Taijuan Walker, Francisco Lindor and Cactus League Sleepers

Simultaneously FanGraphs’ trip to the desert and minor league games began Wednesday in Arizona. Trips to Goodyear and Scottsdale begot opportunities to view dozens of top prospects and some sleepers too.  

Taijuan Walker – Upon arriving in Peoria Walker announced he was scrapping his traditional curveball for a “spike” curve. The decision was a shock, Mike Newman called the offering “unhittable” last June. But, Walker lost confidence in the pitch shortly thereafter, prompting the change to his arsenal. Walker may want to revert to the traditional curve as the new pitch is raw and has less utility. Walker’s former curveball had a true 12-6 break, but the one he flashed Thursday was an inconsistent 11-5 breaker. The inconstant comes as no surprise, the spike curve is notoriously the most difficult variety of curveball to throw and he just began incorporating it into his repertoire. The shape change is worrisome too. Adding tilt makes the pitch more susceptible to left-handed hitters and Walker’s changeup isn’t advanced enough to keep them off balance. If Walker keeps burying the curve in the dirt, expect hitters to lay off it and for Walker to revive the old offering. Walker should spend the year at Double-A refining his secondary pitches.

Francisco Lindor – Life is full of hard decisions, but when faced with the choice to scout Lindor or a slew of Mariners’ studs you take the latter. In my two brief views of the young shortstop I walked away impressed by the maturation of his frame. Standing next to Lindor it was clear he added significant muscle to through body, most notably to his chest, back and thighs. The additional strength should help the 19-year-old cope with the rigors of minor league season.

Jacob Lamb – I stumbled upon this 22-year-old third baseman while watching Matt Davidson and Chris Owings take infield. Lamb was the Diamondbacks’ sixth round pick last June and played briefly in the Pioneer League. At third, Lamb is a confident defender with soft hands and a quick first step. At the plate, the former Washington Husky impressed, using his line drive stroke to rope the ball the other way. His size and natural leverage indicate power will be on the way. Lamb’s solid defense, sound mechanics and size make for an intriguing prospect.

Will Swanner – At 6’2″ there are reasonable questions surrounding Swanner’s ability to remain a catcher but there is no doubt he can rake. Swanner is long and athletic which is a rare body type for a catcher. To stick at the position he’ll need to overcomes the problems associated with his size; slow pop times, poor blocking, and limited mobility. If Swanner can stick behind the dish, he’ll be a force. He has average power to the pull size flowing from his strong hands and the barrel of his bat lingering in the hitting zone. At times, his back side collapses. Few profile favorably after moving off the position and Swanner is no exception, but his ceiling is high if he can.

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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Taijuan Walker, Francisco Lindor and Cactus League Sleepers”

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  1. Reality says:

    Baez > Lindor

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  2. maguro says:

    “Life is full of hard decisions, but when faced with the choice of Lindor or a slew of Mariners’ studs you take the latter.”

    Can you expand on this? You start out by saying that you prefer the Mariners guys, but you don’t say why, you just say a bunch of nice stuff about Lindor.

    Or did you mean to type “you take the former”?

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  3. Rob says:

    I’ve never really understood the reticence of a spike curveball vs other grips. I personally use the spike grip and its break can actually be more sharp than other grips. Perhaps the increased pressure that leads to the increased break also is perceived to lead to less control? In any case, since not many use the spike curve (I can personally only think of AJ Burnett, David Robertson, and I believe Kyle Drabek?), I don’t think we can use any empirical data to show it is harder to control, so there must be some theory behind it.

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    • Simon says:

      I would have thought that the fact that few pitchers use the spike curve suggests that it’s probably harder to get consistently good results from it compared to a conventional curveball.

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    • Tomcat says:

      I believe Cliff Lee uses a spike curve

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      • Cliff says:

        Cliff Lee definitely uses a standard curve. I think I read somewhere that the only major leaguer to have legit long term success with it was Mike Mussina. Could be wrong though.

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  4. Ball Fan says:

    I suspect Walker’s ‘scraping’ of the traditional curve was either suggested to by, and/or approved, by the M’s. I have a really hard time believing he showed up and decided I’m not throwing this anymore. Presumably the M’s have a reasonable belief he will be able to throw the new pitch, otherwise, they would have had him to continue to try and develop the other one.

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