- Full name Taijuan Emmanuel Walker
- Born 08/13/1992 in Shreveport, LA
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 235 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Yucaipa
- Debut 08/30/2013
Drafted in the C-A round (43rd overall) by the Seattle Mariners in 2010 (signed for $800,000).
View Draft ReportThe 6-foot-5, 200-pound Walker doubles as an elite basketball player, averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a forward last season. He has great leaping ability, and his dunks on the court have made him into a local folk hero. As a junior, Walker pitched little but did play shortstop next to Diamondbacks supplemental first-rounder Matt Davidson, a third baseman. Obviously uncomfortable and ill-suited for the infield, Walker has since concentrated on pitching. Walker was terrific in a stint for the Angels Elite scout team in the fall of 2009, but since then he has been more erratic. His outings in the early part of this season were rocky, probably due to the transition from basketball to baseball. In later starts, Walker would start strongly and then struggle as a game went on. When right, Walker fires a 91-93 mph fastball that can touch 95, and adds a slider and curve. His whippy three-quarters arm action can be free and easy on some occasions, restricted and stiff on others. Scouts agree that Walker, who hasn't committed to a college yet, is a long-range project as a pitcher, but his combination of sparkling athletic ability, raw stuff and imposing build may make Walker a gamble worth taking.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Walker returns to the Mariners' No. 1 prospect ranking after dropping to No. 2 for one season, 2013, behind catcher Mike Zunino. He concentrated more on basketball at Yucaipa High, when he had the nickname "Sky Walker" and averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds as a senior. But he also played baseball for coach Jeff Stout, who has worked with big leaguers such as Mark Teahen, Corky Miller, Matt Carson and Walker's former prep teammate, Diamondbacks prospect third baseman Matt Davidson. The Mariners made Walker their first pick in the 2010 draft, selecting him 43rd overall, then signing him for $800,000. He's a quick learner and hard worker, which combined with his outstanding athletic ability has allowed him to become one of baseball's top pitching prospects. Walker turned heads at the Futures Game in both 2012 and 2013. The latter was particularly special because it marked the first time Walker's father had a chance to see his son play in a professional game. Walker has two plus pitches, a fastball with plus armside action and a slider/cutter hybrid. The fastball ranges from 93-98 mph and usually sits at 95-96, while the slider is in the 88-92 range and has good, late break. Scouts consider his slider his best pitch, even over his fastball. Walker also throws a curveball and changeup. The latter has a chance to be an above-average pitch if he can learn to throw it for strikes more often and subtract more velocity to add differentiation from his fastball. He has a hard time commanding his mid-70s curveball, which can be a sharp pitch but is his fourth offering. All of Walker's pitches tend to catch a little bit too much of the plate at times, and he needs to work on honing his command, which has improved quite a bit since he first entered pro ball. As one would expect from a former basketball star, Walker is agile. That not only helps him repeat his delivery but has enabled him to improve his pickoff move and defense. Walker made his major league debut in September 2013, getting three starts before being shut down after reaching 156 innings for the season. The Mariners were so impressed by how he handled his first taste of the big leagues that he figures to slot in near the back of their rotation to begin 2014. He has the raw ability to be a No.1 starter and at least settle in as a fine wing man for Felix Hernandez.
A late convert to the mound after playing more shortstop and basketball early in his high school career, Walker signed for $800,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2010. The Mariners' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, he skipped a level to Double-A in 2012. He was the youngest pitcher in the Southern League by nearly a full year and part of the most prospect-laden pitching staff in the minors. Walker is a premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame. He sits 93-95 mph with his fastball, tops out at 97 and holds that velocity deep into games and over an entire season. His heater can flatten out at times, but he did a better job of commanding it in 2012. He short-arms his curveball at times, but when he stays loose and gets extension, it shows the potential to be a plus offering. Walker is getting more comfortable using his changeup, which has similar upside. He's also working on adding a cutter to his repertoire. He has electric stuff at times but still needs to command it better. His 2012 stats may not show it, but Walker is one of the best pitching prospects in the game and a potential ace. He could return to Jackson to start 2013, though the Mariners may decide to keep their top pitching prospects together in Triple-A.
