With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time for us to go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this season.
Today, we look at outfielder Steele Walker.
Wouldn’t it have been great if Steele Walker had been a Rangers success story?
First of all, he has a cool name. That’s a very important thing for a prospect, having a cool name. I remember when Davis Stoneburner was in the Rangers’ system, and I was so disappointed that he was an organizational depth guy, because “Davis Stoneburner” is the name of someone you want to root for and see succeed.
I think we can all agree “Steele Walker” is an objectively cool name. I’d go so far as to say that, if Statcast included cool names in their data, “Steele Walker” would be a bright red dot way on the far right side of the slider, at like the 98th percentile.
Back in the 80s, the Rangers had an outfielder named Jim Steels. That’s a pretty good name, though it is no Steele Walker. There have also been, per Baseball Reference, four Negro League pitchers named “Steel Arm” — Steel Arm Davis, Steel Arm Dickey, Steel Arm Johnny Taylor, and Steel Arm Taylor. They all pitched in the early 20s, though, so apparently that was a fad limited to that period of time. Or else Steel Arm Davis, listed as an All Star and who pitched from 1920-35, was so good they retired the name and decided no one could use it anymore.
Secondly, Walker is a local product. He was born in Prosper, Texas, and graduated from Prosper High School. He gets dinged for going to Zero U to play baseball, rather than a Texas school, but nonetheless. Its nice to have someone local come play and have success for the Rangers.
Third, Walker came over in the Nomar Mazara trade. Mazara got a record signing bonus from the Rangers in 2011, was a big time prospect, was in the majors before he turned 21, and then...never really panned out. After four years of being the Rangers’ starting right fielder Mazara never had an OPS+ that was even league average, never had a bWAR for a season higher than 1.0, never had more than 20 home runs in a season.
So Nomar Mazara didn’t work out. But if Steele Walker had succeeded with the Rangers, we could say, “Well, at least we got someone good for him.”
Walker wasn’t particularly good in the minors in 2021, slashing .241/.308/.400 between Frisco and Round Rock. In 2022, he was slashing .297/.395/.487 in 86 plate appearances for Round Rock as of early June when the Rangers made the surprising announcement that he was being brought up to the majors.
Walker wasn’t on the 40 man roster — Texas had opted to expose him to the Rule 5 Draft, and he went unselected. In order to make room for him on the 40 man roster, the Rangers designated Willie Calhoun for assignment, which, you know, was a whole nother bit of drama.
Despite his strong start to the season, Walker didn’t seem to be someone who was going to be an option to be in the Rangers’ outfield anytime soon. But the Rangers said they were looking for a lefty bat to play in the outfield, and Walker was getting the nod. In his second game, he homered against the Cleveland Guardians for his first major league hit.
It was also his only major league hit. Walker was 1 for 14 in five games in the majors before landing on the COVID injured list, being replaced by Zach Reks. He ended up being optioned to the minors once he was ready to be activated.
In August, the Rangers, needing 40 man roster spots for Cole Ragans and Bubba Thompson, opted to clear space by designating Walker and fellow AAA outfielder Steven Duggar — who had been acquired from the San Francisco Giants for the previously-mentioned Willie Calhoun — for assignment. Walker was claimed on waivers by those very same Giants. Last month, he was acquired from the Giants by the Detroit Tigers
So ends the story of Steele Walker, Texas Ranger.