Taijuan Walker Good Signing For Mets
The New York Mets needed to get just one more starter to make this the truly deep rotation they need. This doesn’t mean deep as in going 1-5 in the rotation, but also the type of depth needed to get through the rigors of a 162 game season. The later was of increased importance as pitchers did not throw many innings last season.
While we have seen some players sign with other teams, the Mets obtained Taijuan Walker. Walker, 28, is arguably the perfect fit for this team.
At 28, Walker is in the prime of his career. The once top 10 prospect in baseball dealt with injury issues limiting him to just 14 innings from 2018-2019. Last year, he finally proved healthy in the truncated 60 game season last year. Yes, it was just 37% of the length of a normal season, but it was a positive step.
Last year, Walker made 11 starts going 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and an 8.4 K/9. He was at his career averages for hard hit rate. Believe it or not, his 30.9% hard hit rate was actually better than what Jacob deGrom yielded last year. This is an indication as to how difficult it can be to square up Walker at times.
Digging deeper into Baseball Savant, Walker was middle of the pack in terms of exit velocity while being above average in terms of hard hit rate. However, it should be noted he was way down the ledger in terms of spin, velocity, and whiff rates. Of course, one of the reasons for this is Walker is a sinkerball pitcher who has typically pitched to contact.
Keep in mind, Walker is evolving as a pitcher. Before the 2021 season, he spoke to Fangraphs about going to Driveline. While there, Walker refined his slider, worked on changing speeds, grips, arm placement, and generally speaking, being a better pitcher. We saw the early effects of that in 2020.
Now, in 2021, he is going to be another year removed from Tommy John allowing him to continue to increase velocity. He also has a better sense of what worked for him in 2020 and what didn’t. He’s also in a really good place for him to succeed.
Jeremy Hefner has had success in Minnesota working with sinkerball pitchers. Walker is reunited with Marcus Stroman, who can served as a mentor of sorts, and who is also blessed with a similar type of game. There is James McCann behind the plate, who has developed not only as an excellent framer, but early on in Spring Training, he has emerged as a true leader.
Now, Walker is on a pitching staff where he can thrive. He is also in an organization which is continuing to beef up its analytics department. At 28, he still has upside, and he certainly is putting in the work to get the most out of his talent. In all likelihood, last year was him just scratching the surface.s
As for the Mets, this now adds another established high ceiling starter to their rotation. That also gives them increased depth in the rotation. When Noah Syndergaard returns, the Mets rotation will now undoubtedly be the best in baseball. All told, while he may not have been the top choice by many, Walker fits in perfectly with the Mets.