Walker spent most of his time at Yucaipa (Calif.) High focusing on basketball. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a senior, earning the nickname "Skywalker" thanks to his dunking ability, a nickname he has stitched into his glove. When he played baseball, he mostly played shortstop, with Diamondbacks prospect Matt Davidson manning third base to his right. It wasn't until the end of Walker's junior year that he really began to pitch. He created significant buzz in the fall of 2009 that carried over into the spring of his senior season. The Mariners selected him with their first pick (43rd overall) in the 2010 draft and signed him for $800,000. Walker, who was 17 when he was drafted, blew opponents and evaluators away in his first full pro season. Seattle held him in extended spring until May and shut him down when he approached 100 innings in August. In between, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A Midwest League and was named Mariners minor league pitcher of the year. Walker has an ideal frame and athleticism for a pitcher. He's long and loose with strong legs, square shoulders and room for projection remaining. He gets sharp downhill plane on an electric fastball that sits at 91-95 mph and tops out at 98. He significantly improved his fastball command and his curveball during his three months at Clinton. He didn't throw a curve when the Mariners signed him, but they got him to scrap his slider and now he has a low-80s hammer with sharp 12-to-6 break. Walker's biggest goal last season was to improve his changeup. He has a circle change that grades as average and gives him a chance for a third plus offering. He throws it from the same slot and with the same arm speed as his fastball. Walker's control and command still need some polishing but are more advanced than expected. He has excellent feel for spotting his fastball and isn't afraid to own the inner half of the plate. Walker's superb athleticism is obvious when he's on the mound. He repeats his effortless delivery well and maintains his velocity deep into games. He's working to make his mechanics more consistent and tweaked a few things in 2011, including adding a slight hip rotation at his balance point. Walker also holds runners and fields his position well. He's a tough competitor, a sponge for information and a hard worker. He moved to Peoria, Ariz., this offseason to work out regularly at the Mariners' spring-training facility. Walker, who will be 19 for most of the 2012 season, may open the year at high Class A High Desert, which would be close to where he grew up. On the other hand, some club officials want to skip Walker straight to Double-A. The Mariners are already in good shape at the top of their rotation with Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but Walker profiles as another potential ace and could be in the big leagues by the end of 2013.
Walker was known more as a shortstop and basketball forward prior to 2010. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a high school senior, with his dunking ability earning him the nickname "Sky Walker." He focused more on pitching last spring and worked his way into the supplemental first round, signing quickly for $800,000. Walker is both a work in progress and a tremendously gifted athlete. His fastball ranged from 91-95 mph in high school, and after he was shut down in his pro debut with shoulder stiffness, he returned in instructional league to sit at 95 and top out at 98 with heavy sink. His 12-to-6 curveball shows flashes of being a plus pitch, though he focused more on honing his changeup during instructional league. Walker's athleticism helps him repeat his delivery, but he still needs to smooth out his mechanics and improve his command. He's still learning the intricacies of pitching, such as pitch selection, fielding the position, holding runners and between-starts preparation. Because Walker is relatively new to pitching, the Mariners won't rush him. He could start 2011 in extended spring training, though his electric arm and competitive drive could prompt an assignment to low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Walker spent the 2014 season getting healthy after spring shoulder trouble thwarted the Mariners' plan to make him part of their Opening Day rotation. Various ailments conspired to cap the big righthander at about 100 innings, with spotty results. Walker dominated against Fresno on Aug. 10, for example, and Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano said Walker sat 95-97 mph in that game, in which he struck out 13 and allowed two hits over seven innings. Walker has two plus pitches: a mid-90s fastball with plus armside action and a slider/cutter hybrid at 88-92 with good, late break. His lack of a knockout changeup or traditional breaking ball leaves some scouts less optimistic about Walker's ceiling. "He's a serviceable No. 3 or 4 starter," one scout said. "He was throwing 91-93 (mph) for me. He showed a real slow curve, and his changeup lags behind that."
Tall, physical and athletic, Walker is just evolving into a pitcher from a raw thrower. His mid- to upper-90s fastball with movement is a true strikeout pitch when he?s able to control the strike zone, and some scouts give it 70 grades. His walk rate of 4.26 per nine innings was too high for a starter, but he ranked seventh in the minors with 160 strikeouts overall and exhibited better control upon reaching Seattle late in the season. Combining the fastball with an effective changeup that shows a 10-12 mph speed differential has abetted Walker?s rapid rise through the system. He was the fifth-youngest player to make his major league debut when Seattle called him up at the end of August. His breaking balls?he throws both a curve and a hard cutter-type slider?remain inconsistent but showed steady improvement, with the cutter reaching 90 mph at times. Walker?s inexperience shows up at times fielding his position and holding runners, but his pure stuff is ace-worthy.
