SEATTLE — It underscores Taijuan Walker’s disappointing, injury-interrupted season that he was chosen Wednesday by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect (paid link) in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Often cited as the Mariners’ top prospect, Walker placed No. 6 in Baseball America’s 2013 rankings for the PCL and entered last spring as heavy favorite to land a spot in the big-league rotation.
Shoulder problems forced Walker, 22, to open the season on the disabled list, and it wasn’t until September that he flashed his considerable potential. He yielded three runs in 13 2/3 innings in two late-season starts.
“My last two starts felt really good,” said Walker, who finished 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in eight big-league appearances after spending much of the season in the minors.
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“I felt like I was in a pretty good groove. It’s something to build on for next year.”
That construction continues in the Arizona Fall League, where Walker has already put together two strong starts for the Surprise Saguaros: two runs and seven hits in nine innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
“I’m excited about him moving forward,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Obviously, he’s taken a big step forward. There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m sure he’ll continue to get better.”
The Mariners sent Walker to the Fall League to build his workload after his shoulder problems limited him to 120 1/3 innings. The goal is for him to get 25-30 innings, which should position him next season for 30-plus starts.
Walker is seventh player cited by Baseball America as one of the top 20 prospects in their league.
Third baseman D.J. Peterson made the list in two leagues, the Hi-A California League and the Double-A Southern League. Outfielder Alex Jackson was picked as the top prospect in the Arizona Rookie League.
Others cited: Infielder Ketel Marte in the Southern League; outfielder Gabby Guerrero in the California League; and left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough and outfielder Austin Cousino in the Short-A Northwest League.