What to do with Neil Walker

There’s an interesting piece about Neil Walker at Pirates.com today that examines the weird place that the organization has put him in this spring with Andy LaRoche ahead of him and Pedro Alvarez behind him. I know that we’ve talked about this before, but this sentence jumps out at me:

He spent the 2008 season in Triple-A, marking his full season at the highest Minor League level. And, although his batting average suffered from some early season adjustments, Walker said he felt that by the end of the season he matched up with the experienced players at the level.

[...]

Yet a season that began with Walker hitting just .200 during the season’s first month was seen by him as an overall significant step forward. Why? Because by the end of it, Walker felt he had proven to himself that he matched up with the high Minor League talent that he faced.

It’s nice that Walker feels that he settled in by the end of the year with Indy last year, but here are his monthly splits:

  • April: .200/.263/.376
  • May: .245/.264/.453
  • June: .248/.280/.515
  • July: .230/.257/.330
  • August: .275/.331/.394

And his power completely dried up, with three of his sixteen homers coming in July and August. That’s “matched up with the experienced players at the level?” Really? Walker was overwhelmed at AAA last year and the only part of his game that didn’t suffer was his power. That’s not really a great profile for a hitter.

So what’s the solution? I’m not really surprised to hear that his glove can handle third base, I saw him a couple times in 2007 when he moved there and it was obvious he had the raw tools to handle the position. So do now that he’s comfortable, do you move him again to second? I know Cory’s suggested it and it’s crossed my mind in the past as well. His bat would certainly play better there, but the team loves Shelby Ford at second and he’s honestly not that far behind Walker as a prospect at this point.

It’s still too early to write Walker off completely, but just barely. He could adapt to AAA this year and Andy LaRoche could tank again and we really wouldn’t have a problem. Still, even right now it’s easy to see where he’s going to slip between the cracks if he doesn’t improve pretty dramatically this year.

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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