The Top Ten
1. Taijuan Walker
Height/Weight: 6’4” 210 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Yucaipa HS (Yucaipa, CA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #9 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: ERA 3.60 (15 IP, 11 H, 12 K, 4 BB) at major league level, 3.61 ERA (57.1 IP, 54 H, 64 K, 27 BB) at Triple-A Tacoma, 2.46 ERA (84 IP, 58 H, 96 K, 30 BB) at Double-A Jackson
The Tools: 7 FB; 7 CT; 5 CB; future 5 CH
What Happened in 2013: Walker started at the Double-A level and finished his season with three starts at the major-league level, displaying not only high-level stuff but also the necessary makeup to stand on a major-league mound as a 21-year-old.
Strengths: Electric fastball from easy release; works in the 94-96 range; can get more when he needs more; good movement to the arm side; cutter is a monster pitch; 89-93 with late horizontal movement to the glove side; curveball has big depth in the 73-76 range; average but effective offering; excellent pickoff move; big competitor.
Weaknesses: Command is below average; lacks plus projection; can work up in the zone too often; curveball has nice shape but can get soft; tendency to start it too high in the zone; will struggle to be effective unless it plays with sharper fastball command; changeup can get too firm; lacks quality fade.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: 7; no. 2 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; ready for majors
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: One of the top fantasy pitching prospects in the game, Walker has the type of arm that can help contribute strongly across all categories. I’m not sold that he’ll be someone who sits near the top of the league leaderboard in strikeouts, but there will be enough to go around (think around 190-200 at his peak).
The Year Ahead: Walker needs to refine his command and his secondary arsenal, but the fastball is a high-end major-league pitch, and the cutter can bail him out of situations. Oddly enough, the curve that received all the minor-league hype received the least amount of industry love, at least as far as major-league projection is concerned. Don’t rule out his changeup becoming a much better pitch than people are projecting; it doesn’t look good now, but he has feel for pitching and the power of the fastball will assist in the deceptive elements of the offering. I wouldn’t be shocked if it develops into a plus pitch down the line. Give it time.
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