Of the four Red Sox pitching prospects who started for their respective affiliates on Sunday, Brandon Walter is undoubtedly the least-known of the bunch.
Going off SoxProspects.com’s most-recent top 60 rankings, Walter (No. 41) ranks ranks behind the likes of Triple-A Worcester’s Kutter Crawford (No. 27), Double-A Portland’s Brayan Bello (No. 7), and Low-A Salem’s Bradley Blalock (No. 36).
Still, of those four hurlers, Walter put together the most impressive outing in High-A Greenville’s 2-1 victory over the Rome Braves at Fluor Field on Sunday afternoon.
In what was his sixth start of the year for the Drive, the left-hander kept the Braves off the scoreboard while scattering just one hit and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over five dominating innings of work.
Walter, who turns 25 next month, opened the 2021 season with Salem and posted a miniscule 1.45 ERA over 13 appearances (two starts) spanning 31 innings of work, resulting in a promotion to Greenville in early July.
Making his Drive debut on July 6, Walter got off to a shaky start, allowing a total of 12 earned runs to cross the plate over his first three outings and 12 innings pitched with the affiliate. That’s good for an ERA of 9.00.
On July 28, however, Walter seemingly turned a corner, as he struck out a career-high 12 batters while surrendering just two unearned runs on one hit, one walk, and one hit batsman over the course of six strong frames against the Hickory Crawdads.
Since then, the 6-foot-2, 200 pound southpaw really has not looked back and has emerged as one of the sharpest starters in the High-A East as a result.
That being the case because, going back to July 28, Walter has pitched to the tune of a dazzling 0.53 ERA and 1.67 FIP while striking out more than 39% of the batters he has faced over his last three starts (17 innings).
On the 2021 campaign as a whole, the Delaware native has produced a 4.03 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, and 2.09 xFIP to go along with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 46:6 in his six starts and 29 innings of work put in with Greenville.
Among the top hurlers in the High-A East who have pitched at least 29 innings so far this season, Walter ranks fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (14.28), 16th in walks per nine innings (1.86), eighth in strikeout percentage (37.7%), 15th in walk percentage (4.9%), 29th in WHIP (1.10), 30th in FIP, and first in xFIP, per FanGraphs.
The Red Sox originally selected Walter in the 26th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Delaware. In his time with the Blue Hens, the southpaw was forced to miss the majority of the 2017 season and the entirety of the 2018 season on account of undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Walter lowered his arm slot during the COVID-19 shutdown last year, which in turn added more velocity and life to his two-seam fastball. He also works with a mid-80s changeup and a slider that has “major-league potential.”
On top of that, the 24-year-old recently drew a comparison to Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough from FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen earlier this month as well.
“Walter had a huge velo bump from 2019-21, climbing from the upper-80s into the mid-90s,” Longenhagen wrote last week. “He’s also lowered his release a little bit, and works largely off a two-seamer (he can occasionally climb the ladder, living off angle) and changeup, as well as a tertiary slider that has more lateral movement now than it did in 2019 (probably due to the release change). He has an atypical delivery for a starter but definitely has a backend starter’s repertoire and command. In many ways, he’s similar to Ryan Yarbrough. I have Walter projected in a multi-inning relief role.”
Given how well he has performed in Greenville as of late, one has to wonder if Walter could be on the fast track to yet another promotion to Portland in the not so distant future — especially if the Red Sox project him to be more of a multi-inning reliever as Longenhagen suggests.
Regardless of that, though, Walter is lined up to make his next start for the Drive sometime next weekend during their series against the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays affiliate) in Southern Kentucky.
(Picture of Brandon Walter: Bryan Green)