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Scouting Taijuan Walker, Nolan Arenado

4/19/2013

Some observations from Monday's messy game between the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz.

• Seattle's top prospect, right-hander Taijuan Walker, threw two innings in support of Generic Starter, one good and one less so. He threw nothing but fastballs in his first inning of work, and tried to continue that in his second inning, leaving a 93 mph fastball about gut-high to Nolan Arenado, who was clearly looking fastball and hit it out to left-center, a clear mistake pitch that was compounded by Walker's predictability.

He started mixing in his other pitches after that, mostly a slow curve at 74-76 and a hard changeup, plus one curveball that came in at 82 and that I presume was the spike curveball he has been messing with on the side. A spike or knuckle-curve tends to come in at higher velocity and has a harder, sharper downward break, yet is nearly impossible to command -- Mike Mussina is the one major exception in the past decade or so. I don't know that I'd want Walker throwing a spike in games when it counts, although there isn't much harm to playing around with one in March.

&bull; Speaking of Arenado, he did put a good swing on a ball in his next at-bat for a double to the gap in left-center. His stats through a week-plus of spring games have spurred talk that he'll break camp with the Rockies, as if 10 games in March can erase 140-plus games from the previous year, when Arenado took a step back as a prospect. Gabe Gross hit eight home runs one spring while I worked for Toronto, and hit only 40 in his entire major league career.

More to the point, good teams don't base major roster decisions off spring training performances, and Arenado should at least be asked to go to Triple-A, which would still be a promotion, and show both that his off year last year was a fluke and that the poor effort level he showed in 2012 is a thing of the past. It won't hurt the Rockies any to wait to start his service-time clock anyway.

&bull; Carter Capps was sitting at 95-96 mph for the Mariners in one inning of work, and while it's not pretty -- he cuts himself off as badly as any big league pitcher I can remember seeing and comes way back across his body -- the stuff is sharp, including two breaking balls and riding life on that fastball. I don't know how long he'll last pitching like that, but he might be a right-handed hitter's worst nightmare right now.

&bull; Stephen Pryor was a little disappointing for Seattle, working mostly 89-93, touching 95 once, with a fringy slider that was probably also suffering from the lack of strength behind the lesser velocity. The righty doesn't throw enough strikes to get away with that kind of stuff, unfortunately, but he's usually more in the mid-90s, where his below-average command is less of a problem.

&bull; Colorado sent mostly its JV squad Monday, with starter Juan Nicasio, who might actually be in their major league rotation, pitching poorly because of below-average command. He was 92-94 with good tilt on his mid-80s slider, but didn't throw strikes and suffered for it -- although not as much as the fans suffered when he was followed by Miguel Batista.

&bull; Colorado's Chad Bettis missed all of 2012 after shoulder surgery but is back at full strength now, although his velocity wasn't all the way there in Monday's outing. He showed a curveball in warm-ups, but during his inning of work he was mostly 90-91, touching 93 on his final pitch for a strikeout, with a cutter at 86-87. His delivery was still quick and compact and he hides the ball well, but it might be a while before he gets all of his strength back -- and there is always some concern after shoulder trouble that it won't return completely.