Welcome to the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Christian Walker deep dive.
When Christian Walker hit 29 home runs in 2019, he looked like a solid power hitter that would hit in the middle of the Arizona Diamondbacks' lineup.
Unfortunately, he has only seven and ten home runs respectively ever since then. However, in 2022, he has hit 11 home runs in 43 games. This is already the second-best season in terms of the home runs.
Despite his power surge, his batting average is just .195. If he's a minus in the home run category, he would be painful to own going forward.
What is his season outlook? Is he merely a power hitter with a hole in his swing? Will his batting average stay around .200? Let's dive into it.
2022 Fantasy Baseball: Christian Walker Is Worth A look
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Improved Plate Discipline
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Christian Walker has been a hit or miss type hitter for the last seven years. Honestly, even though he's currently hitting below .200, it wouldn't be a surprise.
However, there are some noticeable changes in his peripherals. First of all, his swing strike rate is down to 10.5% this season. It's the first time he recorded a swing strike rate below league average level.
Moreover, when you look at the chart, you can see that he reduced the swing attempt by 9.7% compared to 2021. Zone contact increased by 5.7% as well.
This chart suggests that he becomes more selective and patient at the plate. Ostensibly, it contradicts his current low batting average. One thing that you need to keep in mind is that you cannot analyze players with one stat in baseball.
His current BABIP is .176, which is significantly low. According to Fangraphs, the best advice is to expect batters to BABIP close to their career average.
Christian Walker's career BABIP is .293. His career batting average has stayed around .250 with a .300 BABIP. If his trend doesn't change, we can expect him to hit around .250 going forward. If you add .50 each to his slash line, it would be .245 .341 .505. It's not the top tier level, but solid enough to get from a hitter that had 464 ADP on the draft day.
The Fastball Masher
Another interesting point is that his numbers against fastball got a lot better this season. He has been a fastball masher throughout his career.
However, it even improved to the next level with less whiff rate. He already hit ten home runs off fastballs. It's the same as the total of home runs he hit last season. A common symptom for a one-dimensional power hitter is that they have extreme pull%. It usually goes over 50%. However, Christian Walker only has a 40% pull% according to baseballsavant.com.
It indicates that his 11 home runs are not a result of power all-in mode. His low batting average could probably be from his low swing%.
I guess that he learned from his teammate Paul Goldschmidt. He's well known for not even swinging at the ball in the zone. Paul Goldschmidt's zone swing% has always been lowered than the league average. Maybe it's a practice for Cristian Walker to be more patient.
There are some reasons to believe his breakout. His Statcast data indicates he's not just a power-only hitter anymore. The improved plate discipline is the key for him.
If he can maintain the upgrade version of his plate discipline, he could be one of the breakout hitters when the season ends. I believe there are still a lot of fantasy managers who are skeptical about his potential. He's owned only 31% in Yahoo Fantasy Baseball. Pick him up and take a wait-and-see approach until his batting average regresses to BABIP.
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