The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Neil Walker out of a local high school in the first round of the 2004 draft (11th overall). At the time, he was a young, promising, switch-hitting catcher. More than four years later, though, Walker is on the cusp of the Major Leagues but he has been converted to the hot corner.
The move from behind the plate really does hurt Walker’s potential quite a bit. With catchers, any type of offence is considered a bonus, as long as they play solid defence and call a good game. At third base, though, the bat is under the microscope as this position is traditionally a power position.
In five minor league seasons, Walker’s line looks like this: .273/.320/.426. That is OK, but not spectacular for a former No. 1 draft pick hoping to play third base at the Major League level, especially given that Walker hit just .242/.280/.414 in 505 at-bats during the 2008 Triple-A season. On the plus side, he did hit a career-high 16 homers and drove in 80 runs.
On the downside, he walked just 5.4% of the time, had an OPS of .697 and an ISO of .172, none of which screams impact bat. Walker will be just 24 next season but he will need to make some adjustments and get his bat going if he hopes to avoid getting left behind. Earlier this season, Pittsburgh obtained top third base prospect Andy LaRoche from the Los Angeles Dodges and he has a head start on claiming the title of third baseman of the future.