Christian Walker has long believed in his own power potential. This season, he's been able to convince the Eastern League too.
The Orioles' No. 13 prospect belted his league-leading 17th homer and collected a career-high five RBIs for Double-A Bowie in Tuesday's 7-5 loss to New Hampshire.
Walker hit the long ball in the first inning. Working from a two-strike count, the first baseman said he got either a changeup or a slow two-seamer from Fisher Cats right-hander Scott Copeland up in the zone. Walker was looking to go to the right side on a fastball, but sat back and drove the slow ball over the fence in left field.
"I wasn't sitting off-speed, but was thinking I would try to take it to right or right-center," Walker said. "It was a good pitch to hit and I just stayed on it long enough."
The 17 long balls are by far the most of Walker's career. The 23-year-old clubbed 11 in 103 games last year split between Class A Delmarva, Class A Advanced Frederick and Bowie. That total matched his career high from college, where he lofted 11 homers as a junior at South Carolina in 2012.
Most of Walker's round-trippers this year have gone out to left, although he said he's hit one to right and a few to center. There hasn't been much of a change in his swing or approach. Instead, he said he's done a better job this year staying within his approach, picking out the right pitches to swing at.
Walker's also maintained more balance in his swing. In the past, he's had a habit of lunging forward out of overeagerness or staying too far back trying to lift too many long balls.
"I felt like the power's always been there," he said. "It's just a matter of taking what I've been working on in the cages and putting it into the game. Things are making a lot of sense right now. Everything's clicking. I'm putting myself in a position to hit good pitches, and I'm trusting the work that I do."
Walker picked up three more RBIs with a bases-loaded double in the bottom of the seventh. Facing righty Sergio Santos, he fouled off a breaking ball to start the at-bat, and then dropped the end of the bat on a cutter on the outer half.
The ball dropped over second baseman Ryan Schimpf's head and fell into shallow right field. The runners, moving on contact, were all able to score on the bloop.
"He was cutting his fastball a little bit at 90-91 [mph]," Walker said. "I knew he was spinning the ball away from righties, so I was just trying to stay on it. It cut a little and I caught it off the end of the bat. Luckily, I hit it hard enough to get it over the infielder's head."
The three-run double tied the contest, 5-5. Schimpf snapped the tie with a two-run homer, giving him three RBIs in the game.