Taijuan Walker -- RHP – Seattle Mariners
Height: 6'4" Weight: 210 lbs. -- Hits: Right Throws: Right
2013 Stats (AA & AAA) – 9-10, 2.93 ERA, 141.1 Innings, 160 K's, 1.19 WHIP
Taijuan Walker is a former first round pick who throws three pitches and has developed a fourth (cut-fastball) during the 2013 season. He is a very athletic kid who was a very decorated Basketball Player in High School. Despite having a heavy 95-97 MPH fastball, Walker has had trouble finishing off his other pitches. His curveball comes out flat at times due to a lack of follow through on his delivery. He is able to keep lefties off balance with his rapidly improving cutter but has struggled against right handed hitters of late. His changeup is still very raw and he has trouble controlling it at times. Despite just learning the pitch a year ago his cutter would grade out currently as his second best offering. He was dominant in the lower minor leagues but has been hit more consistently since skipping single-A ball. Walker looks the part of a prototypical ace with his 6 foot 4 inch frame and lean build. Coaches have been very pleased with his worth ethic and ability to adjust. He had a bout with tipping his pitches while at triple-A Tacoma last season but righted the ship before it got too far. Walker showed great poise in making three big league starts at the end of 2013 despite being just 21 years old.
The Mariners are counting on Walker to crack the opening day rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in 2014. There is no questioning that he possesses the natural size, strength and skill-set of a future front of the rotation starter. There is however a few reasons for concern about how well he can adjust to the Major Leagues. Despite being on some incredibly talented teams in the minor leagues, Walker is just 23-26 in 68 minor league starts. He also was wild while at triple-A Tacoma walking 27 hitters in just 57.1 innings. Walker also hasn’t found a groove yet with his changeup that he has been working on for awhile now and which he will need to stop hitters from centering his electric fastball. The fact is that the Mariners just don’t have a lot of other options as far as their starting rotation goes and thus Walker will be given every chance to win a job. I would be more confident if he had another half season or so in the minors to iron out some of his secondary pitches but the Mariners did elevate minor league Pitching Coach Rick Waits to help maintain consistency with this young staff. It is very likely that he is on the opening day roster and starts the Mariners third or fourth game of the season. I would draft him in the later rounds as a big time upside play. Chances are somebody else in your league will see a Jose Fernandez type of rookie campaign out of Walker and that is an unjustifiable risk in my opinion.
Dwight Gooden – Almost identical to a young Doc Gooden in size & fastball strength.
Phil Hughes – Similar repertoire, build and concerns early on in career.
Taken in the 16th round (206th overall) in the 2014 F.S.T.A. Experts Draft