2018 Projection: Will This Be The Year Taijuan Walker Lives Up To The Hype?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We’ve long heard the hype surrounding Taijuan Walker, though the results have generally fallen far short of the expectations.  We keep waiting…  And waiting…  And waiting…  At the end of 2017 the numbers make it seem like much of the same, all hype but little in regards to the actual results:

157.1 IP
9 Wins
3.49 ERA
1.33 WHIP
146 Strikeouts (8.35 K/9)
61 Walks (3.49 BB/9)
48.9% Groundball Rate
.290 BABIP

Sure the ERA was solid, but outside of that is there anything that screams “elite”?  The control regressed, the groundballs were somewhat pedestrian and the strikeouts failed to improve despite the move to the NL.  Obviously it’s not going to stop the hype, because the name still carries appeal, but the question is should it?

 

Strikeouts
Moving to the NL the anticipation was that we would see an improvement in the strikeout rate.  It didn’t happen, as his SwStr% (8.6%) and O-Swing% (27.4%) tumbled (career marks are 9.5% and 29.5%, respectively).  In fact, over the past two seasons he hasn’t posted a Whiff% better than 13.48% on any pitch, and that doesn’t give hope that an improvement is coming.  While you may want to point towards a second half surge (8.76 K/9 after the All-Star Break), it’s far more likely that he falls flat once again.

 

Walks
Pinpoint control was always one of the big selling points (career BB/9 of 2.80), but it simply wasn’t there.  His split was 3.54/3.43, so it was consistently bad and as we mentioned he simply wasn’t getting the same number of swings on pitches outside the strike zone.  In the second half of 2016 he posted a 3.54 BB/9, so it’s beginning to look more and more like this is the new norm.  That’s not to say that he can’t get back to a 2.50 type BB/9, but at the same time it simply may not matter if he does.

 

Groundballs
Home runs have always been an issue, and while an overall 0.97 HR/9 looks alright the split is concerning:

  • Home – 1.39
  • Road – 0.63

Obviously his home ballpark doesn’t lend itself to a strong mark, the question is if he can maintain his road mark.  Given his history (1.24 career HR/9), that doesn’t seem likely.

 

That all comes together to this projection for 2018:

165.0 IP, 11 W, 4.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 147 K (8.02 K/9), 61 BB (3.33 BB/9)

Considering the consistent injury issues, having never thrown more than 169.2 innings in the Majors, the outlook is mediocre at best.  No one is going to say that it’s impossible that he finally figures it out, especially at 25-years old, but it’s going to take a lot of growth in order for him to get there.  With the trends and concerns, that’s not a gamble that’s worth taking.  There are simply other pitchers with similar, if not better, upside that can be had at a similar price point.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections:

Player
Date Published
Cano, Robinson10/09/17
Castillo, Luis10/03/17
Gerrit Cole10/30/17
Didi Gregorius11/20/17
Wil Myers10/24/17
Quintana, Jose11/13/17
Stroman, Marcus10/16/17
Walker, Taijuan 11/06/17

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