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Oct 7, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) at the batting cage before playing the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League divisional series at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Grading the 2013 second basemen

The second base position is supposed to be one of strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that wasn’t necessarily the case during the 2013 season.

Neil Walker didn’t have his greatest season with the bat as he struggled early on, seemed to heat up late and then hit rock bottom with a hitless NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sep 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the third inning at PNC Park. The Reds won 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While he did struggle at times,  when he was hot, the Pirates offense was at its best as when he is going good, Walker can be very valuable in the two-hole of the Pirates lineup.

He’s in no danger of losing his job, but Walker’s 2013 campaign did very little to him earning a contract extension from the team. With that being said, let’s take a look at how the Pirates second baseman graded out during the 2013 season.

Neil Walker- .251 AVG/ .339 OBP/ .418 SLG, 16 HR, 53 RBI

Two years ago it was fair to mention Walker’s name among the best second basemen in the game. I don’t know if you can make that claim anymore after the past two seasons. The good news is that Walker stayed healthy for the most part and appeared in 133 games. The bad news is that he hit 22 points below his career average.

He also wasn’t the productive player that he was in 2011 as he drove in 30 less runs.

Walker’s .757 OPS wasn’t terrible as only Matt Carpenter and Chase Utley posted better numbers among regular National League second basemen. But Walker’s numbers have declined since his career season of 2011 and that is a bit concerning.

Then there is the fact that he struggles mightily against left-handed pitching where he hit only .225 with a measly .518 OPS.

The good news is that he didn’t take his struggles into the field where he posted a .989 fielding percentage.

But his struggles were magnified in the postseason where he played a major role in the Pirates series loss against the Cardinals. At this point in his career, you have to wonder if Walker is going to turn out to be nothing more than a platoon player.

The 2014 season is a big one for Walker. There are a lot worse options out there when you look at the second baseman around the league, but the Bucs certainly need more from Walker before they throw a lot of money his way. Grade: C+

Josh Harrison- .250 AVG/ .290 OBP/ .409 SLG, 3 HR, 14 RBI

I’m lumping Harrison in with the second baseman, even though he played a lot of positions.

Harrison had his usual two good weeks and hit a big walk-off homer to get the Bucs a big win against the Miami Marlins. But other than that it was the same old story with Harrison, who provides little value to the team.

He has a little pop in his bat, but his .290 OBP is just brutal, as his lifetime .282 OBP.

But after watching the likes of John McDonald and Brandon Inge early in the season, you can appreciate Harrison a little bit more. Grade: D+

To look at 2013 grades for Pirates’ catchers, Click Here

To look at 2013 grades for Pirates’ first basemen, Click Here

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Tags: Josh Harrison Neil Walker Pittsburgh Pirates

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