J.T. Chargois and Adam Walker are both players I saw as amateurs in 2012, they both went in the top 100 picks to the Twins and both have interesting tools that had evolved by the time I saw them in instructs. Chargois is a right-handed reliever out of Rice that was a 2nd round pick (72nd overall) and signed for slot, just over $700,000. Walker is an outfielder from Jacksonville University that went in the 3rd round (97th overall) and signed for slot just under $500,000.
I saw Chargois late in the amateur season, shutting down UCF in series that decided the conference championship. He worked at 91-94, touching 95 mph with an above-average changeup that flashed plus and an inconsistent 79-82 mph curveball with three-quarter tilt that was above average at times. Scouts that saw him earlier in the season told me they saw a plus breaking ball and that the changeup was a third pitch, so when you put those two accounts together, you can see what got the Twins excited.
Despite having three above average pitches, Chargois isn’t really a starting option. He was primarily a hitter his first two year at Rice and has an athletic cut from both sides with average raw power. Beyond his lack of experience, Chargois has effort in his delivery and while he’s got a chance to have average command, he is more of a thrower than pitcher.
At instructs, Chargois sat 94-96 mph with his four-seamer for a couple innings and didn’t throw a breaking ball. He relied on an 81-84 mph changeup that was thrown harder than I saw as an amateur and was above average at times but wasn’t quite as good as the changeups I saw him throw in Orlando. Some scouts had told me Chargois’ velocity would vary based on how rested his arm was (another reason he can’t start) and when he was throwing in the low 90’s, his changeup was 79-81 mph with better action. Many pitching coaches say that pitchers throw better sinkers when fatigued and it makes sense that an inexperienced pitcher like Chargois throws a better changeup when he doesn’t have his best fastball.
Chargois’ delivery isn’t great, but it isn’t anywhere near bad enough to think he can’t reach his upside in the late innings and do it quickly. With an athletic 6’3, 200-pound frame, Chargois takes a balanced, aggressive stride at the plate and while his land leg is stiff and he pops up after release, he’ll stay on top of his front leg and follow through his motion at times. There’s also some head movement but nothing terrible and Chargois has good upright posture at release along with solid arm deceleration and a solid front side. There’s some room for improvement but he’s already made some strides and you can give the benefit of the doubt to good athletes that are new to pitching.
As most guys that produce plus-plus velocity, Chargois’ arm is a little late to catch up with his body and there’s a little bit of arm drag, but he has improved in a few areas from when I saw him in college. Chargois has more consistent balance through his motion, his arm action varied a bit pitch to pitch and he lowered his slot on some pitches, usually his curveball. While he didn’t throw a breaking ball in instructs, his balance was much better and his slot and arm action were consistent. There is still some risk with a slightly abbreviated arm circle, a higher elbow and some stress created by loading his shoulder. Chargois is showing the ability to improve and the confidence to throw his changeup in any count versus hitters from both sides. He recently turned 22 and has the stuff to move quickly and pitch at the end of games as early as late 2014.
Walker mostly played first base in college and when I saw him early in the year I thought he had an arm injury. Multiple scouts told me he showed a right field arm on the Cape and when Walker let a throw go across the diamond from first base, it had no zip on it. Whatever was bothering his arm during an up-and-down junior season isn’t anymore as Walker showed a free and easy above average arm, playing right field for the Twins in instructs.
The first thing you notice about Walker is his physicality. At a chiseled 6’4, 225 pounds, he looks like an NFL tight end and with a father that played in the NFL, Walker also brings the tools you hope to see, with a tantalizing power-speed combination. I got mostly average times to first but he is an above average runner underway that has put up surprisingly low 60 times in private workouts and is a solid fielder. I watched him take batting practice in college and the entire opposing team came to the top stop to see him wear out the grass beyond left field. Walker has above average to plus power, mostly to his pull side, created by a swing with above average bat speed, strength and a powerful hip rotation.
All of the questions about Walker center on his ability to hit. Using the three hit tool criteria, Walker has plus hitting tools and at least above average bat control while his plate discipline comes and goes. He’ll chase pitches out of the zone in bunches, then show a good sense of the zone at times. When you combine this inconsistency with his mysterious arm troubles and his troublesome hitting mechanics, Walker seems like a player with huge upside that can’t get out of his own way.
As a larger, power hitter with long arms, Walker is probably never going to hit for a ton of average but certainly has the ability to hit enough to get to his power. His base is a little too narrow for someone of his size, his swing can get too handsy for a guy with his power and, along with the narrow base, Walker doesn’t incorporate his lower half as much in his swing as he should. He’s worked to make improvements, but it always seems like something is holding him back and he swung and missed in college more than a guy with his talent should against weak competition (22.4% as sophomore, 19.6 K% as a junior, 30.2% in pro ball).
Walker is young for his class, only recently turning 21 and, on the right day, will flash five above average tools with plus power and an NFL body, so it’s hard to write him off. Next season will be a huge one for him developmentally and will go a long way to letting scouts know how likely he is to reach his ceiling of an above average everyday right fielder.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.