Taijuan Walker: Sleeper?
When I wrote a piece comparing Taijuan Walker and Dylan Bundy, I suggested Walker had the higher ceiling if he maxed out his skill set. In September, I witnessed Walker maintain 94-96 mph in a Southern League Playoff game when most young pitchers would be gassed and ready to rest up before instructs. If Taijuan Walker is so awesome, then how did he fall in my lap with the 10th pick in a mock prospect draft which will eventually run at faketeams.com?
If you asked me to tier starting pitching prospects right now, it would look like this:
> Taijuan Walker
> Everybody Else
Maybe Zack Wheeler, Gerrit Cole and Shelby Miller lead the “everybody else” list, but I cringe at the thought of fantasy owners thinking Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker have close to equivalent value because one is the 5th best prospect and another is the 10th. If I needed to point to one example of why Top-100 lists are seriously flawed, this would be it.
As for Walker, his 4.04 FIP in Double-A has been picked apart to the point where he has been devalued as a prospect to some extent because he didn’t dominate the level of competition. I have no idea why Walker collapsed in June, but I do know the chatter has been overblown — Especially when he’s only 19.
Let’s put Walker’s 4.04 FIP into perspective.
Dylan Bundy is three months younger than Taijuan Walker and posted a 3.86 FIP in Double-A. He’s still considered the best pitching prospect in baseball by a wide margin.
Zack Wheeler was three months older than Walker when he debuted — In Single-A. He posted a 3.11 FIP. I saw Wheeler twice that year. The raw stuff was similar to Walker, but the refinement and consistency was nowhere near that of the Mariners prospect.
Jameson Taillon posted a 3.37 FIP in Single-A at 19. He was three months younger than Walker is now. I saw Taillon too. At the time, he was still under the development thumb of the Pirates and limited to throwing mostly fastballs.
I could keep going, but you get the point. Having seen a number of top pitching prospects, I appreciate the opportunity to see them at the same point in development. From that perspective, Walker is further along at his age than any pitching prospect I’ve ever scouted not named Dylan Bundy. If he repeats Double-A, the numbers are going to spike and this current lull in value will become a minor blip on the radar.
24 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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