A closer at Fresno City College, Marcus Walden was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. The Blue Jays moved Walden from the pen to the starting rotation, and the results have generally been positive throughout Walden’s minor league career with a cumulative 3.65 ERA in 522.2 innings pitched.
Walden has success by pitching to contact and generating a high rate of ground balls from opposing hitters. Walden does not strike many batters out, but he also does not issue free passes. He is a typical back of the rotation innings eater, the type of player who is never fully appreciated and is often overlooked.
Walden has a simple repertoire and typically relies on a heavy, low 90s fastball that can be a plus pitch due to its incredible sinking action. By commanding this pitch Walden keeps his home runs and walks allowed to a minimum, mitigating the damage done by his high rate of hits allowed.
After missing 2009-10 with Tommy John surgery, Walden has come back strong for the Blue Jays. In his four seasons after surgery Walden has posted consecutive ERAs of 3.24, 3.12, 2.85 and most recently 3.71 in 162.1 innings pitched at Double-A last year. Likely ticketed for Triple-A this year, Walden has proven to be a reliable innings eater who could potentially fill a role in the back of the Blue Jays’ rotation.
The projected No. 4 and No. 5 starters for the Blue Jays are J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek. Both pitchers are the opposite of Walden in that they have better stuff but poor command of their pitches. Happ is unimpressive overall but fits well at the end of a rotation. Drabek, on the other hand, has been nothing short of awful during his time in the big leagues, with 5.8 walks per nine and 6.0 strikeouts per nine leading to a 1.68 WHIP in 169.1 innings pitched. Drabek continues to get chances due to his pedigree as the son of Doug Drabek and his former status as a top prospect.
If Walden can prove that he can get big league hitters out this spring, he may be able to put himself on the short list of emergency starters for the Blue Jays if there’s an early season injury. At this point, Walden will be sent to Triple-A to start the spring, and if he pitches well enough the Blue Jays may consider him for a potential promotion.