Taijuan Walker came to high school baseball late, pitching only 22 innings in his junior season, but an explosive fastball got the attention of the Seattle Mariners, who selected him tonight with the 43rd pick of the amateur draft.
A right-hander clocked at 91-94 mph as a senior in Yucaipa, Calif., Walker is a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder athletic enough to play high school basketball each of the last four years.
Walker, 17, went 10-4 with 1.77 earned run average in 14 appearances this season, striking out 93 batters in 67 1/3 innings.
“Taijuan is a very athletic pitcher with an above average fastball and a high ceiling,” said Tom McNamara, the Mariners director of scouting. “We believe he has the ability to develop into a top-of-the-rotation type of pitcher and we are very excited to have him.”
Scouts say Walker is learning on the fly, throwing a breaking pitch and changeup this season. He has not committed to any college.
One pick ahead of Seattle, the Tampa Bay Rays took Drew Vettleten from Central Kitsap High. Walker was the Mariners first pick in the draft, after losing a high pick - No. 18 - to the Angels after signing free agent Chone Figgins last winter.