The Padres have signed Mitch Walding to a minor league contract, as AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reported. The 29-year-old appeared in the majors with the Phillies in both 2018-19, although he only tallied 15 combined games.
Walding has spent the bulk of his career as an infielder, logging more than 7000 professional innings at third base. However, he tells Cassavell he’s agreed to convert to catching. “My goal was finding anything that could get me back to the big leagues,” the former fifth-round pick said of the position change. “I looked at that as an alternate route that could really do some good for my career. So I got to work.”
While Walding has scant big league experience, he’s a nine-year minor league veteran. The left-handed hitter owns a .241/.341/.392 mark over parts of nine seasons on the farm, including a .240/.367/.433 line in three years at Triple-A. He the 2021 campaign with the Angels’ top affiliate in Salt Lake, hitting .238/.326/.451 with six home runs in 138 plate appearances. Walding struck out at an insurmountable 47.1% clip there, though, and he missed a good chunk of the year on the injured list.
No matter which position he mans, Walding will need to make more contact to get back to the MLB level. The offensive bar to clear is far lower for catchers than it is for third basemen, so a transition to his new position could ease some of the demand he faces at the dish. Yet that requires a successful late-career acclimation to perhaps the toughest spot on the diamond. Walding was credited by Baseball America with a plus arm during his days in the Phillies farm system, but whether he’ll be able to handle the finer points of the position (game calling, receiving, etc.) is to be determined. The Padres already have a fair bit of catching depth on the 40-man roster, but they could view that surplus as an opportunity to upgrade elsewhere whenever the lockout comes to an end.