Taijuan Walker is not going to win you your fantasy baseball league. Let me just being by saying that right now since that's what most of you are wondering. But many fantasy players will rush to the waiver wire to pick up the Mariners top prospect after the announcement that he will be making his major league debut on Friday, according to Joshua Mayers of The Seattle Times.
It's not that Walker isn't good. In fact, he's fantastic. It's not that Walker isn't ready. He's spent the entire 2013 season split between Double and Triple-A.
But Walker is still very raw. The 21-year-old right-hander has an electric arm and great stuff, but he is still very much learning how to use it. His arsenal may be as good as any pitcher in the minors, but his production hasn't always matched his talent as he has gone through the process of learning how to harness it. His Triple-A production is a fantastic example, with a 3.61 ERA and a 3.62 FIP over 11 starts, numbers that aren't bad and are downright impressive for a player who was 20 for most of that time, but aren't indicative of his ceiling.
Of course, the Mariners don't care about his ceiling right now. They know the finished product will be impressive, but in a lost season in which they failed to admit they were out of the playoff race and trade veterans for younger players, and in which they have promoted a number of prospects before they were ready, the Mariners, at this point, care only about generating fan excitement as they lose fans to the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Huskies, and Clint Dempsey and the emerging Seattle Sounders of the MLS.
And Walker can do just that. There's a chance Walker goes out on Friday and strikes out double-digit batters. After all, he did strike out over 10 batters per nine innings at both levels this year. But he's also had a propensity to give up free base runners, especially in his first taste of a new level (1.37 WHIP in first taste of Double-A, 1.413 WHIP upon arrival in Triple-A, 1.23 WHIP in career).
Additionally, Walker isn't likely to make too many more starts this year. He's already reached the same number of starts he made last year (25) and has thrown 15 additional innings. The Mariners aren't going to want his innings to jump up too high from one season to the next, so he probably doesn't have more than a couple of starts left on the year.
Walker will be exciting to watch, and at this point, other than 40-man roster considerations for the off-season (a bigger deal than most make it out to be), there's not much reason for the Mariners not to give him a start or two. To see him dominate wouldn't be shocking, but a better guess is that we'll see flashes of brilliance coupled with fits of inexperience. If nothing else, it should explain to Mariners fans why he needs some more time in Triple-A to begin next season, and why that move will be motivated by more than just financial considerations.