Pittsburgh Pirates: Why Neil Walker has been their best player so far

Neil Walker

Neil Walker

With the second-highest OPS in the National League, Neil Walker may be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ best players. Everyone knows the name Andrew McCutchen and he is one of the Buccos’ better players, but Walker’s play has meant a lot to this team and has been surprising in a somewhat disappointing season so far.

The switch-hitting Walker has 10 home runs and 26 RBIs, which ranks first in the NL among second baseman. How many people thought Walker would lead the Pirates in homers and not Pedro Alvarez? Probably not many.

Walker’s home run on Saturday off of Washington National’s pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg helped the Pirates win and marked the fifth straight season he has hit at least 10 homers.

On Monday against the New York Mets, he helped the ninth inning; Walker singled and scored on Gaby Sanchez’s single off Jose Valverde, which gave the Pirates the lead.

“I don’t think there’s anything different about my approach,” Walker said on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan. “I think towards the end of last year, I made a small adjustment left-handed that’s helped me a little bit with some leverage and getting my swing off. And, I think that’s the most important thing for me.

Many fans criticized him after a disappointing season batting from the right side of the plate. They wanted him to strictly bat from the left side, but this year Walker is batting .313 with one home run and two RBIs, which is better than his .258 from the left side.

The Pittsburgh kid is also finding more ways to get on base this year. The strikeouts are down and the walks are up.

If Walker keeps up the pace, he could find himself on the NL All-Star roster. He is dazzling with the bat and adds a solid glove on the field.

Hopefully, Pittsburgh will lock the hometown hero up for the long term. They Pirates have not made another contract offer to him. Perhaps they will let Walker walk away as a free agent or even trade him this year or next. If that is the case, the Pirates would be letting a valuable piece of property walk away.