In case you missed it, Taijuan Walker was optioned to AAA Tacoma on Wednesday, three days after a rough outing against the Chicago White Sox. That’s not the PSA though, in fact, its hardly relevant – if you hadn’t read it here, Walker could be back in the Major Leagues before you know it.
There are different schools of thought as to whether the demotion is performance based, and the team thinks he could use some work against lower level competition or if it is simply a matter of keeping the 24-year-old on a regular rotation after his recent return from the Disabled List and subsequent call up to the big club.
Whether he is recalled immediately after the All Star break or sometime closer to the first of August remains to be seen, though there is a reasonable argument that he’ll miss just one turn for the Mariners. In either case, he’ll be back and is a candidate for solid production down the stretch.
Again, he walked five batters and was generally erratic in an abbreviated (4 IP) start this past weekend but all told Walker has been a productive big league arm in limited action and has proven all he can at AAA. He was hit around a bit (2.93 ERA) this season in Tacoma but much of that had to do with his late start to the season – last year, across two levels he posted a 2.93 mark with 10.2 K/9 before acquitting himself quite well in a late season call up.
With regard to his last outing, the control wasn’t necessarily as bad as the numbers indicate, as he threw 68.4% first pitch strikes, but Chicago was just patient against him, with a 3.6% swinging strike percentage suggesting that they allowed a young pitcher to get himself into trouble. All told, effectiveness has’t been an issue for Walker in his young career.
In five career Major League starts he has given up just 10 earned runs, and already has two 6+ strikeout games on his resume. With a fastball that sits in the 93-94 MPH range and a plus curveball, the consensus top-10 prospect is generally thought to have Major League ready stuff and his most recent change of address won’t prevent him from showcasing that for long.
Owners with an eye toward August and September will hold onto Walker for the next few weeks with a plan to own a strong young starter in a pitcher friendly ball park when the fake games start to count – he’ll be on the roster in your September fantasy playoffs to be sure.