Quad-Cities vs. Peoria

Quad-Cities River Bandits left fielder Colin Walsh warms up on deck during the second inning at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport against Peoria on Monday, May 7, 2012. (Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Kevin E. Schmidt

Colin Walsh wears many hats.

He’s an infielder. He’s an outfielder. He’s a designated hitter.

He’s also a recent Stanford graduate with a degree in civil engineering.

But, the one role the versatile Quad-Cities River Bandit is looking to embrace this season is that of becoming a player who consistently produces at the plate.

“I know I’m capable. I feel like I can be a consistent hitter in this league. It’s a matter of being more selective at the plate, getting better control of the strike zone and making it work for me,” Walsh said.

This is the third season the Cardinals’ 13th-round selection in the 2010 draft has played for Quad-Cities.

He hit .214 over 28 games after earning a late-season promotion from Batavia in his rookie year and followed that with a .239 average in 69 Midwest League games a year ago.

During the opening weeks of the 2012 season, Walsh has shown signs of the growth he has sought.

He shares the Midwest League lead with nine home runs and is the sole league leader with 30 extra-base hits, 74 total bases, 27 runs scored and a .658 slugging percentage.

Batting .287 for the River Bandits, Walsh already has one more home run than he managed his first 127 games at the pro level prior to this season. He is within three extra-base hits of his previous best of 23 set a year ago.

Walsh said he has been working with Quad-Cities hitting coach Joe Kruzel to do a more consistent job of staying on top of the baseball.

“I’m working to do a better job of taking the ball up the middle and making the most out of my swings,” Walsh said.

That includes increased velocity in his cuts, something he believes has helped increase his power numbers.

Kruzel, in his fifth season as River Bandits hitting coach, sees the type of growth in Walsh’s approach at the plate that he would hope to see from a player who has experience in the league.

“He’s doing a good job of getting himself into a good hitting position, and he’s attacking the ball with aggressive swings,” Kruzel said. “He’s done a good job of staying within the strike zone. His swing is under control, and he’s doing a good job of getting the barrel on the ball.”

Walsh said his early-season home run numbers have been a bit of a surprise.

“It’s not something I necessarily expected,” Walsh said.

Kruzel views it as continued progress.

“When you look back at his second half last year, he started to make better contact and drive the ball with more authority than he had been, and I think what we’re seeing is a continuation of that,” Kruzel said. “He’s worked hard at his game.”

The work was a byproduct of some of the offensive ups and downs Walsh endured a year ago after joining the River Bandits from extended spring training in late May.

“I struggled a little bit, and when you struggle, you’re thinking, ‘I need a hit or need to guide it somewhere,’ and that affects your mechanics,” Walsh said. “Maybe you find yourself swinging at a pitch you shouldn’t. This year, the approach is to try to hit the ball as hard as I can.”

In other words, he’s trying to keep things simple and not over-think the game.

“It comes down to consistency,” he said.

That is among the areas where the switch hitter is developing his game.

Kruzel sees consistency in the right-handed and left-handed swings that Walsh is having success with this season, batting .269 against right-handed pitching and .333 against left-handed pitching.

“When you look at the swings of most switch hitters, you’ll see guys who have two totally different swings, but his swing on both sides of the plate is as consistent as you will see,” Kruzel said.

“He’s got the same look, the same feel, from the right and left sides, and if he can maintain that along with his aggressiveness and his understanding of the strike zone, he will have a good chance for success.”

The Walsh file

Position: Infield/outfield

Hometown: La Jolla, Calif.

Birthdate: Sept. 26, 1989

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 190

College: Stanford

Obtained: 13th round, 2010 draft

By the numbers: Had a three-year career average of .319 at Stanford, where he started at second his final two seasons. … Has a career batting average of .256 with 17 home runs, 32 doubles and seven triples.

FYI: Was an all-star second baseman in the summer wood-bat Cape Cod League in 2009