- Full name Phillip DeWayne Walters
- Born 03/12/1985 in Dothan, AL
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School South Alabama
- Debut 04/17/2009
- Drafted in the 11th round (346th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Walters' season started with tragedy when his daughter, born 14 weeks premature, died of related complications in April. The club gave him as much time as he needed with his wife, but he ultimately found solace in his job. Walters bookended his season with five shutout innings in his first start and seven shutout innings in his final start in the majors. He's durable and has an easy, relaxed delivery. Coupled with his plus changeup, it helps him mess with hitters' timing and mask average velocity. In Triple-A, Walters was able to live outside the zone, getting hitters to swing at pitches they couldn't reach. He found major leaguers weren't so easily tempted. Working with an 87-90 mph fastball and his changeup at 77-79 mph, he was able to locate the edges of the strike zone with better consistency in 2010. He throws a two-seam changeup, one that veers in and down on righthanders. He has an effective slider to reach the other side of the plate. While still prone to homers (17 in 139 innings last year), Walters has strikeout and groundball rates that hint at the long relief/swingman role he's suited for in the majors.
It took one start at Wrigley Field for Walters to show both what he's capable of and what he has to do to win at the major league level. The righthander with the devilish changeup struck out seven Cubs in four innings during a spot start on April 17, but many of the whiffs came on pitches out of the zone, something coaches have told him won't always work in the big leagues. In his next four outings, Walters fell behind in the count and gave up four walks and three homers over six innings, earning a return to Triple-A. Walters has a serviceable fastball that he can crank up to 89-91 mph consistently. He has improved his breaking ball to give him a third pitch, but it's his changeup that's the key to his success. It has screwball life and rides in on righthanders, and his easy delivery masks the true speed of the pitch. Walters slashed his home runs allowed from 22 in 2008 to just six in Triple-A last season, though he gave up six longballs in 16 major league innings. If he can find a way to live on the fringes of the strike zone, he'll find regular work in St. Louis, most likely as a middle reliever.
For the second consecutive season, Walters was among the organization leaders in strikeouts and strikeouts per inning, though he's able to do it by mystifying batters more than overpowering them. He has a workable fastball, one that clocks at 86-89 mph and sometimes touches the low 90s. But his best pitch is so good that people have a hard time describing it. He calls it a changeup, but its rotation and late movement has some scouts and coaches still calling it a screwball. Walters lives in the lower reaches of the strike zone and has impeccable command when he's at his best. His changeup breaks against the grain, and his delivery is deceptive enough that it also makes his fastball look quicker. He has an average breaking ball. He scaled three levels in 2007 and settled in at Triple- A in 2008, but his walks spiked and he allowed 22 homers overall, indicating he needs to throw more quality strikes. Walters was unheralded coming out of college, but now Cardinals officials have no doubt he'll pitch in the majors. After a handful more innings at Memphis, he'll get there as a back-end starter or bullpen arm relying on unerring control and that unnerving changeup.
After going 11-3, 3.20 with 166 strikeouts for South Alabama in 2006, Walters was a third-team All- American and an 11th-round pick for the Cardinals. In his first full pro season, he led St. Louis minor leaguers in ERA (2.55) and strikeouts (147) and tied for second in wins (12). Walters followed his uncanny control and unnerving changeup through three levels in 2007, finishing as one of Springfield's starters in the Texas League playoffs. His best pitch defies batters and at times defies description, with Walters labeling it a run-of-the-mill changeup and some scouts calling it a screwball. Combine that offering with Walters' strong command and great life on his pitches, and he's able to succeed without throwing hard. His fastball regularly clocks at 86-89 mph, though he can touch the low 90s. His delivery is deceptive enough that it covers for his fastball's lack of velocity, and his changeup breaks against intuition. He spots both pitches well. His breaking ball is still a work in progress, though that didn't stop him from succeeding in Double-A. The beneficiary of aggressive promotions, Walters doesn't have a high ceiling and will have to prove himself at each new level. But nothing's slowed him so far and he could reach Triple-A or even the majors in 2008.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Changeup in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011
- Rated Best Control in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010
- Rated Best Changeup in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010
- Rated Best Changeup in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009
- Rated Best Control in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008
- Rated Best Changeup in the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008