Taijuan Walker
Taijuan Walker (51345146065) (cropped).jpg
Walker with the New York Mets in 2021
New York Mets – No. 99
Pitcher
Born: (1992-08-13) August 13, 1992 (age 29)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
MLB debut
August 30, 2013, for the Seattle Mariners
MLB statistics
(through August 5, 2022)
Win–loss record51–48
Earned run average3.91
Strikeouts754
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Taijuan Emmanuel Walker (born August 13, 1992) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the New York Mets of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Amateur career

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Walker's original love was basketball, until he began playing baseball at the age of 11. Walker attended Yucaipa High School in Yucaipa, California, where he was a pitcher and shortstop, as well as a two-sport athlete. At Yucaipa, Walker was teammates with Matt Davidson, a third baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Yucaipa is also the alma mater of former major leaguers Corky Miller and Mark Teahen.[1]

Professional career

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners selected Walker in the first round, with the 43rd overall pick, of the 2010 MLB draft.[2] Walker and the Mariners agreed to a deal that included an $800,000 signing bonus.[3] He made four appearances for the Rookie League AZL Mariners, all in relief, and went 1–1 with a 1.29 earned run average (ERA). Walker was listed as one of the Mariners' top 10 prospects for the 2011 season, ranked fourth according to Baseball America.[4] Prior to the 2012 season, he was ranked the second best prospect in the Mariners organization and the 20th best overall.[5][6] Walker was selected to play in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game.[7]

After Walker pitched to a 5–3 win–loss record and a 3.61 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 57+13 innings pitched for the Tacoma Rainiers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, the Mariners promoted Walker on August 30, 2013.[8] Walker pitched 5 innings against the Houston Astros, and yielded just 2 hits and struck out 2. Walker was called up when rosters expanded in September 2013. He started 3 games, finishing the season with a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings. On September 24, 2014, Walker pitched his first MLB complete game, allowing one run in a 1–0 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Walker with the Mariners in 2015
Walker with the Mariners in 2015

Walker began the 2015 season as a member of the Mariners' starting rotation. In his first start, at Oakland, Walker gave up nine runs in 3+13 innings. He followed that outing by giving up 5 runs in 4 innings against the Dodgers, causing some to question whether or not Walker was ready for the big leagues. Walker continued to struggle, pitching more than 6 innings only once through his first nine starts. However, Walker won five straight starts in June and July, improving his record from 2-6 to 7-6. Walker struggled after winning five straight, going 0-1 with an 8.02 ERA, but on July 31, he threw a complete game one-hitter (his only hit was a home run by Miguel Sano) against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. This time, his offense backed him up, as he won 6-1, striking out 11 only needing 100 pitches to do so. Overall, Walker finished the 2015 season with an 11-8 record despite posting a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts.

Throughout the first half of the 2016 season, Walker battled with a foot injury. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on two occasions. He began the second half of the season on the disabled list. Before the all-star break, Walker had a 4-7 record despite a 3.66 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 86 innings. Walker was optioned to AAA on August 8, 2016. On September 13, 2016, Walker pitched his first career complete-game shutout in an 8-0 Mariners win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He carried a perfect game into the sixth inning and a no-hitter into the seventh, finishing the game allowing no walks and three hits while striking out eleven batters.[9]

Arizona Diamondbacks

On November 23, 2016, the Mariners traded Walker and Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis.[10] In 2017, his first season in Arizona, Walker made 28 starts, pitching to a 9-9 record in 157 innings.

On April 15, 2018, Walker was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to right forearm tightness.[11] Two days later, on April 17, it was revealed that Walker was diagnosed with a UCL injury in his right elbow.[12] On April 18, it was revealed that Walker had a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow. The injury required Tommy John surgery, bringing Walker's 2018 season to a premature end.[13]

Following his Tommy John surgery, he appeared in one game for the Diamondbacks, the final game of the 2019 season. On December 2, 2019, Walker was non-tendered by Arizona and became a free agent.[14]

On February 4, 2020, Walker worked out for 20 scouts from Major League teams.[15]

Second Stint with the Seattle Mariners

On February 12, 2020, Walker signed a one-year contract for $2 million to return to the Seattle Mariners.[16]

Toronto Blue Jays

On August 27, 2020, the Mariners traded Walker to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations.[17] On September 1, 2020, Toronto sent Alberto Rodríguez to Seattle to complete the trade. On August 29, 2020, he made his Blue Jays debut against the Baltimore Orioles, he threw six scoreless innings, allowing four hits.[18] With the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays, Walker appeared in 6 games, compiling a 2-1 record with 1.37 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 26+13 innings pitched.

