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October 8, 2021 at 10:00 AM

Brandon Walter: 2021 SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Year

Friday makes the final day of SoxProspects.com Awards week, as we announce the 2021 Player and Pitcher of the Year. 

Pitcher of the Year

On May 5th, the Salem Red Sox called on an unheralded 24-year-old lefty to pitch the final two innings of an opening day doubleheader necessitated by rain. Brandon Walter allowed two hits in three innings but struck out five of the 10 batters he faced. Two days later, Walter again pitched two scoreless while striking out half the batters he faced, but he did not appear in game action again for 10 days. The University of Delaware product, a 26th-round pick in the 2019 draft, finished the season's first month with five appearances and a solid 3.00 ERA, similar to the several college arms picked up by the organization in the last two years who made up the Salem bullpen. 

As the calendar flipped to June, Walter's performance started to demand attention. Turned to for longer piggyback style stints, Walter made six appearances, allowing just one run on seven hits in 14 innings, striking out 18 while walking only four. He earned a look in the Salem rotation, making his first professional start on June 25. Walter was electric in the role, giving up just two hits in four shutout frames while striking out nine. He followed that up with another four-inning start, allowing one run and striking out six. Walter finished the month with a 0.82 ERA in 22 innings, allowing just 12 hits, walking five, and striking out 33 of the 95 batters he faced. The left-hander earned SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Month honors, his first appearance on the SoxProspects.com Top 60, and a promotion to the Greenville Drive. 

While High-A hitters had some more luck hitting Walter, he continued to post outstanding peripherals, striking out over 36 percent of opponents while walking less than six percent. Even in his worst start with the Drive, a 3 1/3 inning effort in which he allowed nine runs and three round trippers, Walter generated 12 swinging strikes, striking out seven batters without issuing a walk. A highlight came on July 28, when Walter gave up just one hit in six inning against Hickory. He struck out 12 of 22 batters, generating 24 whiffs, and walking only one. 

Unlike some other veteran hurlers who have seen success in Class-A through superior approach and pitchability but who don't have the stuff that profiles at a higher level, Walter's scouting reports matched the box scores. Throwing in the low-90s out of college, Walter was consistently at 94 with his fastball in 2021, touching 95, and complementing with a slider that proved extremely tough on left-handed batters and changeup that was a weapon against righties. Unranked at the start of the year, Walter is primed to challenge for a Top-20 spot in the system.

Between the two levels, Walter finished atop the organizational leaderboard with a 2.92 ERA, .199 opponents' batting average, and 0.974 WHIP in 89 1/3 innings. He struck out 132 batters and walked only 20, and he did so with remarkable consistency: his strikout rate was 36.2 percent at both Salem and Greenville, and he had only one appearance all season with more than two free passes. 

Photo Credit: Brandon Walter by Bryan Green