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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 7, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Mariners take high school pitcher, Taijuan Walker, at No. 43

The Mariners went to a tall right-handed pitcher, Taijuan Walker, from Yucaipa High School in Yucaipa, Calif. He’s 6-foot-5 and a basketball star. Interestingly, in the pick right before the Mariners, the Rays picked Drew Vettleson from Central Kitsap High School, an outfielder and switch-pitcher (yes, he’s ambidextrous) who had interested the Mariners.

But Walker is their man, and here’s the entire scouting report on him from Baseball America, which ranks him as their No. 40 prospect: (Note: I originally wrote that Baseball America ranked Walker No. 70, which they did; but in their final updated ranking right before the draft, he moved up to No. 40; Keith Law of ESPN didn’t have him in his top 100.)

“The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Walker doubles as an elite basketball player, averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a forward last season. He has great leaping ability, and his dunks on the court have made him into a local folk hero. As a junior, Walker pitched little but did play shortstop next to Diamondbacks supplemental first-rounder Matt Davidson, a third baseman. Obviously uncomfortable and ill-suited for the infield, Walker has since concentrated on pitching. 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.”

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