Walker?s four-year transformation from high school shortstop and basketball star to major league starter argues successfully that athleticism counts for a lot when it comes to pitcher development. In his time in the Mariners system he has refined his mechanics and added two pitches to his repertoire, now profiling as a strong No. 2 starter after markedly improving his control in a repeat of the Southern League this season. Walker pitches at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98, working both sides of the plate with a plus-plus fastball that ably sets up three quality offspeed pitches. SL managers regarded his 88-92 slider as the league?s finest breaking pitch, but he also throws a true curveball in the low 70s that serves as an effective change of pace off the slider. Walker has made remarkable progress with the development of his high-80s changeup, which shows enough late life and fade that scouts don?t hesitate to project it to future average. He learned the slider and change only after turning pro. While Walker didn?t lose the strike zone as frequently this season as Bradley, he too often shows spotty command, catching too much of the plate and getting hit harder than his raw stuff would indicate.
The youngest pitcher in the league by nearly a full year, Walker sailed through his first two months in Double-A with a 4-1, 2.23 record. His age showed with shaky command and modest pitchability as he went 3-9, 6.01 afterward, but managers and scouts never stopped loving his pure stuff. Walker had the best fastball among the league's starters, sitting in the mid-90s and reaching 97 mph with electric life. The Mariners have had him scarp the slider he threw in high school to go with a curveball, and his newer breaking ball shows plus potential with good power and hard downer break at times. He sells his circle changeup well, giving him the chance for a third above-average pitch.
Walker made a name for himself as a shortstop and basketball forward before blossoming on the mound as a high school senior. His athleticism is obvious, as he repeats his delivery well and unleashes 91-98 mph fastballs with little effort. He locates his fastball well and maintains his velocity deep into games. Walker significantly improved his fastball command and his curveball between May, when he arrived in Clinton, and August, when the Mariners shut him down after he reached his innings limit. His curve is an absolute hammer at times. His mechanics, changeup and control of his secondary pitches still need more polish, but he didn't turn 19 until August and time is on his side. "He was a kid out of high school last year pitching against Division I college hitters and making them look pretty bad," Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said. "That tells you where he could go. There's a lot more there, too. Once he adds a changeup and gets a two-seamer, the sky's the limit."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the Seattle Mariners in 2014
- Rated Best Fastball in the Seattle Mariners in 2014
- Rated Best Fastball in the Seattle Mariners in 2012
- Rated Best Athlete in the Seattle Mariners in 2012
Background: A late convert to the mound after playing more shortstop and basketball early in his high school career, Walker signed for $800,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2010. The Mariners' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, he skipped a level to Double-A in 2012. He was the youngest pitcher in the Southern League by nearly a full year and part of the most prospect-laden pitching staff in the minors. Scouting Report: Walker is a premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame. He sits 93-95 mph with his fastball, tops out at 97 and holds that velocity deep into games and over an entire season. His heater can flatten out at times, but he did a better job of commanding it in 2012. He short-arms his curveball at times, but when he stays loose and gets extension, it shows the potential to be a plus offering. Walker is getting more comfortable using his changeup, which has similar upside. He's also working on adding a cutter to his repertoire. He has electric stuff at times but still needs to command it better. The Future: His 2012 stats may not show it, but Walker is one of the best pitching prospects in the game and a potential ace. He could return to Jackson to start 2013, though the Mariners may decide to keep their top pitching prospects together in Triple-A.
Background: More of a basketball player in high school, Walker went 43rd overall in the 2010 draft and signed for $800,000. In his first full pro season, the Mariners held him in extended spring until May and shut him down when he approached 100 innings in August. In between, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A Midwest League and was named Seattle's minor league pitcher of the year.Scouting Report: Walker is long and loose with strong legs, square shoulders and room for projection remaining. He gets sharp downhill plane on an electric fastball that sits at 91-95 mph and tops out at 98. He didn't throw a curveball when the Mariners signed him, but they got him to scrap his slider and now he has a low-80s hammer with sharp 12-to-6 break. Walker has a circle change that grades as average and gives him a chance for a third plus offering. His command and control still need some polish but are more advanced than expected.The Future: Seattle may take things slow with Walker, who will be 19 for most of the 2012 season. He may open the year at high Class A High Desert, though some club officials want to send him straight to Double-A Jackson. He profiles as a potential ace and could be in the big leagues by the end of 2013.
- Mexico activated RHP Taijuan Walker.