Adam Brett Walker Named 2021 MLB Partner Leagues Player Of The Year
In 2020, Adam Brett Walker hit 22 home runs in just 57 games with the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen. He averaged a home run once every 10 at-bats, a rate that seems relatively remarkable.
He was the league’s MVP for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. His Milkmen won the league title.
And when it was over, no affiliated team called. You see, everyone knows that Walker can hit home runs. He’s done it virtually everywhere he’s ever played.
After a 2013 breakout season where he hit 27 home runs for Low-A Cedar Rapids in the Twins system, Walker hit 25 or more home runs in each of the next four seasons. But even after hitting 27 home runs at Triple-A Rochester in 2016, Walker lost his 40-man roster spot and bounced on and off of waivers throughout 2017.
After the 2018 season, he found himself outside of affiliated ball for the first time since being drafted in the third round in 2012.
He returned home to Milwaukee to play for the newly formed Milkmen.
“I figured that if I don’t perform well, at least I’ll be in my hometown. At least if I finish up, I finish up in front of my family,” Walker said.
He wasn’t finished.
Walker hit 22 home runs in 2019 while playing through a sports hernia. He was the league MVP in 2020. But through it all, he had been the same player who teams had seen for years—lots of home runs, few walks and usually a sub-.250 batting average.
Walker has always posted exit velocities that demonstrate his plus-plus power, but the lack of affiliated team interest has made it clear that wasn’t going to be enough to get him signed by an MLB club.
So for 2021, Walker decided to see if he could be something more.
“I felt I had to hit for a higher average if I wanted to be seen,” Walker said. “I feel like it’s been a work in progress for the past three years. That was always the thing I needed to work on.
“It felt like it didn’t matter how many home runs I hit. I had to use the whole field, and if I get mistakes, the homers will come. I just tried to get my average up and be a more complete hitter, just for myself and to prove I could do it.”
Consider it proven. Walker became a much more complete hitter in 2021. He batted .320/.369/.636 for Milwaukee. His 33 home runs led the league—and were a career high—but maybe more importantly he ranked among the league’s best in batting average, hits (132) and stolen bases (24 in 26 attempts).
Also: consider Walker our MLB Partner Leagues Player of the Year.
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The lefthander struck out seven in his first turn with Richmond.
Pitchers rarely want to challenge Walker inside because of his power, but this year, when they stayed away from him, he was content to line the ball to the opposite field.
“I think the biggest adjustment was to use the whole field,” Walker said. “I had a lot more hits the other way. I was able to drive the ball to the opposite field. I felt like I was a power guy and people wanted me to hit home runs. I got a little pull-happy. I figured I needed to figure out how to be more consistent.
“I started watching some of the best hitters, you always see the highlights, but I watched a lot of Miguel Cabrera. He’ll hit home runs but he’ll take a base hit the other way. I need to do more of that and take what is given to me.”
Milwaukee manager Anthony Barone noticed a change in Walker this season.
“Back in 2019 when he first was with us, I think he was pressing to hit the home run,” he said. “Coming up as an affiliated player, I’m assuming a lot of organizations wanted him to do that. I think he’s grown where he can take a single up the middle or a double in the gap.
“He’s grown to know that there are more than just home runs. When he had players on base in front of him, he shortened up. When he shortens up, the 450-foot home run becomes a 420-foot home run . . . He let the game come to him and he knows his value is more than hitting home runs.”
Walker is now 30, having played pro baseball for a decade. Where three years ago he thought he might be wrapping up by coming home and playing in front of friends and family, now there’s a shot that he could get another chance at making it to the majors. After all, he’s shown that he’s more than just a slugger.
“He’s really developed an approach. His strikeout totals went way down,” Barone said. “This year he stole 24 bases. He drives in runs. He has a great two-strike approach where he uses the whole field. There’s not a hole in his offensive game right now.
“A lot of guys would have given up. There’s no give up in his game at all.”