MLB: Pirates vs Orioles MAR 05
Neil Walker - ZumaPress
In a Post-Gazette article from August 11, 2009, Neil Walker aired a complaint that he was not receiving an appropriate opportunity with the Pirates. Likely feeling pressure from above in Andy LaRoche and from below in Pedro Alvarez, he expressed confidence in his ability to play at the major league level.

“The sheer truth is that I’m a young guy, and I feel like I can play at the major league level,” Walker said before pausing. “And if Pittsburgh isn’t the place I make it, I’m confident there is somewhere that I will make it. I just really don’t know what the future is for me with this organization.”

“Treated differently?” Walker replied to a question on that topic. “I don’t know if ‘differently’ would be the right word, but you can tell who the old guys are and who the new guys are. I just look at it like this: In any situation, in any business, new bosses come in and want their guys and are more comfortable with people they see as their guys. That’s the situation I feel like I’m in. I’m not one of their guys. Bixler and I are not their guys, and it isn’t hard to tell we aren’t their guys.”

At the time, Walker was hitting .239/.295/.449 (.322 wOBA) in his second attempt at Triple-A. As one might imagine, the fan reaction was not very sympathetic. However, there were reports that some of the veteran Indianapolis players gave Walker a bit of advice after the interview was published. The general premise of the guidance was that a major league position must be earned, that it will not be handed to someone just because they were once a first round draft pick. (I believe this information came from Indians’ broadcaster Scott McCauley in an interview with Rocco DeMaro, but I can’t find the link right now.) Walker immediately caught fire, hitting .321/.360/.543 (.391 wOBA) in his final 81 at-bats with the Indians. He finished with an above average .264/.311/.480 (.345 wOBA) line in Indy and was a September call-up to Pittsburgh, playing sparingly over the final month.

Did something click for Walker after his objections became public? It is not out of the question for a 23-year-old to suddenly figure things out at Triple-A, especially a player with first round talent. Of course, Walker’s late season surge included a low walk rate, which has been the largest concern thus far in his career. That indicates that his success over the final few weeks was likely somewhat of a fluke.

Walker still profiles best as a major league bench player in the future, as opposed to a regular starter. He has become an above average third baseman defensively, and he possesses the athleticism to capably play any position outside of center field and shortstop. In addition, while he has struggled overall at the plate the past few years, his power numbers have been very good. Having a power presence coming off the bench would be nice, particularly with the positional flexibility that Walker offers.

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2 COMMENTS

    • I assume he will probably bounce around the diamond a bit at Indy. Shelby Ford, Jim Negrych, and maybe shortstops Brian Friday and Argenis Diaz will likely be considered for some playing time at 2B.

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