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The start of Mitch Walding’s big league career was not ideal

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Shake it off, Mitch.

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 14:

Yaaaaayyyy!

FROM EARLIER:

0-for-6, 6 SO.

Those are lay-awake-at-night numbers. Punch-the-pillow numbers. Honey-what’s-wrong?-Nothing-I’m-just-going-to-wake-the-cat-up-so-I-can-kick-it numbers.

And Mitch Walding certainly knows that. The rookie’s family came into San Francisco to see him play in his first big league game, make his first big league start, and wind up striking out all the way through a series his teammate called “horse s**t.”

With all the breaking of J.P. Crawford news around here, it could be lost that on the other end of Crawford’s return roster move is Walding being optioned back to Lehigh Valley, ending his foreseeably brief stint in the majors.

It was not great. It will make for some entertaining statistical anomalies. It doesn’t have to be Walding’s most enduring legacy.

In a series of profiles on potential sleepers in the Phillies farm system, Clinton Riddle said earlier this year that Walding could morph into a power bat: At mid-season last year, he led the Eastern League in dingers and and wound up slugging 25 (fourth in the EL) for Reading in only 99 games. He even adhered to the overall Phillies strategy of being able to go deep into counts at times and work walks at high enough clip that you wouldn’t think he did not know how to do that.

Of course, Walding’s promotion was intended to be neither a prolonged nor a highly anticipated look. It happened because the injuries on the Phillies roster unlocked a spot for him. What do sluggers—and even more so, potential sluggers—like to do best? Swing the bat. And Walding did plenty of that as well; and he missed a lot, racking up 127 strikeouts last season. As the IronPigs’ starting third baseman this season, he’s slashed .271/.379/.484 with 26 BB and 54 SO—the second most on the team behind the only guy who probably likes to swing more than he does, Dylan Cozens.

Walding has been in the Phillies minor league system since 2012, when he was a teenager. He’s occasionally made a name for himself (Phillies Minor League Hitter of the Month for June 2017!) but has never topped off any prospect lists. Nevertheless, he put up fine numbers for a 25-year-old who, if given a serious, long-term look, would probably find himself being converted to first base at some point. No one whose promotion people were particularly looking forward to, but someone easy to get behind.

Last month, Phillies director of player personnel Joe Jordan told the Inquirer that he liked what he saw in Walding and that the kid belonged in the bigs.

“He looks like a guy if you put him in a big-league uniform and put him on a big-league field, he will not look out of place. That’s the way he is playing.”

Striking out a lot is part of his game. If he’s going to find success, he’ll have to cut those down to a more tolerable level, but if you’re mashing dingers, that number of toleration tends to go up. Jordan said he’d like to see Walding find a rhythm, and turn the stretches of success he’s had in the minors into full seasons.

One thing you can’t argue is that, as a major leaguer, Walding was nothing if not consistent.

  1. Four pitches, strikeout looking vs. Ross Stripling
  2. Three pitches, strikeout swinging vs. Ross Stripling
  3. Seven pitches, strikeout swinging vs. Ross Stripling
  4. Six pitches, strikeout swinging vs. Pat Venditte
  5. Four pitches, strikeout looking vs. Chris Stratton
  6. Five pitches, strikeout swinging vs. Mark Melancon

These occurred over only three games and probably with a bundle of nerves. And have you heard? By having to face Stripling in his debut, Walding was facing a “great” pitcher.

But in going 0-for-6 with 6 SO, he did make some Phillies history.

He may not be the future at third base, and he may not see the majors again until the need arises. But here’s hoping he gets another crack.