M’s Select RHP Taijuan Walker with #43
The Mariners have built a farm system around Midwest scouting for many years. Ryan Feierabend, Tony Butler, Nate Adcock, the list goes on. When #43 came up, it seemed logical. It seemed like the Mariners were going to pick Ohio right-hander Stetson Allie, widely regarded as a top ten prospect, who had somehow managed to drift all the way to them. And then the Mariners picked California RHP Taijuan Walker.
This wasn’t really what we expected. It wasn’t really what anyone expected, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad pick. It is a signability pick, however, as Walker has no known college commitments and is likely to be brought in with some ease. He’s certainly not lacking on overall ceiling either, it’s just that he hasn’t had all that much experience to this point.
Walker is roughly 6’5 and 200 lbs, which would project him to around Michael Pineda’s body type in the long term. He throws in the low 90s and can touch 95 on a good day. The arm action is a little whippy and he’ll throw across his body, but the delivery itself is not so damning as his mechanical consistency.
A team that picks Walker is likely to be in love with his athleticism. He’s a two-sport star at his high school and known as a competitive basketball player, which leaves him a little unrefined on the baseball front. Last season, he was even tried out on the infield for a while before they ultimately decided he was uncomfortable out there and better suited to starting on a regular basis.
Unfortunately for Walker, the extra focus on pitching has not helped his performances a great deal. He showed signs of a plus curve in the past, and that went south on him this spring. The slider he developed to compensate has been nothing extraordinary, and the change-up is merely an offering he has, not one that he uses, or demands to be used. A chart climber in summer and fall play for last year, this spring he wasn’t doing a lot to attract scouts on a regular basis.
Like their confidence in his athleticism, the Mariners will also have to be convinced that they can build a consistent motion for him in order for this one to work. This isn’t a bad pick, but it is more long-term than most of us might have hoped, with the potential of giving us some of that high-end pitching that the system so desperately needs at the lower levels.