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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Is Brandon Walter for real?

He is one of the most fascinating prospects in the system.

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies
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Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

We mentioned last time that we are closing in on a run of pitchers. Well, I feel comfortable saying we are there now. Not only did we get yet another pitcher winning the vote for this number 13 spot on our community top prospects list, but it was a two-man battle between a pair of pitchers. It was an extremely tight vote, with the second-place finisher forging an admirable comeback, but in the end it was one of the most interesting and polarizing prospects in the Red Sox system who won this latest round. Our number 13 prospect is Brandon Walter, who grabbed 46 percent of the vote.

You’d be forgiven if you don’t really remember Walter entering the organization, as he was not a high draft pick, and not a late pick who was given a big bonus either, for that matter. Instead, the southpaw was taken out of a school in the University of Delaware that is not exactly a baseball powerhouse, and was taken as a 26th round pick. He was unranked by all major national evaluators prior to that draft, and he had undergone Tommy John surgery in 2017 that had forced him to miss his junior year in 2018, making him a senior draftee, all of which is typically not indicative of a top prospect.

So, there was very little fanfare around the lefty when he entered the organization, and he wasn’t exactly at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking about the prospects they’d miss out on seeing in 2020 when the minor-league season was cancelled. In hindsight, though, it seems like we might have missed out on a breakout. Instead, we got it in 2021 when he may have actually challenged Brayan Bello for the title of most impressive pitcher in the system last season.

Walter started the season as a reliever in Low-A Salem, which was not a ringing endorsement for a nominal starter in his age-24 season. But sometimes pitchers just need a chance, and the southpaw was finally getting his chance. He dominated in Low-A, making 11 relief appearances before being shifted to the rotation for two starts, and across 31 innings he pitched to a 1.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts and only six walks. He was old for the level, yes, but this was also his first taste of pro ball and he passed with flying colors.

The performance was strong enough to get him a mid-season bump up to High-A Greenville, where he’d just continue to shine. There, Walter spent the entire stint in the rotation and pitched to a 3.70 ERA over 12 starts and 58 13 innings, striking out 86 and walking 14. The ERA jumped a bit, but the peripherals were actually better, though again he was old for the level. There was some thought from me as the season was going along that they’d allow him to finish the year in a more age-appropriate Double-A role, but two promotions in one season is something of a rarity, especially for someone in their first professional season without much of a pedigree.

So that leaves Walter as one of the most fascinating players in the entire system. If you just scout the stat line, he should probably be higher because his ability to rack up strikeouts without issuing walks was unmatched in the system. But a lot of prospect evaluation, even, and maybe especially, when scouting the stat line, comes from looking at a player’s age compared to his competition. Walter was older than most of the notable prospects he had faced in 2021.

Of course, we know that scouting the stat line isn’t really recommended as anything more than a supplementary part of the process, but even regular old scouting is pretty split on Walter. That said, despite the late drafting and lack of age-appropriate competition, there is plenty to like here. Walter has a good fastball that can get up into the mid-90s when he needs it, and pairs it with a really good changeup and a solid slider. There are some command issues at times as he’ll leave some pitches over the plate. Injuries are also a concern to watch moving forward. We mentioned the Tommy John from his college days, and his delivery has a little more effort than you’d like to see. The ceiling isn’t huge, but there’s a major-league starter in here if he can stay healthy and cut back on some of his in-zone mistakes.

This is going to be the year when we find out how excited we can really be about Walter. He’ll presumably be making the jump up to Double-A in the coming season, which is the level for an advanced pitcher where they’ll start to be tested for the first time. If he comes out and shoves in the first half, he’s going to shoot up these rankings even further than he already has.

Here is our full list so far:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP
  7. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  8. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B
  9. Jay Groome, LHP
  10. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
  11. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
  12. Connor Seabold, RHP
  13. Brandon Walter, LHP

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 14 prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...