It's sort of funny how rumors and speculation can play out. Sam Walls went into a late season slide at North Carolina State and suddenly, there was talk that elbow problems that he had a couple years earlier had returned. While Walls denied it and even had Anthony Avent, his college coach backing him up, the speculation was out there and major league teams paid attention. That speculation dropped Walls from a likely spot in the top five rounds to the Phillies grabbing him in the tenth round of the 2006 Draft. Of course, there was also speculation that Walls would return to NC State in an effort to boost his draft spot, but that proved to be unfounded and he jumped into his professional career.
Walls insists that the injury problems are all in the past and that he felt fine and just fell into some weak mechanics and stumbled. It would appear that his time at Batavia proved that out and that he's perfectly healthy. The Phillies believe it and some scouts even believe that Walls could pitch at Double-A with the stuff that he had coming into Batavia last season. That may be a bit of a stretch, but there's no doubt that the young right-hander is being looked at as a potential closer of the future and could be one of the first among the 2006 Draft class to reach Philadelphia.
Sam Walls' career stats
Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round of the 2006 Draft out of North Carolina State University.
Repertoire: It's not all the fastball for Walls. He throws in the low-to-mid 90s and figures to be securely in the mid-90 mile per hour range and possibly beyond in the near future, but he's also got a cut fastball that has good movement and stays away from hitters.
Pitching: The key for Walls is control. When he struggled late in the season at NC State, control was the major issue. In his final 13 innings, he issued 11 walks and just 4 walks in his first 30.2 innings of work. His ERA in those final 13 innings was 6.92, but just 1.17 leading up to that. He came out throwing strikes at Batavia, going 18.2 innings without issuing a walk and finished the year with just 6 walks in 30.1 innings. Yes, that's 6 walks in 11.2 innings to finish the season, but Walls was wearing down a little. Five of his walks came in a three-game span and he finished the season with one walk in his final 8 innings of work. This is a kid with good poise and proves himself to be a leader on the club by simply going out and doing his job to the best of his ability.
Projection: The Phillies did give Walls a couple of starts to finish out the season, but that's not where his future is going to be. He's got the mentality and repertoire to be a quality closer and it figures that he'll be in that role once the 2007 season gets under way. It's likely that he'll move pretty quickly and might be visiting the Clearwater Threshers by the time the season is over. It's possible that he'll be getting big league consideration by late in 2009 or in the Spring of 2010.