Neil Walker, 30, was a Pirate lifer. He was Pittsburgh's first-round pick in 2004 (#11 overall) out of Pine-Richland HS. His versatility was evident, as the Bucs juggled him from catching to third and eventually to second with some quick OJT when Aki Iwamura fizzled in 2010. A big guy, he nevertheless settled into a fairly dependable fielder, although his range had been gradually shrinking in the past couple of seasons. He made up for glovework with his bat, providing the punchless Pirates with some pop from a middle infield spot. But the emergence of Josh Harrison, with Alen Hansen & perhaps Max Moroff in the wings, made him expendable.
|Neil Walker (2004 Bowman Heritage)|
Niese was the Mets’ opening day starter in 2013, but rotator cuff woes were followed by an elbow issue, and he fell behind the NY collection of young fireballers, ending the 2015 season in the pen. In 29 starts/33 appearances, he posted a 9-10/4.13 slash, which matched up with his 4.27 SIERA. But he is lefty, just 29 years old, controllable through 2018 and more importantly, Niese ranked seventh in the majors last season in groundball percentage at 54.5 percent. He features four pitches, a four seamer (89 MPH), cutter, curve and change; a hard tosser he is not.
|Jon Niese is comin' to town (Photo: USA Today)|
The question is where this leaves the Bucs right side when they break camp. We're waiting to see who Pedro's replacement is (Clint said they're looking for a platoon partner), and with Jung Ho Kang out for a yet undetermined period, Josh will likely start the year at third instead of his now-ordained spot at second. (Note: Kang is recovering quite well, so hopefully he won't lose too big a chunk of the season.) They don't even have S-Rod signed yet, so filling that void, even temporarily (plz no P-Flo!), should be challenging.
As for The Pittsburgh Kid, the fans will get to see him again on June 6th, when the Mets come to town.