Walker has a high fantasy ceiling
Strengths, weaknesses and a look beyond 2014 for the 21-year-old
2014 will be remembered for many things, but I'll remember it as "the year that every prospect got hurt."
That's slightly hyperbolic, but the number of quality players -- particularly pitchers -- that have gone down this year with some sort of ailment has been frustrating for fantasy owners and borderline depressing for front-office members.
Taijuan Walker was not fortunate enough to be among the pitchers to avoid the injury bug this spring, but he appears to be healthy now. The Seattle Mariners will be calling up the talented 21-year-old to replace Stefen Romero on the 25-man roster and the recently demoted Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation.
Here's a look at why Walker is a quality pickup for now and the future in fantasy leagues but also why it may not be wise to go all-in on the right-hander for the future.
What he can do
Walker has outstanding athleticism and arm strength, as seen in a fastball that typically sits at 92 to 94 mph but will get into the 97-98 range when he rears back. When he's at his best, he will get downhill plane and some run on the pitch. His best off-speed pitch is a cutter that moves into the hands of right-handed hitters but has enough horizontal movement to cause swings and misses from hitters at both sides of the plate. His changeup has shown considerable improvement over the past two years and projects to be a solid-average offering with good deception from his quality arm speed.
His command is behind his control, but he's generally around the strike zone and walks have never been a huge issue for the right-hander in his time in the organization.
"You hear the term electric stuff used too often, in my opinion, but Walker has it," an American League East scout said. "The fastball gets on you so quickly, and when you have that plus-plus cutter, it makes mid-90s seem so much faster than that. When he's got the breaking ball working to go along with three above-average pitches, he's awfully tough to hit."