Taijuan Walker wasn’t shooting straight butter like a freebasing Amish person when he was called up to the majors this year. Doesn’t really matter either. He only had 15 innings in the majors and those fifteen innings mean bupkis. It was nice to see him keep his ERA at 3.60, but it could’ve been 7+ and it wouldn’t have mattered. Too small of a sample size. It’s like the first date where you drop $200 bucks on a some schmancy place and actually give the waiter a 20% tip. You’re gonna score there, but how well are things gonna go when you haven’t showered in two days and you’re wearing bronzer to cover up your cold sore? That’s what separates the men from the boys. That and the ability to a rent a car. What Taijuan’s taste of the majors (which is better than the Taste of Poughkeepsie) did show us is he’ll be shortlisted for the Opening Day rotation. That’s good. So what can we expect of Taijuan Walker for 2014 fantasy baseball?
His stuff will translate. How much it translates with his control is the real question. We don’t want it to completely translate there. His walk rate in Triple-A was a tad wonky. 4+ BB/9 in 57 1/3 IP last year in the American Automobile Association. I don’t want a rookie pitcher that’s going to be above a 3.50 BB/9. If you twist my arm and call me Your Lordship, I’ll make an exception and get excited. But it’s a stretch. Think of Shelby Miller for a moment. What came to your mind? A daffodil? Why? Okay, well, what comes to my mind is a 8+ K-rate and a 2.96 BB/9. That is terrific and it showed in his ERA and WHIP. That’s a usable pitcher in all leagues. A plus-4 BB/9 and you’re in with Volquez, Dempster or Jeff Locke. Locke was usable until his luck ran out. The other two weren’t. You don’t want to have to rely on luck. So, Walker can’t give a 4+ BB/9. Cannot. It’s useless. A 3.50 BB/9 and you’re in Gio Gonzalez, Justin Masterson and C.J. Wilson territory. It’s usable, ownable and worthwhile in all leagues. Big difference between that half of a walk per nine innings. In his small stint in the majors this year, Walker wasn’t, um, a walker, but he also faced the Astros and Royals. To use a former pitching prospect from the Mariners system for comparison, Michael Pineda’s BB/9 in Triple-A was 2.45. If Taijuan can get his control under, uh, control, then the sky could be the limit or whatever cliche you want to insert. Here’s the good news, he has a repeatable delivery and his command gets better as he gets comfortable at a new advanced level. Another point in his favor: his command problems come because of how nasty his fastball is. He throws so hard the ball just sails up on him. That’s #acefantasypitcherproblems. For 2014, I’ll give Taijuan Walker the line of 7-9/3.88/1.37/162 in 170 innings. There’s gonna be moments when he’s ownable everywhere, but I expect a very up and down year for him in 2014. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s unownable until June, then is unhittable for two months until he’s shut down.