MESA, Ariz. — For Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jared Walker, his success on the diamond depends almost exclusively on his mindset.
“I’ve done a lot of contact drills, but honestly for me it is all about how mentally tough I can be,” Walker said. “To be honest, the mental side is the biggest thing in baseball for me.”
Walker came to the Arizona Fall League with one goal in mind: to become a more complete hitter.
The 22-year-old has always been known for his power, and his prowess to all fields was on full display in 2018. After hitting a combined 14 home runs for three affiliates in 2017, Walker enjoyed a breakout season with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs, to go along with a respectable .255 batting average, in 110 games for Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“I would totally agree with that,” Walker said about trying to make more consistent contact with the baseball. “That is the tough part, though. Throughout the Fall League, I wouldn’t say it has been the easiest. Yeah, I am leading in the league in home runs, but I am just trying to get on base a lot more than I have been.”
Despite only hitting .206 in his last 10 games, Walker did homer and had three RBIs in a win over Mesa on October 27, and he had another home run in his last game at Mesa on November 7.
Three of his eight hits have been home runs this Fall League season, so making consistent contact and getting on base more is still a work in progress for Walker, but he has drawn eight walks, which has helped him maintain a respectable .320 on-base percentage.
“I would say throughout the at-bat and throughout defense, I write initials in the dirt mentally to talk myself through everything. I write the family that I have lost and then when I am in the box, I think don’t ever miss my pitch.”
But knowing that having a strong mental game is the biggest key to success for himself, Walker got some valuable advice from former big leaguer and World Series champion Raul Ibanez during the Fall League that he has carried with him since.
“He helped me through the mental side of the game,” Walker said. “He helped me push through it and honestly it is going to give me the push to be a complete hitter.”
After compiling a .272 career average in 19 big league seasons, Ibanez, along with Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, joined the Dodgers front office as a special assistant to President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman prior to the start of the 2016 season.
“He (Ibanez) spoke on ‘when you’re out on this field, I know it is just the Fall League, but not anybody goes to the Arizona Fall League and not just anybody goes to the big leagues. You are a different player,'” Walker said. “He basically told me that I am a different player, and told me that when I am on this field, know that you are the best player on this field, no matter who the heck is out here, even if it is the number-one prospect. You are the best player on this day, on this pitch and on this out.”
That is what he has tried to carry with him in every game since.