New York Mets

On February 20, 2021, Walker agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets with a player option for the 2023 season.[19]

He was named to the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, his first career nomination, replacing teammate Jacob deGrom.[20] However, Walker's performance plummeted after the All-Star break; he posted a 7-3 record with a 2.66 ERA in the first half, and was 0-8 with a 7.13 ERA in the back half.[21] He finished the 2021 season with a 7–11 record overall and a 4.47 ERA in 159 innings.

After hurting himself swinging right-handed, Walker began batting left-handed in August 2021. As a bunter, however, he still does so right-handed.[22]

Scouting report

He throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup.[23][24] He has also begun to develop a sinker and cut fastball.[25][26]

Personal life

Raised by his single mother, Walker helped care for his younger siblings.[1]

Walker and his wife, Heather Restrepo, welcomed their first child, a son, in July 2017. They then welcomed a second son in early November 2020.[27]

References

  1. ^ a b "Seattle pitching phenom Taijuan Walker is everything baseball needs, and more". Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  2. ^ "M's Select RHP Taijuan Walker with #43". U.S.S. Mariner. Jay Yencich. June 7, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
  3. ^ "Mariners sign top pick RHP Taijuan Walker". usatoday.com. USA Today. June 18, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
  4. ^ Organization Top 10 prospects: Seattle Mariners 2011
  5. ^ Seattle Mariners top 2012 prospects
  6. ^ "2012 Top 100 MLB Prospects". www.baseballamerica.com.
  7. ^ "Prospects pack rosters for 2012 All-Star Futures Game". Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  8. ^ Thorpe, Jacob (August 28, 2013). "Top prospect Walker to make first MLB start on Friday". MLB.com. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  9. ^ "Taijuan Walker is nearly perfect as roll continues". Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  10. ^ Perry, Dayn (November 23, 2016). "Mariners, D-Backs swap Taijuan Walker, Segura as part of 5-player trade: Arizona gets help in the rotation while Seattle lands an impact infielder". CBS Sports. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "D-backs place Taijuan Walker (forearm) on 10-day DL". MLB. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "Taijuan Walker suffers UCL injury in elbow". MLB. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  13. ^ "Taijuan Walker to undergo Tommy John surgery". MLB. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  14. ^ Nick Piecoro (December 2, 2019). "Diamondbacks parting ways with Taijuan Walker, Steven Souza Jr". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Taijuan Walker Works Out For Teams". MLB Trade Rumors. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  16. ^ "Sources: Mariners reach deal with righty Walker". ESPN.com. February 12, 2020.
  17. ^ "Blue Jays acquire starting pitcher Taijuan Walker from Mariners". Sportsnet. August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  18. ^ Keegan Matheson (August 29, 2020). "New guy! Taijuan's 6 clean in Toronto debut". MLB.com. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  19. ^ "New York Mets sign Taijuan Walker; Noah Syndergaard to 60-day IL". February 20, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  20. ^ "Walker relishes first-time All-Star experience". MLB.com.
  21. ^ Ragazzo, Pat. "How Taijuan Walker Can Bounce Back For Mets In 2022". Sports Illustrated New York Mets News, Analysis and More.
  22. ^ "Mets notes: Why Taijuan Walker suddenly is batting lefty, Edwin Diaz returns, more". Newsday. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  23. ^ Anderson, Mark (January 18, 2012). "Scouting Report: Taijuan Walker (RHP)". Baseball Prospect Nation. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  24. ^ "Brooks Baseball · Home of the PitchFX Tool – Player Card: Taijuan Walker". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  25. ^ Laurila, David (December 14, 2012). "Q&A: Taijuan Walker, High-Ceiling Mariner". Fangraphs. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  26. ^ "Walker has been 'jackpot' signing for Mets". MLB.com.
  27. ^ "Diamondback Dads: Peralta and Walker share touching moments". Venom Strikes. August 14, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2017.