Taijuan Emmanuel Walker
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 195 lb.
- High School Yucaipa High School
- Debut August 30, 2013
Pitcher Taijuan Walker reached the majors in 2013.
With a fastball timed at 95 mph, Walker was 10-4 with a 1.77 ERA as a high school senior, fanning 93 in 67 1/3 innings and allowing no home runs. He also was a basketball star, averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds per game at forward.
Walker was the first pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2010 amateur draft, chosen with the 43rd overall selection. The choice was compensation for the loss of Adrian Beltre; the club had lost its earlier first-round pick when they signed Chone Figgins as a free agent. He made his pro debut with the AZL Mariners on July 10th of that year against the AZL Royals. He retired all six batters he faced, half on strikeouts, to earn the win. Overall, he went 1-1 in 4 games that summer, giving up just 1 earned run in 7 innings of work.
With the Clinton LumberKings in 2011, Walker went 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 18 starts. The following year, he was 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 25 starts for the Jackson Generals while being named a Southern League All-Star. He also pitched in the 2012 Futures Game, throwing a scoreless inning of relief. He began 2013 back with Jackson and was promoted to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers in late June. He was called up to the majors in late August and made his debut on August 30th. Making a start against the Houston Astros, he went 5 innings without giving up an earned run and recorded the win. He went a combined 9-10, 2.93 in 25 starts between Jackson and Tacoma, and in Seattle was1-0, 3.60 in 3 starts.
Walker was considered among the top prospects in baseball, ranked #6 by mlb.com for example, as the Mariners headed into spring training in 2014. He was expected to make the team's starting rotation, but ran into health issues with shoulder inflammation, forcing him to miss the start of the year. He made his first major league appearance on June 30th and only pitched three times before rosters expanded in September, when he made 5 appearances. He was 7-4, 4.39 with three different minor league teams, and 2-3, 2.61 with the Mariners. In 2015, he managed to spend a complete season in Seattle, making 29 starts and going 11-8, 4.56. He had trouble going deep into games, logging only 169 2/3 innings, but struck out 147 batters while walking only 40.
The Mariners were expecting big things of Taijuan in 2016, and he got off to a hot start, going 2-0, 1.44 in 4 April starts. It was all downhill from there as he went 0-5 in May, then after a correct month of June, missed all but one game in July, which he lost, because of tendinitis in his right foot. After being rocked for 6 runs in 4 inning in his return on August 6th, the Mariners decided to demote him to AAA in the hope that it would jump start him back into competitive form. He was 4-7, 4.10 at that point. He returned to Seattle on August 23rd and quickly lost his first three starts before recording his first win since June with a 6-3 victory against the Texas Rangers on September 8th. He did even better in his next start on September 13th, as he recorded the first shutout of his career in defeating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 8-0, on a three-hitter. He finished the season at 8-11, 4.22 in 25 starts. On November 23rd, he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks alongside IF Ketel Marte in return for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis.
His unusual first name is pronounced TIE-wahn.
- Steve Gilbert: "Excited Walker looking forward to pain-free 2017: New D-backs hurler had offseason surgery on right ankle, which limited him in '16", mlb.com, December 1, 2016.