Neil Walker accepted a qualifying offer today, cementing his spot with the Mets for the 2017 season. But, what does his fantasy value look like next season?
As the deadline for players to accept qualifying offers ends, predictably most of the big name free agents declined. There were some surprises though, one being Neil Walker. Coming off a career season that ended prematurely by a back injury, Walker could have more than likely secured a lucrative multi-year deal. But, he accepted his offer and will suit of the Mets in 2017.
So, does his fantasy value change at all heading into next season?
Neil Walker has quietly flown under the radar for years, yet is one of the steadiest second basemen in MLB. He has at least 12 HR per season since 2010, and he has 78 HR over the last four seasons. Last season was easily his best campaign though, as he posted a, .282/23 HR/55 RBI/.823 OPS. It is a shame that the Mets lineup could not sport a deeper lineup, because if so, Walker wold have easily eclipsed his carer high in RBI and runs as well.
Walker was able to go off last season thanks to marked improvements in a couple of key categories. Walker’s LD rate stayed at 21%, but he raised his FB rate by nearly seven points to 43%, while also seeing a near four point jump in his hard contact rate, raising it to 36%.
He simply hit more fly ball with authority, thus the power uptick. He also got his BB rate back in line with his career norm as well, posting a 9.2% clip.
Walker is a switch hitter as well, so his splits are always interesting to look at. He has always been better as a LH hitter, and his 15 HR from that side speak to that. But, he mashed against RHP too, posting a .330/8 HR/16 RBI line.
Walker will turn 31-years-old in 2017, but there is no reason that he will slow down of a sudden. The only oddity of his season, was that he had only 9 doubles, this is a guy that has had at least 24 doubles per season over the last six seasons, so something has to give.
Walker is a lock to be a top ten fantasy 2B next season, but the Mets offseason will play a huge part in his value. The Mets struggled to score runs last season, so if they were to lose Yoenis Cespedes, Walker’s value takes a minor hit. At worst he bats around .270, and pitches in 15+ HR, but the difference between 70+ RBI/70+ R and something similar to what he did last season is huge on draft day.
The Mets will move Walker around the diamond this season, and he will seen a lot of time at the corners. Mulit-position eligibility is always a plus, so expect that he will gain it early on in the season. Neil Walker has been underrated for too long, and he rewarded fantasy owners for their trust last season. Look for more of the same from him in 2017.