Athletic Walker selected by White Sox at No. 47

Athletic Walker selected by White Sox at No. 47

CHICAGO -- The target for pick No. 47 overall in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Monday night was laid out weeks ago by White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann and his staff.

Even with this Compensation Round A selection serving as the club's only selection on Day 1, it was tough to identify three or four players to focus upon almost four hours into the selection process. So, the White Sox would start from the Draft strength of college pitching.

That is, unless an impact position player was available.

Enter Keenyn Walker.

"Well, Keenyn is a kid that we've scouted extensively," said Laumann of the selection out of Central Arizona Junior College, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound switch-hitting outfielder, who throws right-handed. "He plays in a competitive junior college program in Arizona.

"He has been very successful. He is a high-ceiling athlete. Unlike some high-ceiling athletes, this kid really has a feel for playing the game."

Walker marks the ninth straight Draft in which a collegiate player has been selected by the White Sox with their first pick. As a 20-year-old sophomore this past season, Walker batted .402 (86-for-214) with 11 doubles, eight triples and four home runs. But the impressive statistics don't stop there.

Try 50 RBIs, 76 runs scored and 65 stolen bases in 68 attempts over 63 games with Central Arizona. The Salt Lake City native was a two-sport athlete at Judge Memorial High School, picking off 11 passes as a senior cornerback on the football team.

Those characteristics sound a bit like Jared Mitchell, the organization's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, who played football and baseball at LSU. Mitchell, coming back from a torn tendon in his left ankle that cost him the entire 2010 season of his developmental process, has a .225 average presently for Class A Winston-Salem, with 73 strikeouts in 200 at-bats.

Laumann didn't address the growing pains of Mitchell, who is playing through his first full season of strictly baseball. He did point out that Walker doesn't have the football-type build, comparing his body type and ability more favorably to Carlos Beltran or Devon White.

"Probably the body type is more like a Devon White, with the wiry thin [look], but strength in his frame as well," Laumann said. "He's a plus, plus runner and a good defender, has arm strength and actually showed some pop for a wood bat.

"Like I said, the impressive thing is, if you are just an athlete that doesn't know how to play the game, you won't steal 65 of 68 bases in a high-level JUCO program. There are some instincts to play the game as well."

An original 23rd pick in the first round for the White Sox went to the Nationals as compensation for the Adam Dunn free-agent pickup. That signing left the White Sox without a first-round pick for the only time in their Draft history other than 1978, when they lost their top selection to the Yankees as compensation for signing free agent Ron Blomberg.

Arizona's signing of free agent reliever J.J. Putz gave the White Sox this 47th selection. Where Walker is concerned, they hope the third time is a charm in regard to MLB teams calling his name.

In 2009, Walker was selected in the 16th round by the Cubs, and in 2010, Walker was taken in the 38th round by the Phillies. He did not sign with either team, although Laumann feels confident about his 2011 signability, labeling Walker at about two to 2 1/2 years away from the Majors.

"We had our typical interviews and our scouts got in the house," Laumann said. "I've spoken with the family and we are confident we will have a deal done."

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

While the White Sox are thrilled with Walker's combination of athleticism and ability to play the game, look for the team to get some pitching in Tuesday's early rounds.

Chris Sale was the White Sox top pick in the 2010 Draft, coming to the team at No. 13 overall. When Sale was selected, the idea for the White Sox was to get him signed quickly and then get the left-hander to the Majors just as quickly in a relief role.

Sale agreed to terms on June 22 and was with the White Sox by Aug. 4. Walker certainly won't reach the Majors by the end of this season, but Sale advocates a quick signing process as his best advice from one top pick to another.

"Get going, man. Just get going," said Sale, prior to Monday's 3-1 victory over the Mariners. "I mean, that was the one thing I was really focused on, not sitting around and then wait and wait and wait. You aren't getting any better sitting around on the couch. I wanted to do that and it so happened the opportunity was there to get out and start playing.

"Let's not try to put any extra pressure on him or anything like that," added Sale. "I was very fortunate to be in that situation. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. That played a lot with me."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.