Yankees getting nothing from Neil Walker so far this season
When the Yankees signed Neil Walker deep into spring training they expected him to provide a veteran presence to their lineup and stability to what was going to be an inexperienced infield. So far this season that’s been far from the case as Walker has struggled mightily hitting an abysmal .179 with only two extra-base hits.
Throughout his career with the Pirates, Mets, and Brewers, Walker was Mr. Consistentcy. He never blew you away with All-Star numbers but by the end of the season, the production was always there around a .270 average with close to 20 home runs and 75 RBI.
The Yankees would have signed up for that in a second this season, however, right now Walker has one of the coldest bats going in baseball. The sample size is small with only 56 at-bats, but Walker has done nothing to make you think that he might break out of his slump anytime soon. There’s been nothing but soft contact of his bat in the early going and while his defense at first-base has been surprisingly good Walker’s chances to play every day might be slim moving forward.
Of the main reasons for the lack of production could be that he signed so late into spring training. That’s likely the case, but Walker won’t use that an excuse and the Yankees themselves don’t have time for excuses with the season well underway.
If Greg Bird can come back healthy at some point in May like the Yankees expect you can be sure he’ll be the primary first basemen upon his return. In the meantime, we could see more of Tyler Austin and less of Walker. That was the case Friday night as Walker sat the bench and Austin produced a two-run home run in the Yankees 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Austin is still facing a five-game suspension in the coming days, but until he hears back about his appeal he deserves to get more reps than Walker at the moment.
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Another option could be the emerging Miguel Andujar who has recently been taking reps at first base. Andujar now four straight games with an extra-base hit including another home run last night so it looks like the Yankees will continue to find ways to keep his bat in the lineup.
Because he has struggled defensively at third at times the Yanks may also opt to keep the more sure-handed Ronald Torreyes at the hot corner, especially with how well Toe has been swinging the bat.
Walker’s playing time could also soon see a decrease because of the potential call-up of top prospect Gleyebr Torres. It’s no secret that he is raking to start his season at Triple-A and now that the Yankees gained that extra-year of control on him it’s only a matter of time before he makes his big league debut.
With second basemen Tyler Wade struggling even more than Walker it makes too much sense for Torres to come up and replace him on the roster.
The Yankees did pay Walker over $4 million to play for them this season so his roster spot isn’t in jeopardy like Wade’s but right now they can’t really afford to keep waiting on him to break out. He’s certainly capable of getting hot and playing at a high level, but the Yankees aren’t getting much production from the bottom three in their order of late and that needs to change.
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As the Red Sox continue to separate themselves from the pack at the top of the division the Yankees need to start winning some games so they’re not digging themselves out of a big hole all season long. There’s more to the team’s slow start than just Walker but now is not the time to stick with a struggling player just because of his track record.