AnalysisNL West

Christian Walker’s Renewal: D-Backs’ 1B/DH Alignment

As a result of the MLB lockout, every team’s blueprint looked murky to everyone on the outside throughout most of the offseason because of the ban on transactions at the major-league level. Since then, teams have had to play catch up and fast-forward a full-length offseason into a matter of weeks. Teams, however, had to at least act on one definite roster decision before all things baseball temporarily went into a total standstill beginning on December 2nd. Late November, the MLB non-tender deadline forced a lot of teams to decide whether to tender a contract to its arbitration-eligible players or to grant them free agency. Luckily for Arizona, most of the club is secured for the upcoming 2022 season on either guaranteed deals or aren’t eligible for arbitration yet. The deadline wasn’t entirely insignificant, as a pair of right-handed relievers – Noe Ramirez and J.B. Wendelken – avoided arbitration, both who joined the Diamondbacks midway through last season as much-needed reinforcements to its disastrous bullpen. Arizona acted as predicted for most of the decisions, but perhaps one that looked odd was to tender Christian Walker, plugging him for another season as the team’s primary first-baseman.

Walker’s Journey to Arizona

On paper, being a 5th-round pick out of a top-tier NCAA baseball division, and then posting his numbers along the way in pro-ball would seem like a safe bet to get a shot in the majors. Sadly for Walker, the likelihood of him being a big-league player wasn’t determined by his numbers. Walker‘s fate was sealed the moment he joined the Orioles, the moment he joined the Reds, and the moment he joined the Braves. Each of those teams had star-studded veterans (Chris Davis, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman, respectively) who’d already plugged themselves as their club’s first basemen. Regardless of any success in AAA, a legitimate opportunity for Walker in the bigs would’ve only come from filling a hole at first base – one that he couldn’t dig. After signing a minor-league deal with Arizona for the 2017 season, Walker was living the same stagnant story he’d been living the last three seasons in AAA with Baltimore.

After dealing franchise-cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt in the last few weeks of 2018 – a heart-breaking move that’ll probably stick with us Diamondbacks fans in perpetuity – Walker’s legitimate opportunity at first-base came in a rather dramatic fashion. The Diamondbacks summoned Walker to fill some big shoes after hanging around in AAA for five years, averaging roughly a dozen plate appearances annually in the bigs between Baltimore and Arizona in that span.

As uplifting as his path to the majors was, a glaring issue at hand overshadowed the heartwarming story and achievement. Goldschmidt indisputably left his mark on every Diamondback fan, the Arizona community and more candidly, the lineup. And much to the chagrin of Arizona, the replacement for the future Hall of Famer was a guy who hadn’t been heard of by perhaps the most fervent baseball fans. After twiddling his thumbs in the upper-level minors for as long as he did, Walker wasn’t going to let this evasive opportunity slip through his fingers.

In his first season holding the reins of first base, Walker held his own by batting to a slash line of .259/.348/.476, good for a 110 wRC+ and a 2.2 fWAR in 600 plate appearances. Those results weren’t Goldschmidt-type by any stretch and were bluntly rather poor from a first baseman – the usual core of an offense – but any production would’ve reaped benefits for an offense bound to take a massive hit after losing its core player for the better part of the last decade. That’s not to mention the loss of another bat who’d cemented himself in the lineup for nearly as long as Goldschmidt had done: AJ Pollock, a former first-round pick by Arizona, bade farewell once he landed a four-year deal with the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers a month after the Goldschmidt trade.

However, when looking under the hood at some of Walker’s underlying numbers, he revealed some intriguing, top-notch power that only a handful of the position’s premier sluggers lived up to. In 2019, 44.8% of Walker’s 375 batted-ball events were at least 95 miles an hour, which is known as a player’s “hard-hit” rate. To put in perspective, only one other first baseman – Matt Olson – posted a higher hard-hit rate that season. Similarly, 13.1% of his BBE’s were barreled – the optimal quality of contact, measured by exit velocity and launch angle – landing him in the 90th percentile in that category across MLB. The Pennsylvania-native’s showings of elite power hardly came at the expense of his plate discipline, as he maintained a good eye and swung at fewer pitches outside of the zone than expected with an explosive bat of his nature. If Walker’s decent performance for an already mediocre lineup and his striking power potential couldn’t soften the blow at all of Goldschmidt’s loss for Diamondbacks fans, perhaps it was bittersweet to watch Goldschmidt not emulate the exceptional talent that only we had the luxury of watching year in and year out donning a Dbacks uniform.

