On Thursday night, MLB Network continued their top ten right now series. Earlier in the night, both Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were named among the best relievers in the Majors. In the second show, Neil Walker was named the fourth best second baseman in baseball, and the top National League second baseman.
On last year’s show, Walker ranked eighth among all second baseman in baseball. That was coming off a season in which he put up a .757 OPS in 133 games. In 2014, he improved to .271/.342/.467 in 137 games. He set his career high with 23 homers and his .809 OPS was his highest since his first full season(110 games) back in 2010.
Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds gave their own personal top ten lists and Reynolds left Walker off his list, saying he wasn’t high on his defense or base running. Kenny ranked him third and called him one of the best hitting second baseman out there. No other National League second baseman finished ahead of Walker on Kenny’s list.
During the panel of experts portion, which included Bill James, Mike Petriello from Fangraphs and Vince Gennaro from SABR, Gennaro rated Walker third overall, while the other two talked highly of him, but didn’t give their ranking.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
I hear way too much about these”back issues” He went on the DL in 2012 and it ended his season late in 2012 If I recall it only happened 1 more time with a short D.L stint in 2014 and he still won a silver slugger. Who knows if it was even the same issue with his back. Any player can tweek their back and not be considered to have back problems. If the 2012 injury lingered more seriously past 2012 i could see but It really didn’t. If I am correct his injury in 2013 was the dislocated finger. Walker is a good candidate to move other places on the diamond. Positions in which we are very weak at throughout the system. I want to see the switch hitting speedster Alen Hansen at 2nd and leading off but I want to see Walker’s bat in the lineup playing 1st or 3rd too. He’s got at least 4 more seasons playing at the level he is now and after that he could be a very good bat off the bench. Work out a long term contract that would pay him like an impact everyday player and pay him less towards the end. Of course Neil would have to give some sort of discount. We cannot put it all on the Pirates. They have to meet in the middle for it to work.
Missed the end of 2012 due to the back.. Had flare ups afterwards but did not go onto the DL for the back since 2012. The trip to the DL in 2014 was for the appendectomy. He sat out a few games here and there because of the back. We do not have the full rundown on his back. He does and the Pirates do. If they do not think it is an issue then they will make an effort to sign him. If there is and issue, then they will look to Kang, Hanson and other youngsters for the long term. As you said, it takes two to tango. If Neil is looking for the huge long term deal going into his mid 30’s then it is a risk because of the back history. The older he gets, the little flare ups will become big flare ups with the way he plays and just the general pounding a player takes. If Neil was 2-3 years younger, and the same service time, the Bucs prob would take the risk. A lot of factors going on here. If Bell is the real deal too, and Hansons bat is legit and or Kang, they do not need Walker in the lineup. I hope Neil does get a big money deal for all of the effort put forth. I just prob will not be from the Pirates as Neil will test the waters as any smart human would do in his shoes and some team desperate for a 2B will overpay. As I said, Hope Neil gets the $$$. He deserves.
I’m happy to see a few posts like this on Neil’s injury history, I feel like a broken record around the watercooler sometimes when I keep pointing out Neil hadn’t been on the DL for his back in years. Sometimes players unfairly get stuck with certain stigmas, but if we do look at the past records we can see the truth. Even if the back does bother him and he has played through it, the offensive numbers speak for themselves.
I agree with Chris Hale above. Neil has been here through some bad times, some collapses, and has played an integral part in the eventual success these last 2 years. I am not sure what his market is (he is definitely nowhere near Cano or Hanley Ramirez money), but I want to get him under contract.
Perhaps we can wait a bit to see how Pedro does at first, but that does seem like the natural progression for him should guys like Kang prove they can hang or even at third if Josh Harrison becomes a better defensive 2nd base option.
Ok tim, granted I am not a computer wiz but when I click on pp today and it comes up my screen looks like the dark side of the moon album cover, what’s up with that?
Stats are a useful tool, but I feel like they undervalue Walker. He just passes the eye test. I am confident in his ability to hit, which he does for power, and play solid if unspectacular defense. I hope they find a way to keep him in a Pirates uniform, either at 2B or 1B.
meanwhile, he’s hurt too often, so lets either trade him or let him walk after FA….one of the best 2B out there, no doubt, extend him now
He will be traded because of his back. He is a high risk because of his history with his back to tie him up long term guaranteed. Nothing at all against Neil. If it were other issues and not his back, I would say the Bucs would be nuts not to extend him. He is not a youngster any more and his back will only deteriorate. If Hanson or Kang show that they are the deal this year, Neil will be traded.
i dont think a huge 6 year extension is needed, but perhaps a year or two of his FA years.
