1. Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
Depending on what happens with Anthony Rizzo’s new deal — it’d be nice to have him back, too! — the Yankees could do worse than calling Arizona about their 31-year-old masher who grades out better than Rizzo in Outs Above Average.
Christian Walker had a largely overlooked season in the desert (and who could blame you for missing it?), but Arizona’s first baseman is a Statcast darling who just so happened to pile up the counting stats in 2022, too.
Walker drilled 36 homers, drove in 94 runs, posted an .804 OPS and made 667 plate appearances. Rizzo? 32 homers, 77 RBI, slightly higher .817 OPS and recurring back issues that make him a dodgy target moving forward. Both men had very similar seasons on the surface. Strip away the intangibles and add some better exit velocity numbers, and Walker could be a solid bet moving forward.
Rizzo’s average exit velocity? 57th percentile. Walker’s? 69th. Barrel percentage? Walker has the lead again, 92nd to 86th. OK, fine. Both men can mash. But OAA is really the difference-maker here. Walker’s range placed him in the 99th percentile of the metric. Rizzo? He finished in the icy blue 23rd percentile.
If you lose Rizzo, you lose championship pedigree. If he comes back on the right terms, and brings Judge with him, that would be an acceptable outcome in the Bronx. But if he demands an extra year, the Yankees might want to start crafting some Walker/D-Backs pitching packages.