February 17, 2007

Making Sense of Walker

One thing the announcement of Walker moving to third clarifies is the signing of Einar Diaz to a minor league deal. That move, coupled with resigning Maldanado, would have blocked Walker from advancing to AAA this season. Both Diaz and Maldanado are decent options in the event of an injury to one of the MLB trio.

We already have three catchers at the MLB level that are in their 20's and the two catchers in AAA with major league experience (Maldanado and Diaz). With so many catchers above him, Walker would have started the year sixth on the catching depth chart.

Third base is not as filled through the minors and majors as catcher is. Since Edwards or DeCaster are the likely AAA third basemen, Walker moving to AAA is not blocked. Both Edwards and DeCaster are really utility players filling a hole at third in Indy.

At the MLB level we have Sanchez, who can move to 2B easily, this is actually a better fit for him. Bautista is another option at 3B for the Pirates, but he is just as adequate in the outfield as he is at 3B.

Moving Walker almost solidifies Bautista being relegated to utility duty or a move to the outfield. My bet is he is the future right fielder in 2008 or 2009, likely when McCutchen arrives. Makes you wonder about Duffy now, doesn't it?

As we all know it is a make or break season for Duffy.

Back to Walker and what this means...

Some are asking why the Pirates would move a top prospect to a new position when they have a singles hitting catcher manning the MLB position now. I will attempt to prove Paulino being a single hitter a misconception. Paulino is far from a singles hitter, at least based on Minor League stats.

Paulino averaged one home run per every 34.197 at bats in the minors. Paulinos' career minor league home run numbers are better than Doumit (37.568 AB's) and Walker (49.810) to date.

Using Walkers numbers are not truly a fair comparison due to Walkers' age and Minor League level. I have attempted to level the playing field by getting as close to Walkers 1046 Minor League at bats for the players he will be compared to. The hardest comparison will be with Bautista, since he was a Rule 5 casualty, so I limited the at bats to under age 22, Bautista was 24 by the time he amassed 1000 MiLB at bats.

Bautista obviously has show more power potential than Walker, Doumit or Paulino by averaging a home run every 35.250 minor league at bats through age 22. Paulino (47.120) was the second most potent deep ball threat in the low minors.

The question that will likely arise is why move Bautista then? Outside McCutchen and Walker, there is no power in the minors even close to the majors at any position. Bautista has shown the ability to play a good defense in the outfield and has handled the bat fairly well in limited MLB time. Since he can play the outfield, he is perfect to move to right field, with McCutchen taking center away from Duffy when he arrives.

Fans are hopeful for Doumit to be a power hitter the Pirates still need. His minor league comparisons to Walker, Paulino and Bautista show why he is slated for the Craig Wilson role on the Pirates. He will be a power bat, just look for it to be from the bench.

Hopefully all of these numbers thrown around actually show why Walker moving to 3B is best for the team and the player. I look for late season call ups of Walker and McCutchen to show what we have to look forward to as fans in the immediate future of this team.
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