This type of prospect is always hard to judge because they’re so raw, and all too frequently lead to heartbreak in the long run. However, there’s still plenty of reason to be excited about him, and that’s what brings us here:
6. Taijuan Walker
Position: RHP | Hits: R Throws: R
DOB: 8/13/1992 | HT: 6’5″ WT: 195 LB
Notes: Walker is only a relatively recent full-time baseball player, having concentrated on other sports prior to his senior year of high school. However, his arm and athletic talents lend him to a significant upside, and that upside plus some of the things we’ve already seen warrant a high placing on this list.
Walker is an impressive physical specimen, with a tall, strong build and room on his frame to add more muscle, and possibly more velocity with it. His fastball already sits in the low 90’s, and has been reported to touch as high as 97 or 98 when he really cuts it loose. His command is mediocre at this point, but he’s still learning how to pitch and has shown signs of improvement in the early goings.
His main secondary pitch is a 12-6 curveball. Thanks to Walker’s high-three-quarters arm slot and powerful arm, it gets a nice, big break on it that’s tough to make solid contact with. He’s also been working on a changeup since he signed; it’s in the very early stages of it’s development and is an incredibly inconsistent pitch, but with his repertoire, it could become a good pitch for him.
The major problem with Walker is that he’s so raw. He’s only concentrated on baseball for a little over a year at this point, and it shows. His mechanics, while sound at their core, are still rough and still need plenty of repetition and work to smooth out and make more consistent. When his mechanics get loose on him, what command he has disappears and his curveball loses almost all of it’s bite.
What sort of future Walker has is completely up in the air at this point. He could be a front-line starter, he could be a power reliever, he could be something mediocre, useless, or something in between. What he is for the time being, however, is extremely interesting and very promising. Walker’s a guy who’s going to be brought along slowly and patiently, and Mariners fans will need to be equally patient as he develops. Hopefully, their patience will be rewarded.
2011 Outlook: Starting in Extended Spring Training to build up arm strength and consistency. Assignment is yet to be determined, but Clinton seems like the most likely destination.
Major League ETA: 2014