Neil Walker was tremendous for the Mets in 2016 but saw his season cut short due to an injury. Should fantasy owners continue to value his fantasy consistency in 2017?
The Mets knew heading into the 2015 season that they needed to infuse the lineup with more offensive talent. While it was unexpected, one source of offense came from the Pirates in the form of, Neil Walker. All Walker did in return was rake for the Mets last season, posting a .282/23 HR/55 RBI/.823 OPS line over 113 games. While he was on pace to have a career-best season, a back injury would cost him the last month of the season.
Neil Walker became a full-time starter in 2010 for the Pirates and since then, he has proven to be one of the most reliable fantasy second basemen in the league. He has posted at least a .251/12 HR/53 RBI/57 R line per season, and while those are not elite levels of production, the consistency is welcomed from an MI.
The move to the Mets seemed to be a lateral move fantasy wise for Walker. Both stadiums play big, and both lineups were top-heavy. But, Walker was able to defy projections and carry the Mets offense for months at a time. He came out of the gates blazing, posting an unreal .307/9 HR/19 RBI month in April.
He did predictably slow down in May and June, .232/5 HR/13 RBI combined over both months, but heated right back up in July. He would not play a game past Aug. 27th, but he was on fire right before being shut down, to the tune of a .389/6 HR/10 RBI line. Outside of a rough June, he was a solid performer all season for fantasy owners.
Looking at his batted ball data, the only real spike was a jump in his FB rate which jumped to a career high 43%. Some owners may look at that as an outlier and a reason to stay away, but he notched 24 HR in 2014 with an FB rate that was nearly 5% lower. He has shown the ability to post solid power numbers, and that should not change especially if he keeps a more FB centered approach.
One odd stat from his 2016 stat line was that he only posted nine doubles. He posted a 21% LD which is right in line with his career norms, so expect him to climb back over the 25 2B mark in 2017. He also saw his BB rate climb back over 9%, which helped his OPS. Walker is a career .273 hitter so the .282 AVG last season was not purely luck driven either since he only had a league average .302 BABIP.
In terms of his counting stats, Walker looks to be in great position to be a RBI producer. He looks slotted to bat in either the cleanup or fifth spot in the order with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes most likely batting in front of him. The counting stats should be there again, only further boosting his value.
The surgery Walker had in the offseason repaired a herniated disk. The recovery timetable was three months, he had the surgery in September, so he should be good to go for spring training. The recovery rate is high with the type of surgery he had, so owners should not be too alarmed considering the Mets were comfortable bringing hm back.
Neil Walker is putting together a solid career. He will not post any monster type of seasons, but he can be routinely had in the later rounds for peanuts. Yet, his consistency at the position is nearly unmatched and owners should not sleep on his consistency heading into 2017.