In what’s surely the biggest intra-NYC-area battle since Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, I have been tasked with measuring Yankees second-year 2B Starlin Castro against Mets second-year 2B Neil Walker. Which NL Central transplant will take the title of the Big Apple’s best? Read on to find out, if the prior battle didn’t depress you too much.
Barring a standout season, neither Castro nor Walker is going to be standout here. Castro hit .300 in his first two seasons but has been shaky since then, finishing at .270 last season after hitting .265 in 2015. His free-swinging tendencies don’t help him, as a little better contact could go a long way. Even for someone entering his mythical age-27 season, he’s just been around too long to think he’s suddenly gonna put it together. While Walker isn’t exactly Tony Gwynn, and his decent .282 line from last season is nine points above his paltry career average, his floor is higher than Castro’s, and that’s good enough. Advantage: Walker
This is the easiest call in this matchup. Castro walks as eagerly as a cat in a rainstorm; Walker’s not exactly Joey Votto, but he has shown a consistent ability to get on-base, and his .339 career OBP equals the highest number Castro has put up in the last four years. His OBP will be higher. Advantage: Walker
Castro’s counting stats are generally higher than I presumed because the man plays every day, and his 21 taters were a career high last year. Whatever else bad I say about him in these pages (and, spoiler alert, I’ll say more bad stuff on Friday), that’s a nice output. That said, he managed those 21 dongs in 610 PAs, while Walker matched his own career high in 2016 with 23 bojacks, and did it in 458 PA. If he can last a full season—and even if he can’t—he’s got the edge. Advantage: Walker
Despite losing the three categories above, Castro has a decent shot to win out in RBIs. Okay, not that good a shot. This is by virtue of playing all the time on a better team; he has no fewer than 65 ribbies over the last three seasons, despite being offensively challenged. Walker only notched 55 last year, which is hard to do when you hit 23 home runs, but he was in the early 70s over two years in Pittsburgh before that. Barring injury, he’s still probably a better choice, but this one is as close as batting average, in that it’s basically a coin flip that goes to Walker. Advantage: Walker
Walker’s not going to run the table, but he’s going to win this category, too. Castro’s a terrible baserunner (we’ll get into the weeds on this in a moment), and this is where his lack of walks really hurts. Despite my own image of him as a leadoff-type, he scored a measly 63 runs last season, and it marked his highest output in five seasons. Walker put up 55 in his truncated year, and usually lands in the 60s and 70s. If he plays a full season, he’s a virtual lock to touch home more than Castro, as he usually does. Advantage: Walker
Starlin’s gonna win one, darlin’! Sort of. He’s basically the worst base-stealer in the major leagues, but not for lack of trying. He hasn’t touched double-digit steals in five years, and, with the exception of last year—when he grabbed four bags without being caught—he has put up god-awful SB:CS ratios. In 2014 and 2015, he was caught stealing just as often as he was successful, which is really bad! That said, he still tries as much or more than Walker, who stole three bags last year and was caught once and hasn’t grabbed more than four steals in five years. You’re not picking either of these guys for their wheels, but this one really comes down to your league rules punish you for failed SB attempts. Advantage: Castro (total steals), Walker (net steals)
Okay, now Castro’s really gonna win. Whatever else you can say about the guy, he doesn’t get hurt. He’s played 151 games in each of the last two years, and has played fewer than 150 games exactly once since his rookie year. Walker’s a pretty durable player, too, but he missed last September with a herniated disc, which bears watching in the new year. Advantage: Castro
If Castro hit his 99th percentile projection, he’d probably beat Walker simply based on the volume of his at-bats. He’s not going to hit his 99th percentile projection. Walker’s .282/.347/.476 line from last year is almost certainly good enough to beat whatever Castro puts up this year, and it’s possible he could be better than that. The ceilings aren’t high here, but Castro just flails too often to be great. He’s much more likely to hit his floor. Advantage: Walker
The nice thing about the Tale of the Tape is that unlike in the presidential election, the winner actually wins. Castro’s potential value lies strictly as a volume play, but he’s not someone you’re going to want to start if you can help it, whereas Walker could legitimately help your team. QUEENS REPRESENT and all that, because Neil’s the real deal.
And the winner is… Neil Walker.
Thank you for reading
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