Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto compares starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in terms of their athletic abilities.
The Seahawks employ three-time Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson, but the Mariners, at least in the view of GM Jerry Dipoto, feature major league baseball’s equivalent of NFL MVP Cam Newton — Taijuan Walker, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound athletic marvel who compares favorably to Newton’s 6-5, 245.
“The physical presence, the athleticism – it’s fascinating to watch him,” Dipoto said of the Mariners’ No. 3 starter, in an interview on 710 ESPN radio. “You don’t see pitchers that are put together like that.”
Walker has yet to come close to winning an MVP award, as Newton did the past season for the Carolina Panthers. But he’s loaded with enough talent that, according to Dipoto, could soon turn him into a superstar.
“He (Walker) has the weapons to be whatever he wants to become in the big leagues,” Dipoto said. “He throws strikes, he’s athletic, he’s competitive. It’s high-end velocity, his changeup’s come a long way. I think his breaking ball is still developing.
“And among all the players on our roster, particularly at the major league level, Taijuan Walker has more unattained upside left in the tank than any of them.”
Walker went 11-8, 4.56 last season and is 14-11, 4.16 in his three-year major league career. He had his best game in July against Minnesota when he tossed a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts. He also had a seven-start stretch in which he went 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA. Dipoto was asked if Walker could one day supplant Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ ace.
“I don’t see why not,” Dipoto said. “If he exceeds expectations (this season), then I think we’re gonna be really good.”