The future Hall of Famer had a debut campaign with his new club that wasn’t necessarily Goldschmidt-type either, as it was perhaps the least productive season in his esteemed career, indicated by an overall 3.0 fWAR – the lowest in his major-league career. Also, his slash line of .260/.346/.476 was, in fact, eerily similar – actually, nearly the exact same down to the decimal in all three statistics – to Walker’s. Mike Hazen looked like he nabbed Walker at a bargain: he earned a league-minimum salary of around $560,000, while his predecessor earned $14,500,000 for putting up a fairly similar performance in St. Louis. All in all, Mike Hazen was encouraged enough to roll the dice with Walker again for another go.

The 2019 season proved to be the only year in which Goldschmidt and Walker could ever produce results within the realm of each other. The Cardinals have surely gotten its money’s worth out of Goldschmidt the last two years after proving his debut campaign with the Cardinals to be an anomaly. He’s positively regressed to his usual high-caliber bat and glove, and he’s been a force to be reckoned with, including placing in the top 15 for NL MVP in consecutive seasons. On the opposite end, Arizona’s first-baseman situation shaped out much differently following Walker’s promising rookie campaign.

The earnest effort by he and his teammates brought a respectable 85-77 club record and a second-place finish in the NL West to the almighty Dodgers in 2019, but Arizona’s run couldn’t extend to October – something it’s only accomplished twice since 2011. Mike Hazen was perhaps in for some slight tinkering, but its first baseman configuration, fortunately, was one component that appeared in good hands going forward.

Christian Walker’s stats 2019-2021, per Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant

Walker couldn’t make anything more of the power that opened the eyes of many in the Dbacks’ front office. To Walker’s credit, when boiling down all his offensive contributions to an index number, OPS+, he technically repeated his performance from his rookie season, posting a 111 OPS+ in 2020. Although, the drastic decline from a well above-average to a subpar barrel%, as well as some sudden plate-discipline issues would have suggested a sink in his offense. The COVID season, however, with its minimal sample size along with other noisy variables, led many trying to make sense of certain odd results, like Walker’s ability to keep his bat afloat despite a fruitless performance by some metrics. His woes at the plate caught up to him in 2021, as he slashed to a .244/.315/.382 and spent a third of the season – all in the first half – on the IL from a hampering right oblique injury. Overall, his deplorable results were more representative of the woes at the plate he’s exhibited the last two seasons.

The pandemic-shortened, 60-game season was indisputably like no other in baseball’s history. From cardboard cutouts and teddy bears replacing fans in stadiums to the Dodgers winning the World Series, we watched events across MLB that’ll likely never happen again, at least in our lifetime. After placing second to last in the National League, the Diamondbacks prayed this was one of them. Depending on if you’re superstitious, you could entertain the possibility that we fans jinxed the utter shitshow that was the Diamondbacks’ 2021 season by venting throughout the prior season from our living room sofas – instead of the usual bleachers – that “it couldn’t get any worse than this,” as we watched the truncated season triggered by the pandemic.

The Odd Structure of the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona is a team still in the works who remain in the nascent and – at times – irking stages of figuring out which players are essential going forward and how to mold them into a newly-intact core. After finishing back-to-back seasons with some of the worst records in MLB, including a whopping 55 games behind for the NL West title in 2021, there aren’t lofty expectations heading into 2022. A lot of up-and-coming prospects will get their fair share on the field, and all will go through ups and downs, which is all part of the process of getting comfortable at the game’s highest level, like in any sport. As for its veterans, Arizona will seek a bounce-back season from several – both pitchers and hitters – to anchor a team filled with its young players who are still getting acquainted with the majors.

In left field, David Peralta – who is one removed from free agency for the first time in his career – will be called upon as the regular, while the club also holds prospects like Daulton Varsho, Cooper Hummel and highly-ranked prospect Alek Thomas – all who could feasibly take Peralta’s spot. Same goes for shortstop Nick Ahmed because his understudy Geraldo Perdomo – another coveted prospect within the organization – is soon to make an impact in the majors. He actually took on that role for the first dozen games of the 2021 regular season, as Ahmed dealt with a hamstring injury to begin the season.

This Spring Training, Arizona will have to decide on several key roster matters, as a lot of young players will be competing to earn a gig on the Opening Day roster. Two who have nearly secured a spot already heading into 2022 are Pavin Smith and Seth Beer, both who’ve mainly played first base throughout their development.

