Late Thursday night word got out from his girlfriend’s Twitter account that Zach Walters had been promoted from Harrisburg to AAA Syracuse. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson and MASN’s Byron Kerr did the heavy lifting on Friday morning and confirmed the news. Ladson even speculated that Walters may be the Nationals’ answer in their search for a back-up middle infielder to spell Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi while Ian Desmond is out with an injury.
Despite being in Harrisburg for only 43 games, Walters adjusted at the plate to a slash line of .293/.326/.518 with six home runs and 19 runs batted in. Over the last month and a half, he has been one of the few offensive bright spots on the squad and recently manager Matt LeCroy has even begun penciling Walters’ name into the cleanup spot. Defensively, Walters is a work in progress and his .935 lifetime fielding percentage at shortstop reinforces that fact. As Luke Erickson at Nationals Prospects wrote, “Make no mistake: It’s his bat, not his glove that has gotten him from High-A to AAA thus far.”
I don’t come here to debate his talents or whether he deserved the promotion. That’s for people far more intelligent and far more “in the know” than me. But in the short time that Walters has been in Harrisburg, he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to LeCroy with his less than model behavior.
On June 22nd, LeCroy was forced to pull Walters from a game in the fifth inning for jogging out a flyout instead of busting his butt down the line. It wasn’t Walters’ first disciplinary action since joining the Senators either. Walters’ also ignited a firestorm when he tweeted an off-color joke that contributed to the current social media blackout for the entire team.
I’m in no way saying that Walters is a bad guy. Far from it. I think he’s just a young 22-year old kid that has some growing up to do on and off the field.
Is this the guy though you want to reward with a promotion?
Talent and results trump all else. It’s been that way forever and I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s how you explain teams accommodating goofballs like Brian Wilson or malcontents like Carlos Zambrano and Delmon Young. If you can hit the round ball with the round bat or throw it 100 MPH teams will put up with almost anything.
After the game where he benched Walters for lollygagging, LeCroy made a pointed promise directed at the young infielder, “If he’s going to test me, he’s going to lose.” Based on this promotion and Walters’ quick ascent up the minor league chain, it appears the Nationals have his back way ahead of LeCroy’s. That is a dangerous precedent to set and a terrible message to send throughout this team and organization.