There's no doubt about it; Zach Walters had a disappointing 2015 season. Tribe fans expected more out of the power-hitting prospect last year and, well, it just didn't work out. Let's take a look at just what happened with Walters recently and dip deep to show why it's too early to write him off as a valuable contributor for the Indians.
Walters was acquired at the 2014 trade deadline in a deal that sent Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals and made an impact right away in Cleveland. The switch-hitter belted seven home runs in just 88 at-bats and flashed a flair for the dramatic.
Many thought he'd be a fixture in Cleveland most of 2015, but a strained oblique early in the season really set Walters back. His slash line of .249/.310/.416 over 379 plate appearances at Triple-A Columbus was okay, but nothing remarkable. Walters also struggled mightily in Cleveland, rocking a 15:0 strikeout to walk rate in the bigs in just 30 at-bats (yuck).
So why should we care much about this 26-year-old guy without a true position who is coming off a mediocre at best 2015 season?
First, Walters has a sneaky high ceiling because of his power. His floor is a AAAA-like hacker who strikes out way too much, but what if his plate discipline improves a bit and his contract rate inches up? The Tribe could have a utility man or corner outfielder capable of 20+ home runs on their hands, with potential for even more. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Walters also offers defensive flexibility, as he can play all over the diamond reasonably well. Is he a wiz at shortstop? Absolutely not. Can he play an inning or two there or fill in during the second game of a doubleheader Sure.
Last year in Columbus he was bounced all over the diamond; playing 37 games in the outfield, 24 at third base, six at shortstop, five at second base, and 11 at first base. He finished with 10 errors in 91 games there, which isn't horrible. While he might fit best in the outfield, Walters seems like he could certainly handle a utility role defensively if his bat stays relevant.
Finally, I think Walters' early-season oblique injury could certainly have had a sizable impact on his poor 2015 season. Oblique injuries are never easy to overcome, especially those that occur at the start of the season. Walters did hit better in the second half of the season and was 11-35 from the plate in the Triple-A playoffs, with five doubles and two home runs.
So yes, Walters' 2015 season was lousy. And yes, he's running out of time to make his mark in the big leagues. But this power-hitting, potential utility man still is someone to keep an eye on. Here's hoping Walters' 2016 campaign is much improved and he spends at least some of it helping out our Indians in Cleveland.