is to be determined. Whatever happens, his power potential is going to give him plenty of opportunities to have a long Major League career. We're just the lucky ones that get to watch the totals pile up for our favorite baseball team.