Taijuan Walker, RHP, Clinton LumberKings (A, 21.8 years old on average in 2011)
6-4, 195 lbs, 19 years old
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Acquired: 2010 Amateur Draft (1st round)
When I wrote down a list of prospects and began to put them in order, I had Danny Hultzen atop my list. But the more research I did on Walker I couldn’t help but respect his ceiling as a potentially very special pitcher. When the Mariners drafted Taijuan Walker, the entire Mariners fan base seemed collectively unenthused. Walker was an unknown high school pitcher who was primarily a basketball player in high school. He threw in the 90s, but would he ever be an MLB pitcher? Walker has answered pretty much every question asked about him. He’s improved his velocity and offspeed pitches, and has been so productive that some people (yours truly) have begun to compare him to a young Felix Hernandez. Even if Walker remains a pitcher who has a plus-plus fastball and a plus curveball to go with an average changeup, he’ll have a better repertoire than Michael Pineda. I don’t like scouting reports littered with cliches, but “Easy Gas” should be Walker’s nickname. He looks smooth and deliberate in his release, and the ball explodes from his hand. Walker averaged 10.5 K/9 in the Midwest League at 18 years old. The league was almost four years older than him on average. Walker was the youngest qualifying pitcher in the Midwest League, but averaged the 8th most strikeouts and had a tick-above-average walk rate. Walker will probably skip High Desert to save his arm, and figures to be a future ace, even if he’s pitching behind Felix Hernandez one day.
Potential (of 40): 40
Probability of Success (of 30):24
Positional value (of 20): 20
Character (of 10): 10
Check out the rest of the Mariners Top 25 Prospects.