First baseman Jared Walker, currently playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League, was selected by the Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. Although he had committed to Kennesaw State University in Georgia, he quickly signed with the Dodgers being the first player from that draft to sign on the dotted line. He was signed as a third baseman.
At that time, Baseball America had this as a scouting report on Walker.
“Walker is a bat-first player who is likely to move down the defensive spectrum from his current shortstop. The left handed hitter has hitting instincts and a line-drive stroke with natural strength. He has good bat-to-ball skills, though his approach will require refinement, and average raw power that projects to plus down the road. A team might try him at third base, but his defensive future likely lies in left field. He has fringe-average to average arm strength, though his arm has some stiffness and he tends to throw from a low angle. The Kennesaw State commit is an average runner with a good body at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.”
Baseball America had him ranked as No. 339 while the Dodgers selected him with the 159th overall pick.
Jared Walker’s story began way back when he was in kindergarten. His father died but fortunately he can remember much about his Dad.
Skip ahead to his senior year at McEachern High School. He was selected All Americans/All Regions 2014 Perfect Game 3rd Team and Southeast – All Region 1st Team. However, other things were going on in his life. During that senior year his older brother Clint died from a heart attack. While the 2014 draft was going on and he was selected by the Dodgers he was at his mother’s bedside. She would die in the next few months from kidney disease. With his family as his backdrop he headed off to professional baseball.
Walker has now completed five years of minor league baseball and the 6’2”/195-pound left-handed hitter has found the going to be a bit tough. In his first two seasons, both with the Arizona League Dodgers, he hit .231 in 2014 and .240 in 2015. During the 2016 season he hit .231 with his nine games with the Great Lakes Loons dragging his batting average down. His 2017 season was split between the Great Lakes Loons and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He hit .266 but only .224 in 20 games with the Quakes. He did have 14 home runs and 39 runs batted in over 65 games.
For whatever reason Walker had only 602 at bats in his first four years as a professional. It was not from walking excessively and his transaction history does not reveal any trips to the DL. Walker decided to do something about the shortage of at bats by playing winter ball to prepare for the 2018 season.
“I’m playing third, second and first … third is my go-to position but my goal is to master all of them,” Walker said. “Colombia’s not exactly the easiest place to spend 10 weeks, but I need the ABs. I need the playing time. I need to work on my swing, incorporating my legs more.”
His 2018 season began a turnaround for the 22-year-old native of Powder Springs, Georgia. With time split almost evenly between the Loons and Quakes he posted a triple slash of .255/.365/.545 with an OPS of .910. He hit 25 home runs along with 26 doubles and eight triples while driving in 75 runs in 404 at bats.
He was selected as a mid-season All-Star with the Loons and awarded Player of the Week honors in the California League from July 30 to August 5. At one point with the Quakes he homered in five straight games. FanGraphs indicates that although Walker continues to be a fly ball hitter, he is using the whole field more effectively with 48% of his hits as pull hits, 26% to center field and 26% to the opposite field.
Defensively he is moving away from third base having played there for 24 games with the Loons during the past season while playing 65 games at first base and 18 at second base. As a first baseman during the 2017 and 2018 seasons he has handled 728 total chances with five errors and a fielding percentage of .993. His range factor at first base has been 7.61.
Jared Walker feels he has matured because he had to when the strong support from his family was lost to him. He now has a circle of friends, his step-brother and his grandmother, whom he describes as a lion, to lean on.
“She’s fierce with a lot of energy … she’s a lion,” Walker said. “This was almost an impossible three years of my life. I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
“It matures you,” Walker said. “I knew that wherever I went to play, I was on my own. If I struggled, I wasn’t going to be able to call my mom or dad like some of the other players could. I learned perspective.”
He has done what he can to keep his family with him. In an interview he paid tribute to his family stating emphatically that if he could have his family back or baseball, he would take his family in a second. He reminds himself that his family is still with him. His right arm is covered with tattoos of his family, and when he takes the field, he spells out their initials in the infield dirt.
Here is a brief interview with Jared Walker in which he speaks of his family and his tattoo to honor and remember them.
He still has much to do as he attempts to climb the ladder in minor league baseball. He is not making excuses but knows that up until now he has not made the impression on the Dodgers that he might have hoped to. With an assignment to the Arizona Fall League it seems that he has been noticed once again.
“I have to get respect back from the Dodgers,” Walker said. “I have to earn it. I struggled my first few years.”