The Ascent of Pavin Smith – and the Natural Competition

Smith’s pedigree is perhaps higher than anyone else on the roster. When Arizona drafted him in the first round – seventh overall in the Nation – in the 2017 draft out of University of Virginia, he was surely to eventually be its core first baseman at some point down the road. The organization certainly had tall expectations for him, as they’d hoped he would’ve eventually evolved into an all-around, premium hitter. In his three seasons in college, Smith established himself as one of the best contact hitters in the country, as he batted above .300 each collegiate season – and in the Summer leagues too – while posting similar or higher BB% as his K% throughout his amateur career. It was clear that Pavin Smith had one of the best plate discipline approaches and sense of the zone amongst the ‘17 Draft class.

YearLevelPA’s ISOBB%K%wRC+
2017A – 222.09712.1%10.8%136
2018A +504.13711.3%12.9%101
Pavin Smith’s MILB and MLB stats 2017-’21, per Fangraphs

Pavin’s development didn’t necessarily go as planned, as some in the industry even at times thought the first-round pick was a bust, especially after an underwhelming 2018 season in A+ Ball. The substantial improvement to his power each year in the minors does help his case, but his peak minor league season, where he posted a .175 ISO in AA in 2019, isn’t that gleaming all together. Nevertheless, he’s still managed to be a quality hitter throughout the minors, as well into his MLB debut last season. Throughout his baseball career, Pavin’s plate discipline has been his calling card, which quickly propelled him through the Dbacks’ minor league system. Although a 96 wRC+ over the last two MLB seasons is very identical to Walker (96 wRC+), Pavin Smith, in my opinion, figures to take a big step forward in 2022 given his superior eye at the plate and knack for making consistently hard contact. In 2021, an extraordinary 17.3% Whiff rate that ranked in the 90th percentile and a Chase rate in the 75th percentile are two lauded skills for a batter to possess both of. Case in point, in 2021, merely two batters whiffed less and also had a higher hard-hit rate than Smith. To Arizona’s delight, one of them is its superstar Ketel Marte, while the other is five-time All-Star Michael Brantley, whose career .298 BA in over 5,000 plate appearances surely competes with some of the best overall hitting performances we’ve seen this century. To try to illustrate again: not even Juan Soto has produced a better whiff% and hard-hit rate in a single season so far. 

However, the disparity between Smith and Walker’s offensive production for this upcoming year is projected to be minimal by most models. Each first basemen brings a different skill-set to the table, but they’ve replicated each other’s results over the last two years, and projections have the two playing to parallel performances in 2022: Baseball Reference has Walker projected to slash to a .248/.324/.421, while projecting Pavin to a quite similar .263/.329/.410 line. Although, Arizona’s lineup woes revolve around its lack of power, not necessarily strikeout difficulties. In fact, most of the club’s hitters – young and old – are generally low-strikeout bats. Over the last three seasons, the Goldschmidt-less Dbacks’ offense has posted the 10th-best K% in MLB. The lineup’s deficiency is more revolved around the lack of power, as its awful .391 xSLG within than span ranks 3rd worst in MLB, only ahead of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, both who’ve also endured overall miserable campaigns recently. On the current 40-man roster, Walker has exhibited the best raw power at the major league level, albeit two seasons ago. The vast majority of Arizona’s hitters in 2022 – no matter how far a stride they take – will not hit close to the acclaimed 13% Barrel rate that he posted in 2019. Tendering Walker a contract for the ‘22 season shows the front office’s confidence that he’ll recoup some of the prodigious power that he lost two years ago to beef up its lackluster offense as of late. 

One could argue that Walker wouldn’t have a job on the Diamondbacks anymore if the Universal DH rule didn’t come to life, which’ll unequivocally enhance the opportunities available for National League teams’ batters from here on out. Despite its expectedness, the Universal DH was implemented in mid-February – two months after Arizona had to decide whether to retain Walker or not. Pavin Smith could’ve easily taken Walker’s role at first base, given his exceptional combination of plate discipline and hard-hitting abilities. Now, Arizona can get the best of both worlds, as Torey Lovullo can assemble its lineups with Walker intact while hardly limiting the opportunities for its youngsters like Pavin Smith going forward.

