Taijuan Walker has made a big impact on the basketball court for Yucaipa High School in California, but his future is on the pitcher’s mound.
That’s how the Seattle Mariners see the 6-foot-4 Walker, and they invested plenty on Monday by selecting him with the 43rd overall pick in baseball’s amateur draft.
Walker, 17, averaged 21 points and 15.1 rebounds on Yucaipa’s basketball team and better than 90 mph on the mound, with his fastball touching 95. He went 10-4 with a 1.77 earned run average and struck out 93 in 67
Scouting services consider him a raw talent on the baseball field because of his power arm but inconsistent location, especially with his breaking pitches.
The Mariners refuse to use the “raw” label, saying Walker is young with a high ceiling and they’re eager to get him into their minor league system soon. He hasn’t made a major-college commitment, and the Mariners aren’t worried about a long negotiation.
“He’s going to sign,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “The kid wants to play pro baseball.”
The Mariners didn’t make their first selection until the compensations picks following the first round. They lost their first-round pick – No. 18 overall – to the Angels when they signed free agent Chone Figgins last winter.
The Mariners obtained the 43rd pick when free agent Adrian Beltre signed with the Boston Red Sox.
The Washington Nationals selected the much-hyped Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old with prodigious power from the College of Southern Nevada, with the No. 1 overall pick.
“It’s what I’ve wanted since I was 7 years old,” Harper said.
A year after taking similarly hyped right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals took Harper, who can play catcher but was announced as an outfielder at the draft.
With the second overall pick, Pittsburgh selected hard-throwing Texas high school right-hander Jameson Taillon. He was considered by many the top pitcher in the draft, with a fastball in the mid- to upper-90s that overpowers hitters on a regular basis.
Baltimore went next and picked smooth-fielding Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado, who has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez for his ability and background.
The draft’s first and supplemental rounds were to be completed Monday night, with rounds 2-50 selected over the next two days.
Coming to Spokane?
The Texas Rangers had two first-round picks and grabbed high school outfielder Jake Skole from Roswell, Ga., with the 15th pick and then selected catcher Kellin Degland from Langley High in British Columbia with the 22nd pick.
The Spokane Indians are the short-season Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers