No one had more home runs in Triple-A in 2013 than Washington Nationals prospect Zach Walters. The 24-year old shortstop connected for four homers in his first five games to jump out of the gate on the way to 29 total round-trippers for Syracuse. The strong showing earned Walters a big league call-up in September where he collected three hits and scored twice in eight Major League at-bats.
While power was a big part of Walter’s game in 2013, he did struggle at times to reach base. He does not walk often, and earned only 23 free passes all season, which was just 4.4% of all plate appearances. The infielder did not even reach a .250 OBP until June, but at that point things appeared to click. The switch-hitter put together his strongest stretch of the season during the dog days, hitting a solid .315/340/.674 and .329/.344/.694 in June and July, respectively. He also hit 15 long balls over that span.
Like most power hitters, Walters strikes out more than most would like, compiling a 26.5 K% in 2013 in the minors. He does offer an intriguing package of tools though. Working primarily out of the sixth and seventh spots in the order, the 6’2” 220 pounder showed some speed, with five triples for Syracuse and one for the Nationals. He has also already shown the ability to play shortstop and third base, and many think he could develop into a full-fledged utility infielder. He could even offer help as a corner outfielder. While far from perfect with 38 errors for Syracuse last season, he is a serviceable fielder with a strong arm and can provide a jolt as a pinch-hitter.
The infield situation in Washington is already crowded, so Walters will not earn a starting position any time soon. With both Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa competing for the second base job and with the ability to play multiple positions, it will take a couple of injuries to Nationals infield regulars for Walters to gain significant playing time in the Majors this season.
However, Walters could press the issue and has already gotten out to a strong start for 2014 after putting together a great showing in big league camp. In 33 plate appearances over 15 games, the shortstop posted a solid slash line of .379/.455/.621 which included one home run and five RBI. In all, Walters had 11 hits, four of the extra-base variety. Though he was relegated to the minors, he has proven a capable option for the big league roster if needed this summer.