ESPN makes bold prediction that D-backs’ Taijuan Walker will break out

Apr 1, 2017, 2:21 PM

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) throws against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

After the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired him from the Seattle Mariners for star shortstop Jean Segura, the expectations for starting pitcher Taijuan Walker were certainly escalated.

The former first-round pick hasn’t lived up to that billing so far, with a career 22-22 record, 4.18 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, but ESPN baseball analyst Jim Bowden still has faith in him, as shown in his bold prediction for the Diamondbacks’ 2017 season.

Taijuan Walker delivers his breakout season. Once considered one of baseball’s best prospects, Walker has yet to live up to that potential. His ceiling is still high, and he has made two adjustments since joining the D-backs: He turned his cutter into a slider and added a little turn to keep him on line to the plate better. His makeup and character are exceptional and his pitching is about to be too.

This comes after a spring in which the 24-year-old’s 3.29 ERA was best among Arizona starters, and his 32 strikeouts were second in baseball behind Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

He started out spring with three strong outings, not giving up a run over nine innings while striking out 13.

Walker then looked very hittable, with a 6.87 ERA and 1.68 WHIP over his next three starts. He also gave up four home runs over this stretch of 13.1 innings.

However, he finally settled down in his final start at Chase Field against the Indians, giving up four hits and no runs while striking out four over five innings to earn his second win of the spring.

Although it comes from a relatively small sample size, Walker’s 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in spring dwarfs his career mark of 8.1. His 32:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio was second in baseball and showed the kind of raw stuff the young pitcher possesses.

Walker will enter the season as the Diamondbacks’ No. 3 starter behind Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.

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