Prior to the 2019 season, there had been just one player signed out of Gardner-Webb University to make it to the big leagues, catcher Blake Lalli. Walker, a fifth-round pick of the Braves from the North Carolina school in 2016, became the second in 2019. Drafted as a starter, a move to the bullpen last year allowed the right-hander to take off, pitching his way from Double- to Triple-A then to three separate callups to help Atlanta’s bullpen.
Walker has an unusual profile with an atypical sinker-curveball combination. The 6-foot-5 right-hander really knows how to keep the ball down with his low-90s sinker, eliciting a lot of ground-ball outs in the process. He complements it with a sweeping curveball and he missed more bats in his new relief role than he had previously in his career as a starter.
Pitching in shorter stints, Walker also saw his control improve markedly, something that will have to continue given his lack of overpowering stuff. While he’s been durable as a starter and could be a No. 5 type starter, he’s shown he can get big league caliber hitters out as a middle reliever or long man.