The Philadelphia Phillies have signed Taijuan Walker to a 4-year deal worth $72M. The Phillies have made their second splash in just as many days. First, it was Trae Turner, and now it's the right-handed pitcher Walker. This is a massive raise for Walker, as his last contract was a 3-year deal worth $23M
Walker is staying in the National League east after spending the last two seasons with the New York Mets. It's going to be fun watching Walker face off against his former teammates this season. The first series between the divisional foes begins on May 30 at Citi Field.
Walker pitched 157.1 innings in 2022 and excelled at limiting the long ball. He allowed just 0.86 home runs per nine innings. This was good for 22nd best out of all pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched. Part of the reason for Walker's success was his 46.2% ground ball rate. This was 19th best among the same group of pitchers.
Philadelphia's new pitcher should be successful with his new team. However, he does have limitations, the biggest being that he's pitched at least 160 innings just once in his 10-year career. Another is that his K/9 (7.55) dipped to a career low in 2022. Despite these drawbacks, Walker still finished with a career-high 12 wins in 2022, and there's no reason he can't improve on that in 2023.
Philadelphia Phillies Sign Taijuan Walker
Taijuan Walker with the New York Mets
Walker spent 2021 and 2022 with the New York Mets. He started 58 games and recorded a 19-16 record with 23 quality starts and a 3.98 ERA across 316.1 innings. Walker also recorded 7.91 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.85 walks per nine, and 1.17 home runs per nine.
Walker made the All-Star team in 2021 by recording a 7-3 record with a 2.66 ERA in 16 starts leading up to the All-Star Game.
All-in-all, Walker finished his time with the Mets as an above-average pitcher, earning him $72M over the next four seasons. The most important part of Walker's time in New York was working alongside superstar pitchers Jacob deGrom, and Max Scherzer. One would assume Walker picked up on their game and found a way to put it into his own.
Taijuan Walker's Fantasy Impact with the Philadelphia Phillies
New deals for Trea Turner (11 years, $300M), & Taijuan Walker (4 years, $72M) have increased the #Phillies projected Opening Day tax payroll over the $233M threshold.
The 2022 runner ups aren't backing down one bit.https://t.co/RwV5iRuIHy
— Spotrac (@spotrac) December 7, 2022
The Phillies lost out on starters Kyle Gibson and Zach Eflin to free agency, but they still managed to upgrade their rotation. Walker projects to be the third starter behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, filling a similar role that he did with the Mets.
The biggest thing to mention here is that the defense behind Walker will be worse with the Phillies. In 2022 the Mets finished with 11 defensive runs saved, while the Phillies finished with -34. This will surely hurt Walker, who is known for getting batters out via the groundout. Despite the weaker defense, Walker is still a serviceable arm to draft in the middle rounds.
Taijuan Walker's Departure Impact on the New York Mets
#Mets projected rotation for Opening Day ‘23:
1. Justin Verlander
2. Max Scherzer
3. Carlos Carrasco
4. David Peterson
5. Tylor Megill
You can be sure that they’re in the market for another SP to slot in at 3 as well additional depth given injury concerns of the current 5. #MLB
— MLB Marathon (@MLBMarathon) December 5, 2022
So far, the Mets have lost deGrom and Walker to free agency but have gained Justin Verlander in the process. Unless the Mets sign another starting pitcher, they will have to start Tylor Megill and David Peterson in the rotation. This is a steep downgrade from a season ago when they had deGrom, Scherzer, Walker, Carlos Carrasco, and Chris Bassitt as their five starters.
If the Mets choose not to sign another pitcher, then Fantasy managers should keep an eye on minor-leaguers Jose Butto and Denyi Reyes. Neither is excellent, but they could be the first to get the call to the rotation if an injury occurs.
Check out where Dave Eddy ranks the Mets prospects in his 2023 Dynasty Baseball Rankings!
Final Thoughts on Taijuan Walker
Walker is an above-average starting pitcher who gets most of his value by forcing batters to ground out and limiting home runs. He will have a more challenging time doing so in Philadelphia due to their poor defense.
Despite the poor defense, Fantasy managers should still expect Walker to remain a dependable Fantasy Baseball asset. Fantasy Baseball managers can expect to draft Walker between rounds 16 and 19.
This season, Walker's biggest key is improving his strikeout numbers from last year's career low. If he can return to his 2021 8.26 strikeouts per nine, he will be well worth a 16th-round selection.
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