"I'm hoping to stick with this team for a long time," Walker said. "If after this year [Moises] Alou is not back, maybe I'll have an opportunity to play left. If [Mark] Grudzielanek is not back, I'll have an opportunity to play second. For me, personally, it's a good deal. It gives me more options, and it gives them more options. As long as I hit, I'll be all right."
It seems that Todd got his first chance to play the outfield yesterday, spending five innings in left and getting nary an opportunity to use his glove. The quote just illustrates how anxious Walker is to play for a winning team, this team specifically, and his willingness to do what it takes to make himself a valuable commodity.
I must say, I like the chutzpah. This is the type of player I think all fans want to have on their club. He just wants to get out there and play; play hard, and win. There's nothing wrong with that, and as he says, all he has to do is hit. But does he hit enough to justify getting extensive time in left?
That doesn't look promising. Add in the fact that Mora, Giles, and Floyd all had fewer than 500 plate appearances, and the concept of "Todd Walker, Left Fielder" starts to look problematic.
Walker has a chance to be a great asset for the Cubs this year. He brings a left-handed bat with a bit of pop, and a fantastic willingness to try anything to help the team. Giving him the opportunity to be an Uber-Sub is a fine idea. Spotting him at various positions, particularly against right-handed pitchers, will give the regulars a chance to rest as well as using Walker's platoon split to advantage. Walker is hoping to stick with the Cubs for a long time, and if he's willing to continue in this vein in 2005, I'd love to have him on board. But he's no left fielder.
UPDATE: I realized after looking a little closer that VORP is adjusted for position, and so my comparison is a bit of apples and oranges. That's the good news. The bad news is the baseline for left fielders is considerably higher than the baseline for second basemen. Those players in the table above still outperformed Walker by a hefty margin, but instead of them being the only ones, there are even more.
According to PECOTA, Todd Walker projects to have an Equivalent Average of .257 in 2004. Among the 31 left fielders with 400 or more plate appearances in 2003, only 5 had a lower EQA. I may have gotten the details wrong in the work above, but the result is the same. Todd Walker shouldn't be a regular in left.