The news that Wander Franco had his rehab halted due to hand soreness was certainly a bummer for the Rays. Franco brings a different dimension to the lineup with his skills and all-around play.
But Franco’s absence means more time at shortstop for Taylor Walls. And though Walls’ offensive numbers more closely resemble Andrew Velazquez than Franco, his defensive presence merits considerable attention.
Walls has 16 Defensive Runs Saved this season, as he’s been the AL version of Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman, who leads the majors with 21 Runs Saved.
Early in 2022, Walls split time at multiple positions, accumulating 2 Runs Saved at 2nd base and 5 more at 3rd base. But since early July, he’s played exclusively at shortstop and excelled there, with 9 Runs Saved. We saw some of this last season too.
In fact, since the start of 2021, Walls ranks tied for third with 19 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop despite ranking 30th in innings played there.
When describing what Walls’ playmaking ledger looks like, the words “by any means necessary” come to mind. He plays all out, using his speed and his athleticism to his advantage. He’s been a standout defender both going to his left and to his right.
Walls has 15 Good Fielding Plays* at shortstop this season. On a per-inning basis, he ranks 3rd behind Nicky Lopez and Miguel Rojas. He’s also not someone who makes an inordinate number of mistakes. He ranks 6th in Defensive Misplays & Errors on a per-inning basis*
*Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays & Errors are tracked by our Video Scouts. We have approximately 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and 60 categories of Misplays & Errors.
In terms of outs recorded above expectations, Walls is sharp going in either direction, just as he was in 2021. In 2022, he ranks 4th when going to his left to make a play and 8th when going to his right.
The Rays are 25-18 since Franco played his last game. Walls may be a replacement-level hitter but he’s led shortstops with 7 Defensive Runs Saved since July 10. He’s more than done his part to keep the Rays in playoff position in the absence of one of their biggest stars.