Neil Walker

Neil Walker is your clutch god


Update: Dejan’s tweet was a joke. My apologies for taking it seriously and using it to make a point. I don’t want to take the post down and I think my point still stands, but I want to make it clear that Mr. Kovacevic does not actually feel the way described below.


At least, that’s the theory being put forth by former Pirates beat guy turned columnist Dejan Kovacevic:


And, yeah, there’s no doubt that Walker has been clutch over the course of his career. Look at his lines:

Bases empty: .247/.301/.365
Runners on: .320/.379/.480
RISP………..: .295/.363/.429
RISP w/2 outs: .257/.340/.396
Bases loaded: .565/.538/.913 (13-for-23, 1 HR)

So, the Pittsburgh media, or Kovacevic at least, celebrates Walker’s clutchness.

But why on earth should we? The idea that Walker steps up his performance for one or two at-bats every night instead of the four he gets? That he can’t be at his absolute best for the entire five to eight minutes he spends in the batter’s box a night, but only the five or 10 at-bats he gets per week in bigger situations?

That would be a failing, not a thing to celebrate.

Because if we accept that Walker is clutch — that his numbers with runners on and the bases loaded are no fluke — then we’re admitting he’s an awful hitter the other 60 percent of the time.

Now, I don’t think any of that is the case. Maybe Walker has some concentration issues that’s led to his splits, but I think it’s more likely that those splits will simply begin to even out with time. I don’t believe that Walker is a lousy hitter who turns into a good one with men on base, nor do I believe that he’s a great one who just doesn’t really try when no one is on. Neither explanation makes much sense to me.

Angels sign outfielder Rafael Ortega to one-year contract

Rafael Ortega
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According to the official Twitter account of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the club has agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Rafael Ortega.

It’s worth the MLB minimum, which should be a little north of $507,000 in 2016.

Ortega was once considered a top prospect in the Rockies’ minor league system, but he has made only six total plate appearances at the big league level since signing out of Venezuela in 2008. The 24-year-old batted .286/.367/.378 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases in 131 games this past season for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.

He’ll be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot next spring in Angels camp.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
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Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.