This is Neil’s chance at huge money. Prob his only chance given his age. Being a smart man, he will most likely go for the big money. I would never ever hold that against an athlete. Most only get the one chance at the big guaranteed money. I just think their is a lot of risk for the Bucs. Now if Kang, Hansen or any other prospect fails to wow, then the risk level may go down for the Pirates. If one of the younger guys wow then why risk it if you have a viable option for the same results.
I can understand Reynold’s opinion (not ranking him) since he is a former defensive 2bman. Walker’s value lies almost solely in his offensive game. While Phillips’s offensive game appears to be tailing off, he is still strong defensively by most metrics.
I guess it depends on what you want at the position…Chico Lind or Neil Walker. They both bring value.
I’ve often said that I don’t get the animosity towards walker, he is an above average second baseman who wants to be in the burgh. What more can any pirates fan want since the chances of cano coming here are slim to none and slim left town. That does not mean that I think the bucs should extend him, more so now if kang pans out. Mainly because he will be 32 I believe when he becomes a free agent, he has already had injury issues and when the time comes I think he will be to expensive for the bucs. I wish it were otherwise however it’s not.
pb: we still disagree. Phillips contract extension was terrible, and he & Cincy have helped to poison the well of 30-something extensions. Walker stoned Phillips offensively. Defensively, Phillips, regarded as a VG 2B, had 525 chances in 121 games. 2 errors, .996 %age. Walker, regarded as a less than average 2B, had 630 chances in 135 games, 5 errors, .992 %age; make sense that one is VG and the other is regarded as less than average?
I don’t mind that you disagree emjay, I would like to disagree with myself on this one.( about extending him)
emjay: consider range, which Walker doesn’t exhibit much of, particularly moving to his left. The argument against Walker’s defensive doesn’t lie in the balls he gets to, it’s about the balls he misses.
piraddict: If his range is that much better, would you not expect Phillips to have more chances than Walker per game in 2014? In 2013 Phillips had 706 Chances in 151 Games with 9 errors; Walker had 653 chances in 132 Games, with 7 errors. Phillips is flashy; Walker has been consistently excellent.
Before I reply, let me state for the record. I hate the Reds! I live in Reds country and I have hated the Reds since the Clemente days. That being said, Walker is not in the same league defensively as Phillips. Overall, Walker has passed Phillips, which in large part is due to age. I worry about any kind of extension they may sign him to. If Pedro tanks, I think he’d be the best option to be a stop gap until Bell is ready.
indy: Agree with Walker as a 1B. Two results – gets Walker to 1B, where we have had a hole, and hastens the move of 2B Alen Hanson to the majors where he will be a switchhitting leadoff batter with either Marte, JHAY, or Polanco batting 2nd.
It’s harold Reynolds, not Kenny who didn’t have walker in top 10. Harold is right about walkers defense being lousy though
Reynolds is a moron though. He still trying to argue that Phillips belongs sixth because of RBIs, yet Phillips only had 51 RBIs. So even by Reynolds own criteria, walker was better. Reynolds had Wong in his top ten too.
A well deserved honor for Walker; Reynolds has to get off of the man-crush. Phillips is entering his age 34 season and has $39 mil owed in 2015, 16, & 17. He had a WAR of 5.6 in 2011 so the Reds signed him to a big 6 yr extension – since then his WAR dropped to 3.7, then to 2.6, and last year to 1.8. OPS .750 in 2012; .706 in 2013; .678 in 2014. That’s what gets GM’s fired.
I used to really respect Brian Kenny’s opinions but the more I listen to him I start to wonder. Does he actually watch any games or just look at stats? …and even if he is just looking at stats I scratch my head…Walker in a game with the lowest offensive totals in 30+ years had 23 HR and 51XBH…not to mention a very good .340 career obp. He is easily a top 5 or 6 2B.
Kenny had him ranked third. Harold reynolds was the guy who didn’t rank walker.
Ok. Thx. I misread it.