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RC Prospect Report: Jamar Walton
Name: Jamar Walton
RC 2008 Rank: 48
Background: Jamar Walton was selected by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. At the time, Walton was being heavily recruited by colleges for basketball, football, and baseball, but he ultimately decided to sign a contract with the Marlins and head to Florida.
Perhaps because he spent so much time playing sports other than baseball in high school, Walton was very raw, and he struggled to hit in both 2004 and 2005. He debuted in 2004 in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit just .238/.296/.294 with one home run in 143 at bats. Walton was unable to improve those numbers in 2005, however, and he put up similar numbers for the short season Class-A Jamestown Jammers. Injury struck Walton in 2006, when he got only eight at bats between three affiliates, largely due to a broken hamate bone.
2007 Season: Despite being healthy, Walton spent the first half of the 2007 season in the Marlins' extended spring training. In fact, there was a disagreement between Walton and the club about not being assigned to an affiliate, and ultimately the two parties parted ways when the Marlins released him at midseason. The Royals jumped at the chance to sign the young outfielder, and the club sent him to play right field for the Burlington Bees. Rejuvenated by the new team, Walton responded with by far the best numbers of his professional career.
Walton spoke with RC about the challenges of switching organizations at midseason, and he had high praise for the way the Royals handled the situation.
"I had the opportunity to come in and play, and I was welcomed by the organization really well," said Walton. "The team, the coaches, and the organization welcomed me in. I was treated like one of them the first day I got here, so it really wasn't too difficult of a transition."
Walton arrived in Burlington in late June, and after a slow start, he exploded in July, hitting .358/.419/.567 for the month with three home runs. He ended July with a 19-game hitting streak, which tied for the longest streak in the Midwest League in 2007 and was the second-longest streak in Bees history. Walton cooled off a bit in August, but he ended his 2007 campaign with a line of .278/.349/.752, setting career highs in nearly every offensive category. Walton gave credit to the Bees' hitting coach for some of the changes that led to his 2007 success.
"I worked with Ryan Long and the other hitting coordinator," said Walton. "They helped me change a few things with my swing, and slow my stride down, and it's starting to come together."
Tools and Skills: Walton has as good a package of tools as any other outfielder in the system. A natural athlete, Walton possesses good speed and range, along with a strong arm and potential plus raw power. He does, however, need to become more selective at the plate, and 2007 was the first year in which he made consistent contact with the ball. Indeed, Walton told RC that improving his plate discipline is the aspect of his game that needs the most work.
"My defense is pretty much a given. Outfield isn't really that hard to play, but I think the biggest thing is being able to become a consistent hitter," said Walton.
When asked to describe his approach at the plate, Walton talked about adjusting to the way he's usually pitched to.
"I'm probably one of the bigger guys on the team, so I get a lot offspeed pitches, so I try to take advantage," said Walton. " When I do get fastballs, I try to capitalize on them, and pick up the offspeed pitches and try to take them the other way."
2008 Outlook: Walton will look to continue building upon his success this season, most likely with the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the Carolina League. Advanced-A ball will be a big test for the 22-year-old, particularly in a league that has never been very kind to hitters. Walton suffered a dislocated shoulder at the end of the 2007 season while diving for a ball, but we understand that he has fully recovered. The Royals signed him to a three-year minor league contract in the offseason, so clearly the club believes in his tools. Now it's just a matter of turning those tools into performance on the field, but Walton clearly seems happy to have received a fresh start in a new organization.
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