Last week, we looked at Lucas Duda and determined that he might be a player who is being slightly undervalued by the fantasy baseball community entering the 2016 season. This week, I’d like to put Neil Walker under the microscope. You might be thinking, “Neil Walker? He’s as boring as a Ben Stein lecture. Are you a Mets fanboy or something?” That’s a fair question. Maybe that World Series run caused me to hop on the bandwagon. Or maybe all of the hip hop talk in the comments this offseason has me reminiscing about Rakim talking about his queens from Queens. I’m not really sure.
However, I am sure that Walker is no queen. He might be an actual sleeper this year though, if such a thing even exists anymore. You could even say that he’s a *pinkie to mouth* sleepwalker. Right? Hello? *crickets* Moving on then! So what makes Walker an interesting fantasy option in 2016?
Well, for starters, he’s hit the 2nd most home runs (39) among all MLB second basemen over the last two seasons. He has the 4th highest RBI total (147) at the position as well. His 143 runs scored over that span outpaced Daniel Murphy, Dustin Pedroia, and Starlin Castro in that category. In fact, his average season when combining the 2014-15 campaigns compares somewhat favorably to one of the position’s elite producers, Robinson Cano:
Cano’s average season (’14-’15): 670 PA, 80 R, 18 HR, 80 RBI, 6 SB, .300/.358/.450
Walker’s average season (’14-’15): 587 PA, 72 R, 20 HR, 74 RBI, 3 SB, .270/.335/.446
Walker missed some time due to injury in 2014, but he still managed to outhomer Cano and keep pace with him in terms of counting stats. The only real difference between the two was in the batting average category. Cano is entering his age 33 season and currently has an NFBC ADP of 54.74. Walker is entering his age 30 season and has an ADP of 239.45.
Walker’s greatest asset might be his consistency. He’s produced a batting average of .269 or better in 5 of the last 6 seasons. He’s hit at least 16 homers in each of the last 3 seasons. He’s scored at least 62 runs in each of the last 5 seasons. He’s knocked in at least 66 runs in 5 out of the last 6 seasons, including at least 71 in each of the last two.
When evaluated individually, these numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but when viewed together, it paints the picture of a very solid fantasy option. Think about it this way. If you pair Walker with a player like Delino DeShields, you could get roughly 25 homers, 40 steals, a .265 average, and solid counting stats out of your #4 OF and MI slots without burning a premium pick in the process. It might be a good idea to do some sleepwalking on draft day this year.