Remember This Name: Taijuan Walker

An already-crowded field of top-notch Southern California high school righthanded pitchers welcomed a new member on Wednesday night. Taijuan Walker, a 6-foot-5 hurler from Yucaipa (Calif.) HS made a resounding bid to be considered for the top two rounds of the 2010 draft.

Taking the mound for the Los Angeles Angels Elite Squad in a scout ball game against Orange Coast College at Mt. San Antonio JC, Walker displayed the stuff, build and arm action of an early-round draftee.

Scout ball is traditionally informal, with BP and infield/outfield followed by a loosely-structured simulated game. Pitchers typically throw one or two innings at most, and generally face three to five batters. At that point (even if runners are on base), players are shuttled off the field and a new inning begins.

Fall scout ball has become an institution for Southern California area scouts. Elite clubs representing the Brewers and Angels play on Wednesday evenings. A dozen teams representing other major league teams play on Sundays, with sites ranging from Ventura County in the North to South Orange County.

As for Walker, on Wednesday night his raw stuff was sensational. He fires an explosive 91-94 mph fastball and adds a wicked 85 mph slider. Adding to a hitter’s misery, Walker flashed a nasty 77 mph curveball and experimented with what looked to be a cutter at 87 mph. His stuff can be correctly described as downright unfair.

Tall, lanky and projectable at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Walker resembles recent draftees Joe Gardner and Tyson Ross. In his delivery, Walker utilizes a high leg kick and a buggywhip type of low three quarters arm slot. While his command and mechanics need to be refined and sharpened, Walker possesses all the basics: frame, raw stuff, arm action.

Walker first came to the attention of scouts last spring. Playing shortstop, he was paired on the left side of Yucaipa’s infield with Matt Davidson, who was selected by the Diamondbacks in the supplemental first round of this year’s draft.

Despite tossing only 22 innings last spring, a sprinkling of scouts saw Walker pitch at that time. He reportedly sat in the high 80s with his fastball—decent stuff for a high schooler, but nothing to get too terribly excited about.

I asked one scout if he was surprised by Walker’s performance, given the fact the youngster did not throw during the summer. The scout’s response was direct:

“It may have been the best thing for him.”

A wonderful athlete, Walker is also an outstanding basketball player, averaging 16.5 points and grabbing 12.8 rebounds per game during the 2008-2009 campaign. His terrific stuff, combined with the possibility of sizeable bonus money, may lure Walker away from the court. For baseball’s sake, let’s hope so.

Dylan Covey of Marantha HS in Pasadena, Calif. was also extremely impressive Wednesday night. Looking trimmer and fitter, the AFLAC star is utilizing a new arm slot—an old fashioned, Brooklyn Dodgers, straight over the top Ferris Wheel delivery.

At first, Covey had a difficult time controlling the ball from the new position, but he gradually acquired a feel for it. Making a powerful bid for the first round in the 2010 draft, Covey fired a 94-95 mph fastball and added a sharp 83-84 slider and promising 80 mph curve.
 

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