Even aside from the Universal DH, Smith would’ve likely still found himself in the regular lineup after enhancing his defensive versatility last season. While his mobility has always been subpar – which is typical of a first baseman – Torey Lovullo urgently assigned him a hefty role in 2021 to man the outfield for the first time in his career, as he logged nearly 700 innings between center and right field in wake of the persisting injuries around the club. Although his performance in center field was horrible – posting -10 DRS in 250 innings – he’ll likely be called upon occasionally to play right field again and could be an overall serviceable corner outfielder, in addition to primarily playing first base when on the field this season.

The possibility that Walker could replicate his power isn’t the only appealing factor remaining to the ballclub. Even at 32 years old, Walker perhaps remains more athletic than Smith, who is 7 years his junior. Although it’s hard to quantify a player’s athleticism because no real stat measures it, there’s certain metrics that can help get an idea, one of them being a player’s sprint speed. Per Baseball Savant, Walker’s sprint speed of 27.4 feet per second was third best in 2021 amongst 28 first basemen, while Smith graded roughly average for the position at 26.5 feet per second. Walker’s mobility certainly contributes to his defense, as an accumulative +2.7 UZR/150 and +12 DRS since 2019 both rank in the top 5 amongst all first basemen, per Fangraphs. Although, frankly, being a solid defender at the least defensive regarded position isn’t something to write home about and probably had little influence on the  decision to retain Walker again for 2022. Walker’s ability to handle first base only reaffirms Lovullo’s preset tendency to continue to expose Smith to the outfield going forward, as his offensive potential has urged Arizona to ensure he’ll have an available spot somewhere on the field on a standard basis.

Seth Beer Adds to the Complexity

Going along with Pavin Smith, Arizona is currently equipped with yet another youngster on the 40-man roster who could’ve potentially replaced Christian Walker after his three-year stint as the Diamondbacks’ first baseman. Seth Beer, who – like Pavin Smith and Christian Walker – is an inborn first basemen, made his MLB debut just last September and only tallied fewer than a dozen plate appearances in the bigs within that brief stint. Even so, he figures to be one of the club’s most prominent bats in a farm system loaded with them. Arizona’s pegged Beer as a future dominant, big-league hitter after acquiring him and three other prospects from the Houston Astros in the blockbuster deal for Zack Greinke at the eleventh hour of the 2019 trade deadline.

Beer, like Pavin Smith, is a former first-round pick – a year after Smith – and was selected by the Astros after emerging as one of the most polarizing bats in the 2018 Draft class after a Barry Bonds-like campaign at Clemson University, where he slashed to a cumulative .322/.498/.648 across three seasons. Unlike Smith, Beer faced few offensive significant obstacles in the minors, and the pop in his bat from college hardly diminished in professional ball. In three years in the minors – between two MLB organizations – Beer has batted to a .292/.392/.509 in 289 games. In recent years, he impressed the Diamondbacks’ front office for the ‘21 AAA season, where he’d batted a .289/.398/.511/ in 100 games with the Aces, albeit in the hitter-friendly environment of Reno, where the high altitude, amongst other factors, has generally favored hitters at Greater Nevada Field. He branched off the AAA season with a strong performance just months later in the ‘21 Arizona Fall League, where he slashed .315/.375/.452 in 80 trips to the plate.

The sky is not the limit for Beer, however, as he has well-known limitations and weaknesses as a ballplayer that date back to college. Scouts have always graded him as a bottom-of-the-scale runner with below-average range, which is the usual give-and-take tradeoff a team would incur from such a powerful first baseman. The Diamondbacks and Astros both had tried to increase his versatility by occasionally playing him in left field, where he logged roughly 500 innings in the minors, but Beer was relegated to first base throughout the entire ‘21 AAA season and subsequent Arizona Fall League. Plus, left field is a defensive position that’s already filled with lots of depth for the Diamondbacks.

During September call-ups of last season, Beer got his first taste of the bigs, and – within the blink of an eye – the disparity between Beer’s value with a bat versus a glove was recognized in the majors. On September 10, 2021, Beer appeared in his first game in the bigs – something that most minor-league players can only dream of. On a road game vs the Mariners, in the eight inning, Torey Lovullo called upon Seth Beer to pinch hit for Christian Walker – a move that he might utilize frequently this season. After laying off the first pitch – a sinker way inside from Diego Castillo – Beer fouled off the next one to make it a 1-1 count. If appearing in the big leagues isn’t remarkable enough – something that most minor-league players can ultimately only dream of – then his next swing ensured his first at-bat in the show would be one he couldn’t possibly ever forget. It goes without saying that a batter hitting a home run in their MLB at-bat is something you definitely don’t see everyday, and if there’s one conceivable way to make a good first impression in the big leagues as a hitter, it would to do such, which is an achievement that only Seth Beer and 126 other players have accomplished in MLB history. Within the following four games, his hot streak continued by tallying three base hits in eight plate appearances, acting as a pinch-hitter and a DH. In his first taste of the majors, he’d already begun to ensure his capabilities as a potent hitter at the highest level. Whether or not he could keep his defense afloat in the majors was the principal concern of Beer’s profile. 

