The first of many talented middle-infielders on our list hails from Georgia and can swing the bat well from both sides of the plate.
No.47, INF Taylor Walls , 21 yrs old
Born: July 10th, 1996 in Cordele GA
Height/Weight: 5’10” 180 lbs Bats/Throws: S/R
Signed: after drafted in 3rd rd of 2017 draft for $612,500 ($107,500 under slot)
Twitter handle: @dt_walls
Baseball America Rankings
- Pre-Draft: Ranked 172nd overall in Top 500 rankings (73 spots behind Zach Rutherford and 93 spots behind where the Rays selected him - 79th overall)
- Pre-Draft: Ranked as the 22nd best SS prospect
- MLB.com Ranking: 27th
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 30
- Low: 63
Taylor Walls: Abilities
- “His best offensive skill is his plate discipline”
- Defensively reliable, steady
- Strong enough arm and good enough range to remain at SS
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
- Abilities: While he didn’t show it as much in 2017 while at Hudson Valley, Walls has the ability to hit well enough to be a solid hitter with at least average on-base abilities. And while he’s unlikely to ever be among the leaders in SB, he has enough speed to remain at the double-digit SB level each season.
Joined the Rays by way of....
The draft, with the 79th overall pick, well ahead of where he was anticipated to be drafted. The Rays seemed higher on him than most, and may have needed to ensure they could save some bonus money in order to sign two of their top selections, Brendan McKay and Michael Mercado.
Latest Transaction: assigned to Hudson Valley Renegades, July 3, 2017.
Note - It seems counter-intuitive that Zach Rutherford, another Rays draftee from the same class, would be ranked 7 spots ahead of Walls among SS by BA (and others) and yet be selected 3 rounds later and receive one third the signing bonus, but that’s how it played out and is an indication of just how much faith the Rays organization has in Walls and his abilities. That was reinforced with the assignment of Walls to short-season play while Rutherford began his minors career in the Appy league.
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- First-team All-American and All-ACC (Second Team) in 2016.
- Played for Team USA in 2016, struggling to a .205 AVG in 39 AB, with 14 BB and 12 SO, saying this about the level of pitching competition,
“Every Japanese pitcher we faced, whether he was a righty or a lefty, he was throwing 93-95 with a four-pitch mix that he could throw at any time in the count with a splitter that was disgusting,” Walls said.
“Every one of them. There was no anticipating a certain pitch in a certain count because the pitch you were planning on anticipating, you weren’t getting, and there were three other pitches he could throw you.
- Suspended for 2 games in the midst of the playoffs by his coach (taken out of the game, which counted as 1 of the 2 games). One side of the story has it being Coach Martin’s fault, while the coaching staff have called it violation of team rules. Here’s how the situation played out,
Walls started against the Tar Heels and was pulled after one inning. He was hitting in the leadoff spot and on a 2-1 count, grounded out to first base. Walls nonchalantly jogged down the right-field line before going back to the dugout.
A couple of FSU players, who were on the top step of the dugout, looked at Walls as he went back to the bench. It was unclear if Walls said anything upon his arrival. He was not with the team for the remainder of the game.
Personal thoughts on this issue - youngsters learn from mistakes, hopefully, and this happened well before the Rays selected him, so they surely did their homework in this case. Still, it is a significant red flag when trying to evaluate character and makeup.
- His suspension and struggles at the plate had BA dropping his draft prediction to somewhere between the 4th and 6th rounds.
- Can’t say for certain whether the suspension also helps explain his low ranking among SS pre-draft (he went from first-team all-American for BA to their 22nd ranked SS prospect for the draft).
- Apparently, Walls also has his issues when it comes to golf:
- He was, however, very thankful that the Rays selected him in the draft (I would be too if I was drafted in that bonus slot!).
Taylor Walls 2017 Stats
|SB (CS)||5 (4)|
Interesting Comparison: Brendan Ryan
- Although Walls has a ton of work to do in order to get his defensive abilities to where Ryan’s wound up in MLB, they both earn rave reviews for their steadiness and reliability on the field, with Ryan also making some pretty unbelievable plays over his time in MLB.
- Both profile best at 2B, and they lack the power and overall abilities at the plate to profile as a sure-fire regular in the lineup.
- Ryan made a living being a hard-nosed baseball player with outstanding on-field abilities who can chip in with 5 to 15 SB and be a tough enough out to warrant plenty of playing time, if not regular playing time when circumstances warrant it.
- Should Walls be able to find the next level defensive skills Ryan built up over time, there’s a chance he could earn a starting role one day, but at the very least he’ll be a very useful and valuable utility player, just as Ryan was in years he couldn’t land a starting role.
Notes for 2018 and beyond
The terms you read most about Walls include scrappy, steady, and reliable. Couple those terms with plate discipline and you’ve got the majority of his package, which is what allowed the Rays to test him in short-season play in 2017.
There are no assurance of where he’ll begin the 2018 season with Luis Rengifo set to battle him for shortstop in Bowling Green and Vidal Brujan likely manning second base, Zach Rutherford set to battle for the shortstop position in Hudson Valley. Add in fellow infielders Trey Hair, Jonathan Aranda, and Carlos Vargas, and the lower parts of the A level teams are getting fairly crowded for the Rays.
While we know he’ll get a regular role somewhere, it’s already looking like he may be sharing time wherever he lands and may begin seeing time at multiple positions, building up his utility role repertoire.
Walls hit .262/.407/.369 in July and .165/.221/.203 in August, possibly tiring down the stretch. If he is able to put up July type numbers in 2018, he’ll put himself squarely on the map for a role in HiA Charlotte for 2019. From there, it will be interesting to see how much time Walls spends at each infield position as the Rays wage where he may be best suited and build up his versatility - something he’ll likely require to make it to MLB.
Of course, with the amount of faith the Rays showed him in the draft, there’s also a chance he exceeds that timeline and gets pushed to a faster level than anticipated.