Name: Joshua Walker
Weight: 225 lbs.
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, 37th Round (University of New Haven)
A native of Otisville, a small village upstate about an hour from the New York/New Jersey border, Josh Walker grew up a Yankees fan, going as far to wear #21 in honor of Paul O’Neill when he played at Minisink Valley High School. In an odd twist of fate, the assistant principal of Minisink Valley High School when Walker attended- and still is to this day- was Dave Telgheder, who was drafted by the Mets in the 31st round of the 1989 MLB Draft and spent a few years pitching for them and the Oakland Athletics before retiring and getting into education.
Walker graduated in 2013 and initially attended the University of South Florida. He struggled in his time there, posting a 13.50 ERA in seven relief appearances, allowing 14 hits, walking 3, and striking out 3. He redshirted his sophomore season because of an injury, and, after being convinced by a friend, transferred to the University of New Haven to begin fresh. Getting back on the mound in 2016, he appeared in 7 games for the Charges, making six relief appearances and one start. In those 13.2 innings, he posted a 5.93 ERA, allowing 13 hits, walking 12, and striking out 8. He was much more successful in 2017, appearing in 20 games for New Haven, all out of the bullpen. In 30.0 innings, he posted a 2.40 ERA, allowing 25 hits, walking 10, and striking out 32. That June, the Mets selected the 22-year-old left-hander in the 37th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, making him the first player since Chris DeMorais in 2014 to be drafted out of that school.
The Mets assigned Walker to their Gulf Coast League team to finish out the season and then promoted him to Kingsport for the 2018 season. After a handful of games in the Appalachian League, he was promoted to Brooklyn, where he finished out the year. At both levels combined, he posted a 3.27 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched, those innings split almost evenly as a starter and reliever. He was set to be promoted to the St. Lucie Mets to start the 2019 season, but in April 2019, he was involved in a car accident that cost him most of the season. Less than a mile from the stadium in St. Lucie, a car made an illegal turn and smashed into Walker’s car. His left side- his pitching side- took the brunt of the hit, and while he did not break anything, tests revealed that a nerve in his arm was damaged, causing pain in his forearm and necessitating surgery to alleviate. He only appeared in only two games late that summer, and then stayed in Florida over that winter to continue rehabbing. The decision may have saved his baseball career, as he was in camp in March 2020 when COVID-19 eventually shut down all baseball activities. His dedication and commitment to his profession and Mets coaches and executives seeing that may be what allowed Walker to survive the mass minor league cuts in the wake of the pandemic.
The left-hander began the 2021 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, but after four strong starts, was promoted to Binghamton, where he continued to succeed, highlighted by throwing 2/3 of a combined no-hitter on June 22. In late July, after posting a 2.64 ERA in 44.1 innings with the Rumble Ponies, Walker was promoted to the Syracuse Mets, where he posted a 5.19 ERA in 50.1 innings. At all three levels, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A combined, Walker posted a cumulative 3.73 ERA in 115.2 innings, allowing 89 hits, walking 29, and striking out 98.
The tall 6’6”, 225-pound left-hander throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a long arm action through the back. His long limbs add some deception to his pitches, and his slingy delivery helps add some additional movement to them. His fastball sits in the low-90s, generally settling in around 92-93 MPH. He complements the pitch with a curveball and a changeup. His curve, which lives in the high-70s, roughly 77-80 MPH, has a lot of bend, but its slow, loopy break makes it hittable. His changeup has good fade, especially down in the zone. Walker is most effective working north-to-south, getting hitters to strike out on his fastball above the zone or one of his secondary pitches below it. None of Walker’s pitches grade out as being more than average, but his total package is augmented by his excellent control.