The Quiet Power of Neil Walker

Sep 14, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) hits a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano are probably two of the first names that come to mind when you are asked to think of a power hitting second baseman, but Neil Walker hit 23 homers in 2014.  His 23 long balls were good enough to tie Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins for the positional lead.  I am a big advocate of drafting Brian Dozier next year as you can see here.

Neil Walker of the Pittsburgh Pirates is a reasonably priced option for some pop at a power-starved position.  Walker has hit double-digit home runs in every season of his Major League career.  His total has increased from 12 to 23 in each of Walker’s five MLB seasons.  Neil Walker also managed to hit his career high in home runs while missing 25 games this season.

However, I did not really ever hear much recognition for Neil Walker this past season, but that could be a good thing from a fantasy perspective.  I would be happy to see him fly under the radar again and draft in a reasonable round.  Walker scored 74 runs, drove in 76 RBI’s, and provided a .271/.342/.467 slash line to the Pirates and his fantasy baseball owners.

An .809 OPS from a mid-round or later second baseman is quite a value when you consider that only three elite second basemen, Josh Harrison, and Justin Turner had a superior OPS among 2B eligible bats.  Neil Walker was able to offer equal or better production in fantasy baseball than the vast majority of his second base counterparts due to his premier positional power and respectability in R, RBI, and AVG.

While a couple of second basemen experienced a meteoric rise in their fantasy stock in 2014, it seemed like Neil Walker’s newfound levels of production were largely ignored.  Again, this is encouraging, especially due to the fact that Walker had a BABIP of only .288.  Plus, Walker’s ISO of .195 shows off his abilities to hit for extra bases.

At a scarce position where average performance is often overrated and costs a high draft pick, Neil Walker represents the opposite of an overpriced second basemen.  He has developed into a hitter with respectable power and solid production across the board.  There is no reason not to draft Neil Walker in the mid-rounds if you believe that paying for a higher end second bagger is not worth the price.