Mets360 2017 projections: Neil Walker

There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

Longfellow could have been talking about 2016 Neil Walker. His first 23 games of the year were good, as Walker posted a .315/.344/.620 line. And then from May 2 to July 26, he put up a .205/.294/.319 line over 262 PA. Then in his final 100 PA, Walker notched a .440/.490/.725 line. Curtis Granderson gets all of the grief about extended stretches of poor play but few gripe how Walker was awful for nearly three consecutive months, hitting at a rate equal to 2002 Rey Ordonez during the heart of the season.

Of course, no one hits within a few points of their average OPS all year. Yet Walker’s highs were great and his low was lengthy. You cannot get any consecutive 262-PA stretch for Granderson in 2016 where his OPS was below .700, much less within shouting distance of the .613 mark that Walker posted. So, are we turned off by Walker’s streaky nature? Here’s what we think he’ll do in 2017:

PA AVG OBP SLG HR RBI FB%
Dalton Allison 520 .282 .350 .480 22 76 50.0
Joe Barbieri 529 .269 .349 .453 19 72 36.1
John Fox 550 .277 .345 .439 20 70 40.0
Charlie Hangley 582 .267 .316 .512 22 87 41.0
Brian Joura 530 .275 .338 .465 20 71 42.0
Mike Koehler 400 .275 .340 .470 16 60 41.0
Matt Netter 525 .275 .328 .425 21 72 41.0
Jim O’Malley 575 .273 .338 .456 22 68 39.0
Rob Rogan 535 .268 .345 .435 14 63 36.5
Mike Ryan 565 .273 .339 .450 17 79 53.8
Chris Walendin 570 .275 .338 .435 19 67 40.5

While most of us don’t think he’ll quite match the overall production he produced in 2016, the vast majority of us have Walker producing at a strong rate. Only Matt, with a .753 OPS, has him noticeably below his lifetime .775 mark. We’re a little more worried about Walker being able to put in a full season. Nearly half of us have him in the 520-535 PA window, while Mike K. is particularly bearish with a 400-PA season.

Walker raised his ISO 36 points last year, thanks to tying his career-best in homers. Walker also established a career-high with a 43.3 FB%, the first time he cracked 40 percent since 2010. Our two newest writers are very bullish on Walker being able to build on his fly ball rate but most of us still see him maintaining a rate in the 40s, which should help him keep his HR totals high.

Here is our official forecast:

Walker2017

That’s a .792 OPS, down from his actual mark of .823 a season ago. That would still be a solid mark and we see him doing it in 83 more PA than he amassed in 2016.

Not anything directly related to our forecast but it will be interesting to see where Walker bats in the lineup this season, especially on days when Wright is playing. He batted fifth on Opening Day last year but hit fourth more than any spot in the order in 2016. However, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see Walker bat seventh this year. It might be an interesting gambit to bat Walker between two lefty hitters, tempting an opposing manager to bring in a LOOGY to face all three, thereby getting Walker some ABs against the lefty pitchers that he manhandled (1.001 OPS) last year.

The ZiPS forecasts were released for the Mets today, the 28th team. We’re not the last! We’re not the last! Here’s our forecast compared to the two computer models:

PA AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
Mets360 535 .275 .339 .453 19 71
Steamer 512 .261 .333 .443 19 60
ZiPS 521 .263 .329 .442 20 65

All three see very similar years from Walker. We project a higher AVG, a bit more power and a few more RBIs. But comparing our forecast to the big boys, there’s nothing really that stands out.

ZiPS throws out a comp for each player and for Walker it gives Ken McMullen, a guy not remembered much today but who was a very solid player who had the misfortune of playing in the deadball 60s. In 1972, the age-equivalent season to Walker’s 2016, McMullen was a down-ballot MVP guy. Then he was traded in a blockbuster to the Dodgers, who were breaking in their classic infield. McMullen started the first five games of the season at 3B and went 7-18 with a .921 OPS. But then he injured his back, played just twice in a two-month span and lost his job to Ron Cey. Then he experienced personal tragedy, when his wife died five months after giving birth. She was diagnosed with cancer but refused treatment until after the baby was born. McMullen was never the same again.

May Walker enjoy a much better fate.

3 comments for “Mets360 2017 projections: Neil Walker

  1. Metsense
    February 1, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Walker has been a professional, consistent batter through out is career. The three month stretch made be waiver on his abilities and quite frankly thought the Mets would not offer him a qualifying offer because of it (even though i advocated for it) I think he belongs in the fifth spot in the order between Bruce and Duda. If he bats 5th then I expect a career year in RBI’s with 85.
    PA 583 Avg 273 OBP 339 SLG 456 HR 23 RBI 85 FB% 41

    • February 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      It seems like Cabrera will bat 2nd but I wonder if Walker would be a good fit there.

      Granderson
      Cabrera
      Cespedes
      Duda
      Wright
      Bruce/Walker
      Walker/Bruce
      TDA
      Pitcher

      When Reyes plays instead of Wright, flip-flop the 3B and CF, so Reyes leads off and Granny bats fifth. Although I wonder if TDA moves up in the order then to break up the lefties.

      • Metsense
        February 2, 2017 at 6:39 am

        Most major league manager try to get the platoon advantage so always splitting the same side batters is a good strategy which may result in a Duda or Bruce batting 8th when Reyes plays in your scenario. There are so many batting order possibilities with so much flexibility. A good manager will take capitalize on this advantage. He would also have the opportunity to keep his players rested. The proper utilization of personnel in 2017 is essential by Collins especially with all the tools he has been given

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