Taijuan Walker | RHP, Mariners | Born: 8/13/1992
The Double-A Jackson Generals have quite an impressive rotation. With Danny Hultzen and James Paxton alone, it’d be among the best rotations in Minor League Baseball. Toss in Taijuan Walker, however, and now we’re looking at a truly special Double-A collection of arms, the likes of which doesn’t come around very often.
Both Hultzen and Paxton qualify as top-level pitching prospects, but Walker is the trump card in this group. He’s the prized piece of the Seattle farm system. The M’s chose to skip Walker past High-A and promoted him directly to Jackson this spring. It was a bold move, considering he’s only 19-years-old and struggled with command at times at Low-A in 2011. But Walker has been brilliant thus far in the Southern League, especially in regard to command. Scouts have noticed a more consistent arm slot in 2012, which has rendered his mid-90’s fastball, his plus-plus curve, and his filthy changeup virtually indistinguishable upon release. The result is a 2.6 BB/9, down from 3.6 a year ago. The improved walk rate comes with a 1.30 ERA and a 9.1 K/9 through his first five appearances. With ace-like stuff, improving command, tremendous athleticism, and advanced mental makeup, Taijuan Walker appears to be a sure-fire fantasy ace. Throw Safeco Field into the mix, and the ceiling is sky-high. Do keep in mind that he’s just 19, though. There’s plenty of time for things to unravel.
Yasmani Grandal | C, San Diego | Born: 11/8/1988
With Jesus Montero and Devin Mesoraco graduating their prospect status here shortly, Yasmani Grandal joins Travis D’Arnaud and Gary Sanchez as the catchers of note in Minor League Baseball. Funny to think he was buried behind Mesoraco in the Reds’ system just six months ago. Now he’s off to a solid start in the San Diego minors, hitting .317/.453/.512 at Triple-A. Grandal, a switch-hitter, projects to hit for a .290+ AVG and bring decent pop for a catcher. His bat is, by all means, above average with regard to his position, and that’ll make him a hot fantasy asset when he arrives.
If there is a concern here, it’s on the defensive side of things. Grandal allowed 19 passed balls last year, and while his bat may be big league-ready, his glove is far from it. The Padres feature a young rotation at the Major League level (Suppan excluded) and it’d seem less than prudent to allow an inexperienced (and arguably inept) receiver to handle their staff. San Diego has shown no signs of shifting Grandal in the field, however. They’re intent on bringing him up as a catcher and they’re confident that he’ll suffice defensively. In 10 games behind the dish this year, though, Grandal has thrown out one of four attempted thefts while already allowing four passed balls. The sample certainly isn’t significant, but even so, he’ll need to show improvement if he expects to arrive in San Diego this year. His bat is ready and fantasy owners are eager to see his name hit waivers. Alas, we’re at the mercy of the Padres, and they could not care less that Arencibia is killing your team.