On September 14th, Beer was starting on the field for the first time in his MLB career in Los Angeles versus the Dodgers. In the bottom of the first inning, Beer’s first case to prove himself as a sufficient defender arisen. With one out and a runner on second, shortstop Trea Turner scorched a line drive clocked at an exit velocity 97.8 mph towards Beer, who dove for it and deflected it, but it resulted in a double to give the Dodgers the lead in the first inning. Unfortunately, the score wasn’t the only issue at hand at that moment. Even as Max Muncy rounded third base and headed home to score, a lot of spectators’ eyes were fixed on something else on the field. Seth Beer didn’t look right over at first base. After manager Torey Lovullo and trainers came out to check on him, Seth Beer exited the game and Pavin Smith replaced him at first base – another first-base substitution move Lovullo could utilize this season. As numerous Dbacks battled injuries throughout the ‘21 season, it was fitting for Beer to catch and get infected with the club’s injury bug. Beer perhaps had perhaps the most extreme side effect amongst everyone on the injury-plagued roster, as it was revealed shortly thereafter that Beer dislocated his left shoulder. Just like that, Beer’s first moment in the bigs with a glove in his hand was just as memorable as his first with a bat – for less affectionate reasons, however. Roughly a week later – on September 23rd – Beer underwent surgery to address the injury and was projected to be sidelined for a couple of months. Since then, there haven’t been any updates regarding his health, but it’s likely that he’s recovered off the basis of the initial diagnosis announced by the team, after a whirlwind of an MLB debut six months beforehand.

On the 40-man roster, it’s evident that Beer benefits the most from the newly implemented Universal Designated Hitter rule, given the overwhelmingly poor defensive profile. As lots of young prospects will be competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster in Spring Training, which begins in a matter of days, Beer’s plea has already been heavily boosted by the Universal DH. Arizona has several prospect hitters to choose from, but Beer’s one of the most capable bats amongst them, and his performances all together throughout his career so far bode well for him right out of the gate. The last remaining obstacle for him to receive a full-time opportunity in the bigs seems to be his own health. Assuming an injury-free Beer shows up to Spring Training, he’ll likely receive a roster spot and will be limited to first-base duties if he’s on the field from here on out.

How Could Walker be Used in 2022?

On the current roster, he and Christian Walker have the luxury of being confined to the most sedentary position in the game. Not many other batters – namely veterans David Peralta, Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed – will even man a sole position on the field, let alone the least defensively regarded. In his tenure, Torey Lovullo has praised defensive versatility from Arizona’s young players, but it’s obvious that Walker and Beer were each given a lifelong hall pass to Secondary-Position class, where most Diamondbacks hitters are unwillingly enrolled this year. The universal DH allows teams to act leniently in regards employing players with minimal defensive value yet strong offensive value to compensate for it, like in Ariona’s case with Beer and Walker. However, the Diamondbacks could find it difficult to utilize just both of them to play first base and designated hitter, in whichever order. Beer and Walker clearly both fit the typical first base/ DH profile and possess the highest power potential – a trait that its lineups is in desperate need of – but the Diamondbacks are optimistic about other young hitters like – but not limited to – Daulton Varsho, Cooper Hummell and Jake McCarthy, and all seem to be knocking the door of the bigs, if they haven’t already earned a spot yet. The DH spot will not likely be a one and done deployment for Arizona, as there will be a surplus of bats to choose from.

By tendering Christian Walker for the 2022 season, Arizona is banking on him to repeat his 2019 performance, which frankly wasn’t that good overall, and attached a rather low ceiling to his peak season. While some metrics favored him to take a big step forward and that he underperformed in 2019, indicated by the difference between his actual and expected Slugging% (.476 SLG% versus .516 xSLG%), that has not been the case the case the past two seasons and begs the question if whether or not it’s worth it to wait yet another one to regain a mild ‘19 campaign for a club trying to turn the tide. On top of that, the D-backs’ 26-man roster is forced to holster one fewer young bat, who’ll also be more pertinent to the club in the long run, due to Walker’s occupation. In spite of the last few deficient seasons, the front office has continued to reassure its fans that its lauded prospects are climbing up the minor-league ladder and will be the framework for a competing roster. After Seth Beer, Jake McCarthy and other prospects who can make an impact debuted towards the end of last season, it was sensible to think GM Mike Hazen had been waiting on the edge of his throne the last few years to finally begin to implement pieces from its well-regarded farm system into the roster, particularly Walker’s role at first base.

