2011 Projection: Why The Love For Neil Walker?

Neil Walker is a player that many fantasy owners have seemingly fallen in love with.  Obviously they don’t view him as a top option, but as a fallback choice should they miss out on their chosen target.  My question is exactly what is it that has people so excited?

First of all, just look at his 2010 production:

426 At Bats
.296 Batting Average (126 Hits)
12 Home Runs
66 RBI
57 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.349 On Base Percentage
.462 Slugging Percentage
.340 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Yes, the average is decent, but is there anything else there that should really excite us?  He has little power and no speed.  That of course means that he also isn’t likely to bring a significant number of runs and RBI.  What exactly are people seeing?

It’s not like he showed significant production in the minor leagues, either.  In 2,601 AB he hit .273 with 71 HR and 49 RBI.  That’s a home run once every 36.6 AB, very similar to his HR every 35.5 AB in the Major Leagues in ’10.  He’s just never going to be a strong source of power.

He’s also clearly never shown speed.  In fact, the 12 he had between the Majors and Triple-A in ’10 was a career high.  It certainly seems like his upside is 15/15, and even that appears to be a stretch.

He may hit second in the Pirates lineup, meaning there aren’t going to be many RBI opportunities available to him.  Could he score 80+ runs with Andrew McCutchen (assuming he hits third) and company hitting behind him?  Sure, but that’s not about to get me excited.

Even the average is no sure thing, considering his BABIP and his minor league track record.  In 356 AB at Triple-A in ’09 he hit .264.  In 2008 he had 505 AB at Triple-A and he hit .242.  Is it even a lock that he is productive there?

Let’s take a look at what I’m projecting for him in 2011:

.264 (132-500), 15 HR, 75 RBI, 65 R, 4 SB, .300 BABIP, .312 OBP, .418 SLG

Needless to say, I’m not extremely excited about him.  There is nothing “certain” in any of his statistics and nothing that looks all that attractive to begin with.  Maybe he won’t hurt you in any category, but is he really going to help you?

I’d much rather focus on any of these 2B, who at least bring potential value in one category, if not more:

  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka
  • Sean Rodriguez
  • Ryan Raburn

That’s just to name a few.  Basically, I’d be surprised if I ended up with Walker on any of my teams.

What about you?  Is Walker a player you like?  Why or why not?

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12 comments

  1. GT says:

    As an NL-only owner, Walker’s biggest asset to me is his draft day value. Knowing that there are 2Bs that can provide counting stats similar, if only slightly worse, than a Martin Prado or Brandon Phillips but can be had 100 picks later is a huge plus. Speaking to Walker’s appeal is speaking to the depth of 2B this season, unlike players with similar skill sets at shallower positions who are drafted much earlier than they should be (Stephen Drew, Derek Jeter, Nick Markakis, Miguel Montero, etc.)

  2. I don’t love him either, but he’s a nice backup and a decent middle infielder option. 15 HRs and 75 RBI out of that spot isn’t terrible.

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    Ryan, I agree that they aren’t terrible, but they really are nothing special either.

    GT, I would agree that in an NL-only format, things are definitely different. If you notice, the three guys I said I’d rather have are all in the AL. In that type of league, there certainly is more value to him.

  4. JREwing says:

    If Walker hits in the 3 spot, which many think he will, I have him down for a 75-15-85 line. He has some upside on that when you look at his post ASB stats. He does have a lot of downside as well, as you mentioned, but if you get him late enough he still represents very good value at 2B. I would take him over the three you mentioned above. I see him producing similar numbers to Raburn with a touch more average and R+RBI. Tsuyoshi is a big risk/reward but I think I’d still stay with Walker if I had to choose one or the other.

    I do think some will draft Walker too high, but in leagues where he falls into the 175th to 190th player range he’s a pretty good value.

  5. yummy says:

    I recently drafted him at 165 in my pert league. I feel he will bat in the 3 hole and he does have multi-position eligibility 2B, 3B. MI, CI. Flexibility, a 3 hole hitter, and a 15/15 guy…I will take that with a pick at 165. Here are the 3 who went before and after Walker. 162 Crisp, 163 Adam Jones, 164 Gaby Sanchez, 166 Aviles, 167 Storen, 168 Ian Stewart.

  6. Rotoprofessor says:

    Honestly, I know the talk that he could hit 3, but he’s not a #3 hitter. I would be shocked if he didn’t settle into the second slot, with McCutchen hitting third. The lineup looks so much better as:

    Tabata
    Walker
    McCutchen
    Alvarez

    That’s just my opinion, of course, but to me it makes the most sense.

  7. Arctic Bear says:

    You seem pretty negative about his minor league stats, but when I look there I see that at each level he improved in the 2nd year, usually significantly. Also, you didn’t mention his 2010 AAA stats where he batted .321/.392/.560.

    No, he’s not likely to be special, but if he plays 150+ games, batting 3rd, he’s sure to meet the 75-15-85 projection of my Southfork friend. But say he’s batting 2nd, his #’s switch to maybe 85-15-75.

    And how many 2B hit 85-15-75 in 2010? You can count them one hand and still have two fingers left over.

  8. Will Overton says:

    I don’t see Walker ever stealing 15 bases, and while I like the 15 HR potential at that position, that’s his ceiling in my opinion.

    And I don’t trust the average from last year either.

    I would actually rather have most of those guys you mentioned being picked around him. But I am an admitted over the top supporter of Adam Jones this year and I think I’d rather have Mike Aviles at 2B.

  9. JREwing says:

    I still think as a #2 he’d get enough at bats to put up a solid R-HR-RBI for a 2B. I’m just a little more bullish on him than you, but he’s definitely a large projection range guy at this point.

    I do want to point out that expecting 15/15 from him is a bit much, as he hasn’t run much in the bigs and only had 49 SB in 2853 MiLB at bats. I think 10 SBs from him is an absolute upper end projection for him this year.

  10. Tim Barrett says:

    Here’s his comparison to Martin Prado

    Walker: 426 ABs 57 R, 12 HR, 66 RBI, 2 SB, .297 AVG, .811 OPS
    Prado: 599 ABs 100 R, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 5 SB, .307 AVG, .809 OPS

    With the exception to Runs, the numbers are very similar especially when you look at the difference in ABs. But Walker is availble almost 8 rounds later than Prado.

    He also qualifies at 3B (like Prado), which in a weak 3B class, gives him a little extra value.

    Personally, I would go elswhere, but I can see why he is trending up.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Given his history and his BABIP, I just can’t buy into Walker’s average from ’10. I think it is far more likely that he hits .250 than he hits .290+ once again. That has to be considered a pretty big knock against him.

      Until he proves that he can hit for that type of average once again, I am going to remain skeptical.

  11. André Brisson says:

    I think some also give him different loving depending on the league. I’m in an auction league (20 teams mixed) and he’s projected at 289FP’s and I’m keeping him at 10$ (260 cap).

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