Neil Walker at Second; Hart the Five?


Neil Walker fielded ground balls at second base today Rob Biertempfel reports via Twitter.  “I’m going to try them all,” he was quoted as saying to Biertempfel. 

Pirate fans this is going to be an interesting spring for Walker.  RumBunter has gone on record as saying this will be the year it clicks in the batter’s box for Walker.  There has never been a question about his glove or his arm at any time.

But Walker needs to demonstrate the ability to perform at other positions in order to improve his value to the club.  A third baseman that doesn’t hit well isn’t going to cut it.  A player that has position flexibility, the potential to hit for power, with two options, that’s a different animal.    BuccoFans is the most comprehensive source on player pages, and all the facts you could ask for are found there,  including the never ending remaining options question.  Here is Walker’s page, but  check them all out.

A utility position could be up for grabs as  Ramon Vazquez is questionable as he recovers from knee surgery.  Everyone has been talking about Bobby Crosby at the SS position.   But remember, Crosby has position flexibility although, we don’t believe he especially enjoys it.  He played more games at other positions for the A’s last year than he did short.  Crosby has said he came to Pittsburgh for an opportunity to start at SS. 

Meanwhile, Walker came to spring training as he told us, “willing to the help the team wherever I can.”  While we look forward to seeing Crosby and watching him prove he still has the ability to push Cedeno, his importance could come to the Pirates if both Jeff Clement and Garrett Jones struggle while at 1B. 

If given a choice, would you take Walker over Vazquez?  Give us youth any day of the week.  Walker has the power potential that Vazquez doesn’t, he simply needs to prove it.   He would provide an entirely different element in pinch-hit opportunities.    Clutch pinch-hitting was an area that Vazquez struggled to provide last season.

The super utility role was thought to be covered by Brian Bixler as Neal Huntington mentioned last season.  Bixler was working at a few positions in the infield and outfield last season.  Unfortunately for Bixler, he had a phobia with putting his bat on the baseball  in big league games. 

All of this could prove futile at midseason however, if Pedro Alvarez mashes at AAA.  He will have the 3B job which leaves Andy LaRoche and his nice glove and improving stick without a position.  So a decision with Aki  Iwamura would need to be made.    All kinds of decisions are forthcoming, but that is down the road.

Neil Walker is just trying to make sure his name is still in the mix for the present.

Kevin Hart  is the early favorite for the fifth starter?  Holy wild thing bat man.  What happened to Daniel McCutchen being the favorite?

God I love spring training.