D-backs' Blake Walston Finishes Strong At Double-A
Righthanders Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson each turned in three impressive starts in the majors late in the year, but they weren’t the only D-backs pitching prospects finishing their seasons on a high note.
At Double-A, 21-year-old lefthander Blake Walston turned in perhaps the most impressive 10-start stretch of his career, posting a 2.89 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 56 innings.
Though Walston pitched to a 5.16 ERA in 106.1 innings on the year for Amarillo, an extreme hitter's park, he provided a reminder that he could factor in Arizona's 2023 rotation.
“We always put a lot of stock in how guys finish, trying to take that momentum into next year,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “He did that as good as anybody in the system this year.”
Amarillo pitching coach Shane Loux said Walston’s changeup emerged this season as “by far his best secondary pitch,” in part thanks to some work the former high school quarterback put in throwing the football around before games.
“He said the release on the football was similar to what he wanted to feel with his changeup,” Loux said. “As he threw the football and turned his hand over to get the spiral, he found a changeup that had some really good sink to it. He was able to get under some bats with it.”
Walston sat mostly 91-92 mph with his fastball this season, but Loux believes that will tick up as the 6-foot-5 lefty continues to add size and strength. Arizona drafted him 26th overall in 2019 out of high school in North Carolina.
Walston was hit hard in his final start before the Texas League all-star break, an outing that Loux said helped drive home the realization for Walston of how much harder he could work.
“He’s just so gifted physically that he hasn’t had to do a lot to be better than most people,” Loux said. “Now we’re kind of getting to the point where your physical gifts have got you here, but you’re going to have to hit the gas to get you to the next level.”
— With Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson throwing well and righthander Brandon Pfaadt excelling up through Triple-A, the D-backs suddenly have a slew of arms close to emerging in the majors. Walston is the youngest of the bunch but appears to be just a half-step behind the rest.