Each day during the balance of 2020 as part of my celebration of 50 years following the Philadelphia Phillies, I’ll recall a mostly obscure and in many cases completely forgotten player who appeared with the ball club between 1971-2020.
This micro-bio series publishes each morning and will include basic background info on the player, their statistical performance with the Phillies during the specific season highlighted, and a snap-shot of the rest of their big-league career.
For each year, I choose one random position player and one pitcher, giving each their own remembrance in separate articles. Yesterday we looked at 2019’s most random pitcher, Yacksel Rios. Today we move to the position player who had the combination of little 2019 impact on the Phillies and who is likely to have the least impactful big-league career.
Mitch Walding was born in Lodi, California and selected by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft as an 18-year-old out of St. Mary’s High School in Stockton, California.
Walding rose incrementally through each level of the Phillies farm system over the next seven years, including a stint in the Arizona Fall League. In the 2014 off-season, Walding played in 41 games in the Australian Baseball League with Canberra, and in the 2017-18 winter with Caneros de los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
He was an All-Star in both 2016 while with High-A Clearwater in the Florida State League and again in 2017 with Double-A Reading in the Eastern League.
On May 30, 2018, the then 25-year-old finally got the opportunity all long-time minor leaguers dream about. He made his debut that Wednesday night in Los Angeles against the host Dodgers.
Walding was inserted that night in manager Gabe Kapler‘s starting lineup, batting seventh and playing third base. It would not prove to be a glorious debut. He went 0-4, striking out all four times at the plate as the Phillies were drubbed 8-2 at Dodger Stadium.
He stayed with the big club for just a few days in that stint, but would also receive short days-long promotions at both the end of June and July. He was the Triple-A International League Player of the Month for July. When rosters were expanded in September, Walding was back with the Phillies once again.
In all, Walding totaled 13 games played in the 2018 season. It took until the 11th of those for him to register his first big-league base hit. It was also his first career home run in Major League Baseball.
On Friday, September 14, 2018 at Citizens Bank Park the Phillies crushed the Miami Marlins by a 14-2 score. Walding entered in the top of the 8th inning as part of a series of defensive substitutions by Kapler with the Phillies up 11-2.
Not wanting to waste any more pitchers after burning through five of them already in what had become a lost cause, Marlins manager Don Mattingly sent catcher Bryan Holaday out to the mound for the bottom of the 8th inning.
Holaday surrendered back-to-back doubles by Rhys Hoskins and Jose Bautista to start it off, pushing the Phillies lead out to 12-2. After he retired Andrew Knapp on what was nearly a home run to deep left-center, Walding stepped to the plate.
Walding fell behind 0-2, but then finally got a pitch he could handle. He crushed it out deep to right field, the two-run blast finally capping the scoring in the blowout.
He made his only appearances in the field during that 2018 season, playing in seven games and getting a pair of starts at third base.
Walding would make just two appearances with the 2019 Phillies, both as a late-April pinch-hitter. He struck out in each of those plate appearances. At Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Walding didn’t fare much better. Over 90 games in which he received 350 plate appearances with the IronPigs, Walding batted just .206 with 11 homers and 11 doubles, striking out 133 times.
After the season, Walding was removed from the Phillies 40-man roster. On November 4, 2019 he was granted free agency. At just 26 years of age, his future career in professional baseball is now very much in question. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays prior to spring training this year, striking out in his lone Grapefruit League at-bat before baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The most random Phillies pitcher from the 2018 season will be featured in tomorrow’s “Phillies 50: Forgotten” piece. Check back in to be reminded of that next installment in this year-long series.