Walker Powell by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans
When sources announced that Walker Powell from Southern Mississippi signed a free agent contract with the Cubs, I raised one eyebrow. I thought, “That’s a good school that produces good players that can play in the majors.” Then I saw he was 6’8” tall. Another eyebrow was raised. And if I had a third eyebrow, that would’ve gone up too once I looked at his stats for the past three years.
With the success the Cubs had with last year’s non-drafted free-agent class, I feel pretty good about last year’s small crop of arms that the Cubs signed and Powell is that the top of that list.
Age – 25
Height – 6-foot-8
Weight – 210
Throws – Right
School – Southern Mississippi
Signed as a nondrafted free agent
The first thing that catches your eye about Powell Is that he has had Tommy John surgery twice. He started at Southern Miss in 2016 and he was impressive as a freshman with a 3.46 ERA in 18 games, mostly out of the pen. He missed all of 2017 due to TJS. Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said this about Powell and what he’s overcome as a result of TJS: “The adversity he came through describes who he is and his love for the game. He’s Mr. Consistent, just a true pitcher.”
In 2018, his first full season back was a bit of an adjustment as he had a 3.70 ERA, all as a starter. In 83 IP, he struck out 62. His 2019 ERA dropped precipitously to 2.72 in 99.1 IP with 73 Ks while 2020’s abbreviated campaign saw him go with a 1.24 ERA in just 4 starts where he threw 29 innings with 22 Ks and just 2 walks….2 walks!!!!!!
In 2021, he was the Conference USA Pitcher of the Year. He had a 10-2 record with a 2.31 ERA in 89.2 IP. He struck out 86 while only walking 18 opponents hit just .224 off him.
When I watch video of him, I am impressed with several things. One is that he looks extremely hard to hit because of the angle from which he throws the baseball. He is also able to mix up his pitches so that he’s not dependent on one pitch or another.
Whenever a player signs on, especially a pitcher, I don’t really put a lot of weight into the first season of statistics. For one, they’ve already pitched a full season of baseball in the spring and early summer. Two, they’ve been shut down for a while and they have had to ramp it back up and their arms just not used to that.
After signing, Powell only pitched eight innings last summer, all in relief.
When the rosters were announced back in early April, I was surprised that Powell was assigned to Myrtle Beach mainly because of his age. And then I was surprised that he was not in the rotation but as a reliever. However, some things have a weird way of working themselves out.
After a rough first outing, Powell began to settle down and threw 13 innings in relief in April with a 3.46 ERA. He struck out 19 and had a batting average against a .220. And then came Sunday’s no-hitter in his first start of the year. The 6-foot-8 giant used his curve early and often to baffle Columbia hitters over five innings with no hits and he struck out six.
As for the future I am a little unclear as to what his role is going to be going forward and if that role is going to be with Myrtle Beach. The issue the Cubs are having right now is that the Myrtle Beach team is just dominating and they’re making statements that they should be moved up with their dominance. To do that, there’s got to be a place to go and a spot to go. The questions are will the Cubs make a spot for them or will they just have to bide their time? This is going to be pretty tricky over the next month.