Taijuan Walker, the M’s first round pick from last year, made his professional debut in Clinton in May of this year and has skyrocketed up prospect-ranking lists since.
Well he added to his exploits tonight with perhaps his best outing of his career, certainly the longest. Walker, 18, pitched all 9 innings, allowing just two hits, two runs (both earned on a 2-run homer in the first) while striking out seven and walking one against the . He lowered his ERA to 2.66 and now has a 90/28 K/BB ratio in 71 innings pitched. He’s also allowed a meager 47 hits in those frames.
It won’t be long until he’s advanced from mid-A Clinton to either high A High Desert or to AA Jackson like his former teammate James Paxton (Paxton started 7 games in Clinton before being promoted straight to AA skipping high A).
It will be interesting to see how the Mariners’ player development team deals with Walker. He’s a very young pitcher not just in age but in how long he’s been playing the game. Walker was mainly a basketball player in college, not really focusing on baseball until his senior year which is primarily responsible for him flying under the radar and enabling Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik to select him with the 43rd overall pick.
As stated earlier, Walker didn’t begin his professional career until May. After signing in late June last year, Walker went straight to the Mariners rookie camp in Peoria where he trained and pitched rather infrequently.
After the offseason, he spent the Spring in Peoria, AZ doing mostly the same work he had been last summer until he was sent to Clinton, Iowa in May.
So the Mariners have been extremely methodical in their handling of Walker so far and expect that approach to continue even with his dominating success.
With that being said, it would surprise me if he weren’t promoted from Clinton in the near future i.e. before the minor league year runs out. He’s simply too dominant in the Midwest League to stay there long. The only reason why it hasn’t happened yet is most likely due to the Mariners brass wanting to get his innings up.
Walker is now the clear No. 1 prospect in the Mariners system with the recent graduation of 2B Dustin Ackley and P Michael Pineda to the big league club. That in itself is a high honor considering the players vying for that spot like SS Nick Franklin, P Paxton, OF Guillermo Pimentel and recent No. 2 overall pick P Danny Hultzen who hasn’t yet signed.
Well done for a kid who didn’t even focus on baseball as a priority until late in his senior year of high school.