The Seattle Mariners will get a look at their top pitching prospect for the first time in an MLB game on Friday when Taijuan Walker starts against the visiting Houston Astros. The 21-year-old California native is 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA this year for AAA Tacoma.
Seattle designated veteran Aaron Harang for assignment a few days ago, which freed up a spot in their rotation. The Mariners could have put Brandon Maurer, Hector Noesi or Blake Beavan in Harang’s place, but they decided to finally promote Walker, who is currently ranked as the fourth overall prospect in all of baseball right now.
Seattle has hit a rough stretch recently. They are on a six-game losing streak and have lost seven of their last 10. Even ace Felix Hernandez has struggled on the mound lately. He gave up eight earned runs in just three inning today against the Texas Rangers before being pulled, easily his worst start of 2013. Joe Saunders has allowed 20 earned runs over his last four starts and Hisashi Iwakuma has allowed 13 over the same stretch.
In short, the team is in desperate need of consistent pitching from their starters. Seattle is hopeful that Walker will show them that he is ready to pitch at the MLB level and maybe even earn a starting job at the beginning of 2014. They are hoping Walker pitches well not only for his sake, but also so the team can salvage something from the last month of their season. The Mariners will also be interested in prospect James Paxton, who is also playing for AAA Tacoma right now and may also see MLB playing time before the season in out.
Of course, pitching is only half the battle. The Seattle bats have been remarkable unproductive in the last week, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team call up some position players in early September.