There’s no doubting Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker’s immense raw talent. Ranked by Baseball Prospectus as Seattle’s no. 1 prospect (and no. 9 in baseball) entering this season, the right-hander has all the tools a scout wants to see in a potential big-league starter. Walker and his sky-high ceiling have been well-publicized in recent years; he isn’t exactly a pop-up prospect.
Despite all the press, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that Walker is still just 20 years old. Although he’s repeating the Double-A Southern League this season, he’s the second-youngest player in the circuit. Drafted in 2010, Walker is three days younger than Diamondbacks prospect Archie Bradley, who was selected seventh overall in 2011.
The numbers suggest that Walker is making significant strides in his second year at Double-A Jackson. After posting a 4.69 ERA last season, the California native currently boasts a 2.77 ERA and leads the league with 57 strikeouts in 52 innings. He has allowed just 37 hits. There’s still plenty of room for development, however. While Walker is a fantastic athlete and could develop solid command, his 25 walks are third-most in the league. He’ll also need to refine both his curveball and changeup as secondary offerings to complement his already dominant fastball-cutter combination.
When I made a Southern League scouting trip last month, I was able to put eyes on Walker during a start at Mississippi. He tossed six scoreless innings in the game, yielding three hits while walking four and striking out five. A full professional-style report of that outing can be found in our new “Eyewitness Accounts” feature, which debuted at Baseball Prospectus last week.
I was also able to catch up with Walker for a video interview, wherein the top prospect discussed his limited amateur pitching background, his season thus far, and his overall development since reaching Double-A.