CHICAGO – Lost amid a trio of stunning catches by Diamondbacks outfielders on Friday night was a first base pick by Christian Walker, who somehow found a pitch from shortstop Geraldo Perdomo on a mid jump for help thwart a possible big inning by the Chicago White Sox.
It was kind of fitting considering how Walker’s season went defensively. He has quietly been one of the majors’ best defenders, and easily the best at first base.
“It’s almost like you don’t notice it,” Diamondbacks coach Tony Perezchica said. “You don’t notice it when he’s making a pick or when he’s out there fielding a ball on the ground that should be a hit.”
And yet, all the defensive measures seem to agree on his dominance this season. Walker recorded 12 over-average outs, three times as many as Cleveland’s closest first baseman, Josh Naylor (four), and 16 defensive points saved, more than twice as many as Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins, who is second with six.
Walker, a 2019 Gold Glove award finalist, looks set to win the first such award of his career.
The first thing Walker mentions to explain his play this season is the amount of work he’s been putting in before games. Perezchica says this is not a new development.
“He always had that work ethic,” Perezchica said. “It’s all to his credit.”
Said Walker: “It’s a comfort thing for me. I don’t like that my first ground ball was the first ground ball I fielded that day. I think I’m just beating reps at first base. It helps in the moment to stay a little calmer, a little more confident.
He thinks those reps not only helped his consistency, but they helped make the tougher games feel more routine. He cited second throws as an example, noting how many things go into making a good one.
“The footwork, the arm lunge, making sure I have a throwing lane,” he said. “But it’s also how I approach the ball on the ground, so I know how good my pace has to be after lining it up to get my footwork going to second base. I think he’s just getting more familiar with the job.
Perezchica said another key is that Walker is able to position himself away from the first base sack, allowing him to reach more balls to his right than a typical first baseman.
For the first time since prospect Kristian Robinson became entangled in legal issues more than two years ago, the Diamondbacks seem to see light at the end of the tunnel for his comeback.
“We’re hoping to get some positive movement here by the end of next month,” farm manager Josh Barfield said. “It looks like everything is going in the right direction.”
In August 2021, Robinson was sentenced to 18 months probation for felony assault after an altercation with a Department of Public Safety officer in April 2020.
He filed for a reduction in the length of his probation, Barfield said, and was told he would have to have the situation determined by the end of September. Barfield said the hope is that Robinson’s felony charge will then be reduced to a misdemeanor, which the club hope will allow him to resume his playing career.
Robinson likely won’t be cleared in time to return to the field before the minor league season ends, and Barfield said competing in the Arizona Fall League would likely be too aggressive an assignment.
With his immigration status clouded by his legal troubles, Robinson, 21, was unable to obtain the proper visa that would allow him to play in official minor league games. He hasn’t played a game since the end of the 2019 season.
Barfield said Robinson continues to train at Salt River Fields. He had been in extended spring training games earlier this year and recently started participating in another youth player camp which started on Friday.
Prospect Ivan Melendez, the first baseman the Diamondbacks drafted in the second round of last month’s draft, was hit in the left hand by a pitch Wednesday but appears to have avoided serious injury. X-rays and MRIs came out clean, assistant general manager Mike Fitzgerald said, and Melendez is expected to start swinging the bat again in the coming days.