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Mets 2017 Season Preview: Which player is most likely to disappoint?

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Feb 14, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) field ground balls during spring training workouts at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) field ground balls during spring training workouts at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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Richard Gueren, Staff Writer

Unfortunately, I believe that Neil Walker will be the player most likely to disappoint in 2017. This would be really unfortunate for Walker, who impressed in enough ways last year to warrant consideration of a long-term contract. Mets GM Sandy Alderson announced during Spring Training that talks between Walker and the Mets had begun even though there wasn’t much progress to report yet. Nevertheless, the Mets are expecting a lot from Walker this year both in terms of his solid defense at second base and as a force in the lineup.

Walker was limited to 113 games last year after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. With the surgery behind him, he announced in early November his intention to accept the one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer. Walker, a native of Pittsburgh who spent most of his major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was acquired in the deal that temporarily shipped pitcher Jon Niese to Pittsburgh. He played well, posting (.282/.347/.476) and hitting 23 home runs while driving in 55 runs. Walker is also a positive presence in the clubhouse, helping to lighten the mood of the team.

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However, lost in those fairly positive numbers were his struggles, which became particular taxing to the team when it couldn’t score runs for large parts of last season. Walker had a particularly rough month of July, when he was mired in a 0-10 slump at the plate in late July and a paltry .155 average in the month. Other players, particularly Asdrubal Cabrera, struggled to drive in runners in scoring position (RISP).

The worst part for Walker was the fact that his manager cited how the slump had gotten into his head and the way in which it prevented him from quickly getting out of it. This unfortunately resulted in Walker being taken out of the lineup or needing days off to clear his mind.

In 2017, I unfortunately don’t see how this dynamic will change in a big way. For the Mets, they are largely bringing back the same lineup as last year. The only differences may lie in the exact arrangement of the batting order, which may help Walker over the course of a 162 game season.

Additionally, as all close observers know, the Mets lineup is constructed in a “boom or bust” fashion. It seemed that the only way the Mets scored runs in 2016 was via the long ball. And that offensive one-dimensional that infected large portions of the lineup may affect Walker, who should just focus on accumulating as many hits as he can and staying productive.

While I’m not saying Walker will be so bad as to lose his starting position, I’m saying that Walker will continue to disappoint especially as he is trying to gain that longer-term contract.

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