#39 Taijuan Walker
Previoius Rank: N/R
Walker was Seattle’s first pick in the 2010 draft, and the 6-foot-4 right-hander had a terrific first professional season in the Midwest League (A). He threw up a sub-3.00 ERA with 113 strikeouts against 39 walks. He only allowed four jacks in nearly 100 innings of work and has a chance to be a very fast mover in hopes of reaching the Bigs in time to join Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Danny Hultzen at Safeco.
Walker is extremely athletic with loads of projection and a fastball that reaches the high-90s. With a big downer curve that receives consistent plus to double-plus gradings, Walker already has at least two plus pitches. His changeup is way behind the other two pitches, but Walker is already making huge strides in terms of command and clearly seems to understand what it means to pitch. The addition of an average or better changeup could see Walker land in the Show by 2013 so long as he breezes through the high Minors like he has with Class A.
Walker has very little to prove in the low Minors as far as we are concerned, but the Mariners might send him to the California League to more easily manage his innings cap, which should provide for him to reach around 125 innings in 2012 or so. They are an organization that has shown a willingness to push the limits of a cap, though, especially at the Big League level. Perhaps in Walker’s case, that willingness will trickle down and see him grab an extra start or two during late season promotions.