The Yankees have inked Neil Walker to a deal. Now in pinstripes, what is the fantasy fallout of the signing?
It is a sign of the free agent market when a player such as Neil Walker not only lasts on the waiver wire till Mar. 12, but has to settle for only $4 million at that. The Yankees jumped at the opportunity, inking one of the most productive second basemen in baseball over the last seven years to be their starter two weeks into spring training.
What is the fantasy fallout of the deal though?
Walker spent 2017 with the Mets and Brewers, finishing the season with a .265/14 HR/49 RBI/.801 OPS line over 111 games. He missed a huge chunk of June and, nearly all of July, thanks to a partially torn hamstring. That sabotaged a blazing stretch mid-season, where he batted no less than .310 in any month.
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There was a ton to like in Walker’s batted ball considering he is a veteran. He made huge strides in his plate approach, posting a career-high 12% BB rate. He maintained a 17% K rate, but the walks were a huge buoy to his OPS.
His LD rate stayed solid at 22%, as did his 42% FB rate. His 36% GB was not atrocious, especially considering he made a ton of solid contact at the plate, 50% Med and 33% Hard rates.
Walker made his money against righties in 2017, posting a .277/13 HR/40 RBI/.842 OPS line. Combine that with his 43% Pull rate, and it easy to see why the Yankees were interested in him throughout this offseason.
With his refined plate approach, making pitchers throw him more strikes especially, Walker has offered himself the ability to attack more at the plate. Playing half his games at Yankees Stadium, among the other fantasy friendly AL East parks, certainly offers him the ability to flirt with the 20 HR mark again.
In terms of the team, and larger fantasy implications, Brian Cashman, said that Walker will be asked to play first, second, and third base. The biggest implication that has is on youngsters, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.
Andujar has cooled off some since his hot start, and Torres has battled rust. Now that Andujar and Torres are blocked by veterans, they are both ticketed to minor league ball. Fortunately for both kids, all it would take is for a hot start in the minors and a slow stretch by either vet for them to earn a quick promotion.
It would be remiss not to mention that Walker struggled mightily against lefties last season, .214/0 HR/5 RBI/.610 OPS line. That limits his AVG, but Walker was able to sustain a .265 AVG even though.
Looking at the Yankees’ lineup Walker will find a spot at the bottom of the order, yet will find plenty of counting stats chances. Outside of his 149 at-bats at Miller Park, Yankees stadium is the first time he will play a majority of home games at a hitter-friendly park.
Second base is deep this season, so Walker does not need to be targeted as a fantasy starter. But, he starts to shape up to be a solid late-round MI or UTIL flier. With his improved approach, stacked lineup, and home ballpark, a .265/20 HR/70 RBI type of line is very doable.