Neil Walker In Limbo

It's strange that the Pirates haven't told Neil Walker where he's going to play next year. Walker looks very unlikely to make the big-league team, and he'll be blocked at third at Indianapolis by Pedro Alvarez. The International League is a DH league, but Walker has defensive value, so it doesn't make much sense to play him there. Alvarez really shouldn't DH, either, since his development should be Indianapolis' top priority. 

Indianapolis won't be loaded with prospects at the other positions Walker might conceivably play. Erik Kratz is slated to catch; he'd probably be a capable MLB backup at this point, but he's too old to be a prospect. There's a mess of semi-interesting players (Shelby Ford, Brian Friday, Jim Negrych) who might play second, but no one worth worrying about too much. Jose Tabata will likely begin the year at one of the outfield positions, and Gorkys Hernandez might conceivably take another one, but that leaves a third spot open for Walker if the Pirates wanted to use him there.

So what's going on here? Why hasn't Walker received instructions to start work at another position? One possibility is that a trade is in the works, but that seems unlikely, since it's hard to imagine who would give up something interesting for Walker right now. Another is that the Pirates have given up on Walker, and would rather play guys like Kratz, Friday and outfielder Jon Van Every than give him a place to play. That too seems unlikely--even I would make sure Walker has a place to play at Indianapolis, and I'm far from his biggest fan.

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