Ever since Neil Walker‘s “breakout” 110-game debut back in 2010, he’s been one of the most targeted mid-round options at second base. He’s a safe player to draft, gives you a little in every category, and seems forgettable enough that you feel like you might be the only person targeting him. Just so you know, you’re not.
Over the last three years Walker has trended down as a fly ball hitter, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given his new role as Pittsburgh’s number two hitter as opposed to his days in the three or four slot. His approach at the plate has grown slightly more aggressive each season, which last season resulted in his highest strikeout rate in his three years as a pro (19.6%). That shouldn’t really affect how you value him, but I think a change in a batter’s approach over a three-to-five year period is always worth mentioning.
At a Glance
- Strengths: none
- Neutral: R, HR, RBI, SB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
- Weaknesses: CS, net SB
- Best-case scenario: not quite Brandon Phillips (CIN), but almost
- Likely scenario: Howie Kendrick (LAA), Zack Cozart (CIN), Jhonny Peralta (DET)
- Worst-case scenario: Gordon Beckham (CHW)
Neil Walker 2013 Fantasy Projection
Last year Walker split time pretty evenly between second and fifth in Pittsburgh’s lineup. The emergence of Pedro Alvarez and the signing of Russell Martin probably mean we’ll be seeing a lot more of Walker in the two-hole this year. Last year he scored 28 runs in 54 games batting second, which works out to about 77 runs per 150 games. We project a little bit of regression for Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen (sorry folks, but I don’t think he’s a perennial 31-homer, .327 hitter), which will hurt Walker’s runs total a bit.
But regardless, Walker is a stable, boring player. You know just about what you can expect from him (his rankings over the last three years have been very similar), and he’s one of the mid-round players you can bank on once again — especially at a shallow second base position.