Neil Walker's time is running out
Late in the offseason, the Yanks made a minor splash in signing veteran infielder Neil Walker, shoring up the team’s depth in the infield. So far, the deal just hasn’t worked itself out, as Walker’s late start to his spring training has ultimately affected his play. His one-year, $4 million deal was a low-risk deal that hasn’t paid off and possibly won’t have the potential to do so.
Already nearing the month of May, Yankees fans are still waiting for the second baseman’s bat to wake up. A career .271 hitter with 130 homers under his belt, Walker hasn’t been able to stay above the Mendoza line for virtually the entire season thus far. Through 15 games played and 60 ABs, he’s registered just 11 hits (.183 BA) to go alongside the lowly amount of two extra-base hits, each of which were doubles. Walker is coming off a season where he played for both the Brewers and the crosstown-rival Mets, combining to slash .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. Just two seasons ago, in 2016, Walker hit 23 homers with a .282 batting average for the Mets. Walker’s always been a slightly below-average defender with an above-average bat, but both parts of his game have been disappointing this year. Just less than a month in, Walker has registered a -0.3 offensive WAR and a -0.3 WAR on defense, combining for an overall WAR of -0.6.
With Gleyber Torres getting called up Sunday and likely here to stay, there may not be a spot on the roster for Walker. Torres, along with starters Didi Gregorius, Tyler Austin and Miguel Andujar plus utility man Ronald Torreyes having roster spots locked up already, plus the impending return of Brandon Drury from injury, the Yanks are maxed out in the infield and don't need to carry seven infielders. The roster crunch only gets tighter once Greg Bird returns to the team from the DL. Drury will begin rehabbing this week and could rejoin the team as early as next week, and Bird should be back here within the next month. Walker’s ability to play first base has saved him in that a large part of the team’s depth at that position has been plagued from injury due to Billy McKinney and Bird going down.
My personal opinion is that Walker deserves a bit of a break from Yankees fans, having not signed with the team until late in the offseason. Walker is an established, proven veteran that should be able to turn around this rough start to the season, but if he doesn’t do that soon, his time with the Yanks won’t even last into the All-Star break. That’s especially true when you consider that Adam Lind, re-signed to a minor league contract last week, would likely be an upgrade over Walker at this point.
The point being is that Walker’s track record suggests he’ll bounce back, but the Yankees might not ultimately have room on the roster for that to come to fruition. Walker's veteran leadership could help the development of guys like Torres and Andujar, but the time is now for him to shed the scapegoat label. If Walker is still hitting this way come May, then the Yanks would be wise to part ways with him.
All stats via Baseball Reference.
Article by: Spencer Schultz