P.J. Walters throws his pitches at two speeds: slow and impossibly slow (by Major League standards). In fact, when he’s pitching, the slower pitches are actually his most effective – and his most deceptive. As a non-roster invitee to Spring Training with the Twins, Walters will try to slow pitch his way to a permanent job in the Minnesota organization. The 26 year old righty will wear number 74 on his back as he tosses those slow pitches at Grapefruit League batters.
Walters is an Alabaman who grew up in a city called Dothan, “the Peanut Capital of the World.” He stayed in state for college and attended the University of South Alabama, where he posted a 31-7 record and 404 strikeouts in three years. Walters also played alongside last year’s World Series hero and his own future teammate, David Freese.
In 2006, the Cardinals drafted Walters in the 11th round. Like a lot of the non-roster invitees on this list, Walters was very succesful in his first few years in the minors. In 2007 he pummeled minor league hitters at three different levels: Low A, High A, and AA. In the process he collected a combined 12-6 record, a 2.55 ERA, and 147 strikeouts in 151.2 innings. Hitters caught up to him in 2008 at AAA, where he had a 4.87 ERA, but he still struck out 122 hitters in as many innings. In fact, Walters has compiled decent strikeout totals at every level; he has 8.5 K/9 for his minor league career, including 8.4 K/9 in parts of four seasons at AAA.
He got his first shot at the Majors in 2009, but the results weren’t pretty: a 9.56 ERA in 16 innings. He did manage to strike out seven Cubs in four innings in his MLB debut, though. The next season, Walters overcame a family tragedy and earned another callup to the Cards, where he lowered his ERA to 6.00 and won his only two MLB decisions. He threw five more innings with St. Louis in their championship season last year, but the Cards traded him to Toronto at the deadline. Thanks to his stint with the Jays, Walters has a perfect 0.00 ERA in the American League. He threw a single inning in Toronto, striking out one and walking one before inducing a double play.
Walters will never be an overpowering pitcher. His fastball barely exceeds the DeLorean threshold of 88 mph. But according to scouting reports, he can make up for it with a devastating changeup. That pitch sits around 77 miles per hour, which probably makes his fastball look a lot more impressive by comparison. The chaneup also apparently has a lot of movement, which explains Walters’s perenially high strikeout totals. He throws a low 80s slider and a 70 mph curveball, but those pitches are not his primary out pitches. They haven’t fooled minor league hitters the way his change has.
The jury is still out as to whether that change can fool Major League hitters as well. In 51 MLB innings, Walters has a respectable 40 strikeouts, but he’s also allowed 12 home runs and an unsightly 7.24 ERA. It is possible that he could improve those numbers if given more of a chance in the Majors, but he’ll have to prove himself in Spring Training first. The Twins camp is full of pitchers trying to earn slots at Rochester and in Minnesota. If sneaky changeups and strikeout totals are what the Twins are looking for, though, Walters might have the upper hand.
Puckett’s Pond will not rest until we’ve previewed every one of the Twins’ 25 non-roster invitees. You can find the previous articles here.