Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker form a fine middle infield

A strong middle infield has been the key to many successful MLB clubs. The powerhouse Brooklyn Dodgers of the late ’40s and early ’50s had Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson at short and second base respectively, the go-go White Sox of the ’50s had HOFers Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox, the big red machine of the mid ’70s had Dave Concepcion and Joe Morgan, and there are many more examples.

The 2016 Met duo consisting of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and second sacker Neil Walker was not of that caliber but they were very productive. The switch-hitting Cabrera, despite dealing with a sore knee, put up an excellent slash line of .280/.336/.474 with 23 home runs. As a fielder, he did have some range limitations made worse by the knee problems but basically he gobbled up every ball he got to, he had only seven errors in 135 games at shortstop giving him a career-high FLD% of .986. His throwing was very accurate with plenty of zing on it.

Walker, another switch-hitter, had a comparable slash line of .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers. Walker missed all of September due to a back problem, but when he played he was similar to Cabrera in that he mostly comes up with all balls hit to him, although his range too was a bit limited due to his back injury. He also posted a .986 FLD%, same as Cabrera, in fact, their stats are so close it is almost eerie.

The Cabrera/Walker combination was one of the best middle infields the Mets have ever had. Some of the good Met middle infields of the past include the mid 80’s duo of shortstop Rafael Santana and second baseman Wally Backman, and the late ’90s and early 2000’s combination of shortstop Rey Ordonez and second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. All were excellent in the field, Backman could hit and Alfonzo was a terrific hitter as well, but unfortunately the slender Ordonez and Sanatana were notoriously light hitters.

There was one combination from the past that probably was a little better than the current middle infield. In 2006 a young Jose Reyes had a stellar season at shortstop for the Mets, with a slash line of .300/.354/.487 with 19 homers and 64 SB. Reyes may not have been quite as sure handed as Cabrera but he did get to a lot of balls and had electric velocity on throws to first.

The second baseman in 2006 for the Mets was Jose Valentin, who put up a slash line of .271/.330/.490 with 18 home runs. So as much as I like Cabrera and Walker, a slight edge might go to that 2006 Met middle infield.

However, it should be noted that the best may be yet to come for Cabrera and Walker in 2017. Both seem to have recovered from the injuries that hampered them in 2016. Both will be in their age 31 season which is still near peak for many baseball players. They have a year under their belt as double-play partners, and they look good turning twin killings. In the 2017 spring training season each has hit 3 homers as of this writing. Cabrera has positively smoked the ball for a .360 batting average in ST, although Walker’s .245 mark is more pedestrian. True it is only spring training, but the fact that both have looked good at the plate and in the field is a positive sign.

If both stay relatively healthy in 2017, they may well prove to be the best middle infield combination the Mets have ever had. That scenario would go a long way toward powering the Mets into the post-season once again.

9 comments for “Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker form a fine middle infield

  1. March 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

    It’s nice to have real offensive prowess at two positions that tend to have defense-first skillsets.

  2. March 29, 2017 at 11:17 am

    I like Walker and I’m fine with Cabrera keeping the seat warm for Rosario. However, I think Cabrera should be batting lower in the order, possibly eighth on days when TDA catches.

    • Chris F
      March 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      where do you bat TdA? 10th?

      • John Fox
        March 29, 2017 at 2:27 pm

        Its just spring training, but d’Arnaud’s .326 BA and .943 OPS so far does not sound like stats for a bottom of the order hitter.

        • Jimmy P
          March 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm

          It is an inelegantly constructed roster, to put it mildly. There’s no shape to the lineup, little diversity of weaponry.

          Against RHP, Reyes should bat 8th.

          I’d love to see Bruce gone. But failing that, I’d like to see d’Arnaud in the middle of that Duda/Bruce sandwich — but at the same time, recognize that he’s got to earn it. I don’t know if there are right answers with this particular group of players. I was impressed by Cabrera’s bat last season. I wonder if he’s figured something out, a guy who matches up well with Kevin Long.

        • Chris F
          March 29, 2017 at 3:34 pm

          Dont believe a single number of that production. ST numbers have zero value.

          • March 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm

            Once upon a time he was a top prospect with plus offense and solid defense. Maybe some of that was legit after all…

            • Jimmy P
              March 29, 2017 at 10:28 pm

              In 2015, he had a great year at the plate w/ terrific numbers. I think he was behind on Posey on OPS+ or one of those stats. For a catcher, he raked.

              He had a bad shoulder last season and it all went South.

              Spring Training numbers don’t mean much, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be learned. The approach looks different, the swing looks different, the shoulder looks healthy, and the hard hit balls are encouraging. There’s talent there, IMO. I think if he can stay on the field, the offense will be there.

  3. Metsense
    March 30, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Cabrera and Walker are indeed a solid keystone combination and the fact that Cabrera played in 87% and Walker in only 70% of the 2016 season only excites me more that this is going to be a memorable year. Based on bWAR Walker was a 2.4 and Cabrera a 2.7 for a total bWAR of 5.1 but I found four other tandems in Met history better.
    1971 Bud Harrelson 4.6 Ken Boswell 1.7 total 6.3
    2007 Jose Reyes 5.1 Luis Castillo 1.6 total 6.7
    1999 Edgardo Alfonso 6.0 Rey Ordonez 2.8 total 8.8
    2007 Jose Reyes 5.8 Jose Valentine 3.6 total 9.4

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