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Taijuan Walker: MLB Prospects, Rookies & Call-Ups Evaluation

Recent MLB Prospect Call-Ups

Taijuan-Walker-MLB-Fantasy-Baseball-ProspectsTaijuan Walker finally made his long awaited 2014 debut. His debut in the Seattle Mariner's rotation this year hit a few road bumps early on, as the former first rounder from 2010 dealt with a shoulder injury to start the season before beginning the year in AAA.

In 6 AAA starts, Walker worked to a 2-1 record with a 3.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 29 Ks in 30 innings, forcing Seattle’s hand in promoting the 21 year old. Now the highly touted MLB prospect and rookie is here, so what can we expect going forward for fantasy baseball?


Who is Taijuan Walker

With an array of pitches working for him, Walker has every tool needed to indicate that he is going to have a long prosperous MLB career. Speaking of Walker’s repertoire, his killer pitches need to be discussed. While mostly using his cutter as his secondary pitch in the minors, and in his short 2013 run with Seattle, Walker has also used his other pitches more effectively in 2014. His cutter was his go-to pitch in 2013, throwing it 25.8% of the time and averaging 90.8 MPH. Yet in 2014, his cutter usage numbers have dropped significantly to 4.3% despite increasing his velocity to 91.5 MPH.

His changeup and curveball seem to have taken over as the majority of his secondary pitches, going from 4.7% to 22.6% and 9.9% to 20.4% between 2013 and 2014, respectively. This also takes into account his changeup increasing from 87.4 to 88 MPH, and his curveball increasing from 73 to 74.6 MPH. Walker also spoke about this change, saying “I was working on fastball command just to make sure I had it and could get ahead with that... and throw my off-speed and get swings and misses with my curveball and changeup.” So in layman's terms, despite all of his secondary pitches increasing in speed, he seems to have found more comfort in his change and curveball this year instead of his cutter.


2014 & Long-Term Fantasy Outlook

In all fairness, I’m sure the majority of fantasy owners care only about the right now (unless you are in a keeper/dynasty league.) So we’re going to dive into not only Walker’s long term career prospective, but also into his immediate value for your 2014 fantasy baseball teams. Walker has tons of potential, and I also happen to be very high on him personally. Yet I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about his biggest flaw, the walks.

Walk-er has always had issues with control, as shown by his 10 BBs in 30 innings with AAA this year. In his most recent outing against the Sox, he gave up 5 walks in 4 innings despite only giving up 2 hits and 1 ER. So even though he has the ability to get out of jams that come with the walks, 83 pitches in just 4 IP shows that he might not have the immediate location, command and fantasy production even though he's been called up to the majors. Add that in with the 2 wild pitches, one of which lead to his lone ER, and it is without a doubt a red flag in Walker’s otherwise excellent repertoire.

When looking at a Seattle Mariners team that may not be built to contend in 2014, and is looking towards the future for dominance and success, the same could be said for their star prospect in Taijuan Walker. As much as I love the guy, and think he should be owned in every keeper/dynasty league, he is nothing more than a decent waiver wire pickup for 2014. I project a 4.00-4.50 ERA, 4-5 Wins, and around a 1.30 WHIP going forward. Although I do see him having a high K total, with around an 8 K/9 rate and a 70:30 K:BB Rate. In mixed leagues, he should be added solely for his upside, but I don't think we're going to see the full upside and potential in 2014 that Walker will eventually bring to the table.