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Countdown to Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day: D-8, Taijuan Walker

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks.

D minus 8: Taijuan Walker

  • Date of birth: August 13, 1992
  • Ht/Wt: 6’4”, 235 lbs
  • Position: Pitcher
  • Status: 40-man roster
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • 2016 MLB numbers [with Seattle]: 25 games, 134.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 119:37 K:BB
  • SnakePit Rating: 7.02 [breakdown of votes below]

Bit of a change from 2015-16, where our off-season starting pitching acquisitions were All Stars the previous year. This winter, it was a 24-year-old with a career ERA+ of 93, coming off a season where he went 8-11 with a nondescript 4.22 ERA. And, yet... The potential of Walker is so very seductive. For when he’s good, he’s awesome: witness the complete-game shutout of the Angels he pitched on September 15, holding them to to three hits and no walks, with 11 strikeouts. That’s the Walker the Diamondbacks want to see here - rather than two starts previously, against the same Angels team, when he started the game HBP, HR, HR, HR, and didn’t escape the first inning.

The version we’ve seen in spring has been promising. I’m writing before today’s start - coincidentally, against those Angels! - but in 17.2 innings to this point, Walker has a K:BB ratio of 25:2. Anything even approaching that ratio in the majors is going to play extremely well, and the key would appear to be if Walker has developed another plus pitch, to accompany his savage four-seam fastball. The focus this spring has been on his slider, Taijuan watching video of Chris Archer to try and improve what had been a work in progress: “I’ve been working on it a couple years, but it hasn’t been there. It’s been more of a cutter. But I feel like so far in spring, it’s been more of a slider.”

The aim is for Walker to broaden his repertoire: “It’s the biggest pitch I wanted to work on just so I had something to throw against righties - so it’s not just fastball, changeup to righties. I could mix in a slider for a swing and miss or weak contact.” If that pitch is ready, it could well propel Taijuan to the next level, and make Mike Hazen’s trade to get him an instant win. But regardless, it would be hard pushed to be more underwhelming than the first returns of the rather more higher-profile deals for starting pitching, carried out by his predecessor.

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