Legends On Deck

Game Of The Week: Mariners Taijuan Walker’s Road To Stardom

Six years ago must feel like a lifetime ago for Mariners budding star Taijuan Walker. Back then he was a teenager with a projectable frame, a mid-90’s fastball, and secondary pitches that flashed plus potential. Scouts drooled, and prospect rankers fumbled over their keyboards trying to find the right superlatives to describe the 11th overall pick in 2010’s draft.

When Walker took the mound at the start of his professional career, it was easy to see what the experts loved so much. The 6’4 right-hander cruised through every level of the minor leagues– racking up eye-popping strikeout totals at every stop. Working with a fastball that sat in the mid-90’s, a plus cutter, a plus curveball, and a developing changeup, Walker befuddled the young hitters in the minors. He would make his big league debut in 2013 at just 20. He would get just three starts, spanning 15 innings, but they offered a glimpse of what was to come for M’s fans.

However, 2014 wasn’t nearly as good to the Louisiana native. An early season shoulder issue would shut the promising flamethrower down for over a month. Upon return, Walker struggled with his control for the entire year including during another late-season stint with the Mariners.

Then came 2015. Everything seemed to be coming together for Walker, and this was to be the year of his breakout as a professional pitcher and potential ace. But the then 22-year old would see no such breakout. His final numbers were solid, if not pedestrian. In 169.2 innings, Taijuan would post a 4.56 ERA. However, there were some encouraging signs. His FIP was a more digestable 4.07, and he limited his walks– allowing just 2.12 free passes per nine innings– while striking out nearly a batter per inning.

So far in 2016, Walker has looked like the pitcher the Mariners thought they were getting in 2010. The one the scouts drooled over. Through seven starts and 37.2 innings, Walker has posted a 2.63 ERA and a 3.10 FIP. He’s averaging 9.08 K/9 and walking just 1.43 per 9 innings.

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