Three Right-Handed Pitching Targets for the SF Giants
2. Taijuan Walker
Of the names remaining on the free-agent market, few hurlers offer better prospect pedigrees or potential upside than Taijuan Walker.
Walker had Tommy John surgery in 2018, and has not returned to the pitcher he was prior to surgery. As we have seen with Drew Smyly, it may take a couple of years to fully regain his stuff and command. Of course, plenty of guys are never able to find that pre-injury form.
The 2020 season was an encouraging year for Walker, but it did not start that way. He began the year with the Seattle Mariners but was shipped to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. With the Mariners, he registered a 4.00 ERA across 27 frames but posted a stellar 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings down the stretch with Toronto.
In total, he generated a 2.70 ERA, 4.56 FIP., 1.16 WHIP, and a 22.2 percent strikeout rate against an 8.4 percent walk rate in 11 starts last year. He certainly improved his projected earnings with a strong finish.
Since he debuted with the Mariners back in 2013, the former first-round pick has produced a 3.84 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, and a 21.4 percent strikeout rate against a 7.5 percent walk rate.
He has shown the ability to rack up strikeouts and, unlike Odorizzi, gets his fair share of ground balls as well. In eight seasons, he had induced a groundball in 43.3 percent of his batted ball events to go along with a 1.19 GB/FB ratio.
Cost is going to be a factor. Since Drew Smyly netted a one-year, $11 million contract this winter, that could be used as a template for Walker, but with a longer-term commitment. If the Giants found a way to reel in the hurler, he would quickly become the second-best option in their rotation.