The 2010 First Year Player Draft starts at 4pm. You can watch live at MLB.com or on MLB Network. Today the Mariners are picking #43.
(Jeff's note: tomorrow will feature rounds 2-30, while Wednesday will finish it off. Both tomorrow and Wednesday start at 9am PT.)
I'll be updating this post with Seattle's pick and the corresponding scouting report as it comes in, followed by some final thoughts when we're through.
So far the Mariners are rumored to be strongly considering a pair of prep bats for their first pick: sure-handed infielder Marcus Littlewood and toolsy centerfielder Joc Pederson. It looks like early rounds are very murky, however-- more than normal-- so there's really no telling who the Mariners or anyone else might end up with.
Pro Ball NW plug: If you're interested, check out my rundown of last year's draft as well as this roundup of Littlewood scouting reports and links. Also, I'll be live chatting over there leading up to our pick with the rest of the PBNW crew and other fans. Pulling double duty!
With the 43rd pick of the draft, the Seattle Mariners selected RHP Taijuan Walker out of Yucaipa (California) High School. Walker is a projection pick whose best features include a lanky and athletic 6'6/200 frame, a fluid arm action and a fastball that tops out in the low-to-mid 90s. His secondary pitches are very much a work in progress, but both his curveball and changeup have shown real promise at various points in his prep career. He also experiments with a slider when his curveball isn't working for him.
Walker is fairly new to baseball, at least full time, not opting to focus on the sport until this past year. He's raw and as such will have his growing pains, but if he can learn to refine and repeat his delivery while gaining control of his changeup and big curveball the Mariners could have a very good power starting pitcher on their hands.
It seems like a lot of fans had their eye on alternative arms like Peter Tago, who went a few picks later, and Stetson Allie, who was highly rated but has gone unselected, but Walker doesn't appear to be a bad pick at #43. Prep arms were all the rage day one with 13 going in all, and the Mariners wanted to get a piece of the action.
Scouting report roundup after the jump.
Walker was terrific in a stint for the Angels Elite scout team in the fall of 2009, but since then he has been more erratic. His outings in the early part of this season were rocky, probably due to the transition from basketball to baseball. In later starts, Walker would start strongly and then struggle as a game went on. When right, Walker fires a 91-93 mph fastball that can touch 95, and adds a slider and curve. His whippy three-quarters arm action can be free and easy on some occasions, restricted and stiff on others. Scouts agree that Walker, who hasn't committed to a college yet, is a long-range project as a pitcher, but his combination of sparkling athletic ability, raw stuff and imposing build may make Walker a gamble worth taking.
Walker's stock was down this spring when he went through a horrible run of 3-4 starts where his stuff was off and his results were terrible, including a well-attended eight-run beating that seemed to seal the lid on his prospect status coffin. To his credit, he recovered well and has been sitting up to 94 in every outing down the stretch with good sinking life on the pitch. He's got a big 12-to-6 curveball but doesn't command it. Walker's delivery includes a high leg kick and a long time over the rubber before he moves forward, and his arm action is fairly short for a guy his height. He's a basketball player with that kind of body -- tall, loose, athletic -- but is incredibly raw in almost every aspect as a baseball player. He's considered signable due to lack of a college commitment.
Taijuan Walker has a great right-handed frame and untapped natural arm speed and power. As far as projection pitchers go, Walker is an imagination’s delight. His frame is the first selling point. Long, loose, lean and fast, there’s clearly an abundance of physical projection. Translation: he touches 93 today, look for him to pitch at 94 tomorrow.
Beyond that, Walker is in the infancy stages of developing himself as a pitcher, but all the building blocks are there for him. These parts include the beginnings of a power curveball. There’s also one other aspect about Walker. You have to see it in a game, but the guy shows the ability to figure out how to make a pitch when he needs to. You wouldn’t put a grade on it and the gun won’t tell you. Nobody will text it to you. Better be watching.
More from Baseball Beginnings: Another scouting report (in which Kilma concludes that Walker is one of the three best prep arms in SoCal), Q&A (mostly about transitioning from basketball to baseball), yet another scouting report, video and more video.
MLB.com (includes video)
Strengths: Projectability, athleticism, arm strength and glimpses of good secondary stuff.
Weaknesses:He doesn't have a ton of experience on the mound. He's changed his delivery and arm action, leading to concerns about command and health.