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The Neil Walker vs. Jason Kipnis conundrum

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Drafting Ian Kinsler comes with the expectation that you'll need a backup plan as the Rangers second baseman has a tendency to get banged up. So, when I snagged Pirates second baseman Neil Walker in one league to fill that role, I couldn't have been more satisfied. That is, until I scanned the waiver wire at the draft's conclusion.

Jason Kipnis had gone undrafted, and for two weeks since then, his name has been staring at me, unowned, unprotected and entirely up-for-grabs, with the strong scents of upside and potential practically wafting through the computer.

I'm not going to carry three second basemen, so who's it going to be, Walker or Kipnis? Kipnis or Walker?

On Yahoo! each player had a projected value under $10 (Walker at $6, and Kipnis at $5). In standard drafts, the two were back-to-back on the second base listings, with Walker being drafted about 19 picks before Kipnis (172.6 for Walker and 191.3 for Kipnis), so clearly, others have had to decide between the two as well.

Walker is 26, and you know what you're going to get out of him. In 2010, he hit .296 with 12 homers, 66 RBIs and two steals in 110 games. Last season, he again hit 12 jacks, knocked in 83 runs and stole nine bases, consistent and reliable production.

But his predictability is also his flaw; at age 26, Walker isn't going to suddenly develop 30-homer power. In his five Minor League seasons, he hit 12, five, 13, 16, and 15 home runs.

Kipnis, on the other hand, will be just 25 on Opening Day, and he hit seven long balls and had five steals in a 36-game stint with the Indians at the end of last season.

Also, in his three Minor League seasons, Kipnis' OPS was never lower than .846, and he had an OPS of .841 for Cleveland after his call-up.

So why has Walker been going ahead of Kipnis in drafts? Well, for one, he's being considered for cleanup duty in the Pittsburgh lineup, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Walker has an average of .286 with 113 career RBIs in 276 at bats with runners in scoring position.

There could also be some concern that Kipnis is the next Gordon Beckham, another can't-miss second baseman who, after a titillating debut (.270, 14 home runs, 63 RBIs, seven steals in 103 games), has flat-out missed.

Now, Beckham is being drafted after light-hitting players such as Ryan Theriot (he of .697 career OPS) and Darwin Barney (.666 last year with two homers), so Beckham's case is something to consider before anointing Kipnis the next superstar middle infielder.

Even with all the information at hand, the decision between Walker and Kipnis is a tough one to make, so let's play the name game.

Neil Walker isn't an awful moniker, but there already is a famous Neil (Armstrong) and a baseball-playing Walker (Larry) who was pretty darn good.

As for Kipnis, there's nothing wrong with the name Jason, but it's the last name that grabs you.

Kipnisss. A name that hits hard in the first syllable and then rolls right off the tongue in the last, not unlike his ability to crush a ball out of the park in his first at bat and then swipe second base in the same game.

Kipnisss.

Kipnisss.

Kipnisss.

Sorry Neil. After two weeks of debate, I'm pointing and clicking to add the Tribe's stocky second sacker.

Prediction

Walker - .270, 13 homers, 89 RBIs, eight steals, .760 OPS

Kipnis - .280, 19 homers, 78 RBIs, 22 steals, .835 OPS


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