If Walker was non-tendered last November, Mike Hazen could’ve created a first baseman in the aggregate. Seth Beer and Pavin Smith clearly both have attractive bat potential, and both have operated first base predominantly throughout their baseball careers. Even looking further down the depth chart, Arizona could’ve added Jordan Luplow to the first-base equation if Walker had been let go. Luplow, who was acquired from the Rays shortly before the lockout began, is an outfielder by trade, but he also operated first base for roughly 100 innings last season with Tampa Bay as well. As most of Arizona’s current outfielders on the 40-man roster are left-handed bats, the righty Luplow – a lefty killer in the past, shown by a whopping .474 wOBA in 155 plate appearances versus lefties in 2019 – was acquired to complement them in the outfield lineup. However, he could have possibly been used to complement the left-handed Beer and Smith at first-base, if that were the case this season. It’s quite possible that the Diamondbacks would’ve been better off, if not remained the same, by the deployment of that trio instead of primarily Christian Walker. Projections like Steamer also peg all three ballplayers to bat quite similarly to Walker this upcoming year, if not better. That hypothetical defensive alignment also doesn’t weigh the financial benefit obtained by non-tendering Walker and his arbitration salary. Entering his first year of arbitration, a $3.5 million salary might appear like a relatively inexpensive deal. Relative to the price tag, expected production and current necessity to the team of his teammates, Walker’s salary is out of proportion. As he’ll earn – barring any other transactions – the second-most amongst the non-veteran bats. As expected, Arizona’s most prominent prospects will earn league minimum – around $610,00 under the new CBA –  as they aren’t arbitration eligible. Due to the organization’s intent to stay within its usual payroll for the time being – at least until some it’s most notable prospects start to mold themselves into the roster –  Arizona could’ve made use of the $3.5 million to help patch a larger hole within its roster. In a recent talk with the media, Mike Hazen expressed the club’s offseason pursuit for high-leverage bullpen pieces and potentially also a third baseman, who’d likely bat righty, per Zach Buchanan of The Athletic. Although, that particular amount of money couldn’t exactly net a third basemen with a marginal production greater than the cheap price of just employing someone like Drew Ellis as the regular third basemen given the current free-agent market.

On one hand, if Walker can’t ignite a bounce back yet again, Mike Hazen logically wouldn’t hesitate to accelerate its painful retooling process by promoting Seth Beer and/or Pavin Smith to the starting first-base role, assuming either one bats to the part. Although, it’s very improbable that a nowadays cost-conscious team like Arizona would decide to tender a contract and reinvest a considerable amount of its budget to anyone it wasn’t certain would be effective – and used regularly – throughout a 162-game season, as more tempting young bats will be utilized as backups to its aging veterans. On the other hand, if Walker somehow locates his powerful bat while managing his discipline at the plate, it’s curious if Walker would be a part of Arizona’s long-term plans. Arizona is not viewed as a playoff contender, which brings a great opportunity to audition various inexperienced bats at the major-league level and see who takes home the cake. Arizona will still host season-long tryouts, although Walker’s appearance fills one of the limited roles for casting.

Walker’s renewal overall could be more of a testament to Arizona’s inclination to utilize Pavin Smith in right field more often this upcoming season, as well as to its inclination to use Seth Beer mostly at DH, given his defensive struggles and fixed liability to the team and himself when he’s on the field. 

One component of Christian Walker that’ll always be attached to him isn’t a statistic, metric or projection but rather the personal aspect of his journey to bigs and being overlooked all those years in AAA in the minors along the way. Walker’s road to the bigs is one of those stories that will be remembered by a lot of fans because of the natural underdog characteristics associated with it. However, the story that seemed to have a happy ending for him has opened itself up again today. After spending those years in the minors, where his opportunities to spread his wings in the majors were suppressed by another first baseman already intact within the club at the game’s highest level, Christian Walker could be living the same story once again, except as a different character.

Featured Photo: Arizona Diamondbacks / Twitter

Paul Beckman

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Paul Beckman graduated from Arizona State University in 2022.

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