Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Threshers' Walding taking strides to be an impact player

Mitch Walding, image- Jay Floyd
You've heard all the buzz names and how they're destined to help turn things around at the big league level for the Phillies, but an often overlooked prospect might be ready to claim his spot among those fast-rising impact players of the future.

After making some necessary modifications at the plate with the help of a pair of former Phillies, third baseman Mitch Walding has been making quite a splash in the early going for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers.

"I went to instructs for 10 days this off-season.  While I was there, Andy Tracy, Rob Ducey and I put together a hitting plan there.  We worked on a new load with my hands and worked on creating a better path through the zone," Walding explained this week.

Tracy and Ducey, who both spent time in Phils pinstripes, are now coaches at the minor league levels. Ducey, the hitting coach for Clearwater, seemed to take special interest in the 23-year-old Walding, helping to make some real changes for the California native.

"I was trying to catch the ball too deep (with my bat)," Walding explained. "Everything I hit was opposite field. So I changed where my attack point was and now I’m finally pulling the ball. I never noticed I did it till Rob Ducey pointed it out to me."

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, Walding entered this season with a .232 batting average and 13 career home runs in 412 games at three levels. With his updated approach, the lefty batter has posted a .297 average with a league leading five homers in 11 contests. That amount of round trippers eclipses his total of four that his tallied in 120 games at the same level a year ago.

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan shared that he really likes what he has seen with the new and improved Walding.

"I’m enjoying it, I’ll tell you that," Jordan said.

"He and Rob Ducey got on it late last summer and they were able to apply it in Instructional League and it’s been great. He looked like a totally different hitter in spring training and then he’s tearing it open. So far, so good," added Jordan.

The efforts this spring earned Walding a spot on the Phillies Futures Series roster that was chock full of the J.P. Crawford's, Jake Thompson's, Nick Williams's and Andrew Knapp's...you know, those future Phillies you've all been hearing about.

From a police escort guiding the team out of the Phils' facility in Clearwater straight toward the runway for a flight, to playing at Citizens Bank Park in front of a big crowd, the six-foot-three 190-pounder was excited to get a taste of what it's like at the highest level of the sport and took it as inspiration.

"It brought us into the everyday life of what it’s like to be in the show. Makes you want it even more and makes you realize what could be in your near future. Incredible experience to say the least," Walding said.

Aware that he's never broken out as a prospect until now, perhaps, Walding hopes to land himself among those aforementioned household names, right where he's always expected himself to be.

"I know I’ve struggled a lot and I’ve been in some hard times. I’ve always known this kind of ability has been in me. It was just bringing it to the table finally. I’ve expected nothing but the best from myself since I was a kid."
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