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Staff File Photo by Dan HenryThe Chattanooga Lookouts' Adam Walker fields a ball deep in the outfield on May 8. He has made great progress on defense, according to his manager, and leads the Southern League in home runs, RBIs and total bases.

There is always feast-or-famine potential when Adam Brett Walker II steps to the plate, but that's a chance the Chattanooga Lookouts are more than willing to take.

Walker comfortably leads the Southern League with 101 strikeouts in 66 appearances through the first half of the season, but he is also tops in the power categories of home runs (19), RBIs (59) and total bases (145). The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Milwaukee has a .270 batting average and a starting spot in tonight's league all-star event in Montgomery.

"Overall, I've been pretty happy with the first half," Walker said. "There have been some ups and downs, but that's baseball. I feel like I've adjusted pretty well. I worked hard in the offseason, and I feel like I came in here ready."

Providing such power is nothing new for Walker, who was tabbed by the Minnesota Twins out of Jacksonville University in the third round of the 2012 draft. That was the same draft in which the Twins selected center fielder Byron Buxton and pitcher Jose Berrios.

Walker played his first full professional season in 2013 with Cedar Rapids (Iowa) in the Single-A Midwest League, where he hit .278 with 27 home runs and 109 RBIs in 129 games. He played 132 games a year ago with Fort Myers in the high Single-A Florida State League, where his average dipped to .246 but his power remained stout with 25 homers and 94 RBIs.

Baseball America rated Walker last season as the Florida State League's best power-hitting prospect, and he was the MVP of that all-star game as well as the home-run derby.

Tonight will mark the third straight midseason all-star game for the 23-year-old, with the honors coming despite a strikeout tally that has grown from 115 in 2013 to 156 last season to the potential of topping 200 this year.

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"He did this last year, too, and we're still trying to work on cutting back the strikeouts," Lookouts manager Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Every year is a challenge for him because of the strikeouts, but the power is epic. He's made huge strides defensively and has come so far in three months compared to where he was last year."

Said Walker: "To be honest, I don't really know how many strikeouts I have. I stopped thinking about that a while back. I'm just trying to become a better hitter, and when I make more contact, good stuff happens."

Walker was a quarterback every fall, a forward each winter and a power hitter by spring throughout his high school career. He picked baseball because of his love of stepping in the batter's box, but baseball did not provide his favorite sports team to follow.

"That would be the Packers," he said, smiling. "I loved Sunday nights and watching Brett Favre out there winging that thing around."

Since professional baseball returned to Chattanooga in 1976, Tim Castro (1992) and Schott Schebler (2014) share the team's single-season record for homers at 28. Brick Smith set the Lookouts' single-season standard for RBIs with 101 in 1986.

There are no team records kept for strikeouts, but Walker is already nearing the 117 Darnell Sweeney had last season.

"The improvement Walker has made is very noticeable, and you pull for kids like him," Mientkiewicz said. "He does it right, and he's a great guy to be around."

Kepler honored

The league announced Monday that its hitter of the week is Chattanooga's Max Kepler, who hit .636 with four triples and four RBIs. The German-born first baseman and left fielder also earned the award on May 18.

Kepler will be a utility outfielder for the North Division in tonight's all-star game.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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