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Weekly Planner: Taijuan Walker's season debut finally arrives

Seattle super-prospect Taijuan Walker arrives from Triple-A Tacoma after six impressive starts and will join the Mariners rotation. Photo:

Seattle super-prospect Taijuan Walker arrives from Triple-A Tacoma after six impressive starts and will join the Mariners rotation.

Taijuan Walker, the No. 11 prospect entering the year according to Baseball America, was ticketed to begin the season in the Mariners’ rotation, but shoulder problems during spring training put an end to that plan. While he was a universally drafted player in mixed leagues, his indeterminate, long-term stay on the DL made him a widely available player in fantasy leagues. With that stay coming to an end on Monday, now is the time to snatch him up if he’s out there in your league.

Seattle, and, doubtlessly the owners who drafted Walker, expected to have him back a bit sooner, but he hit a few setbacks during the rehab process to the majors. Given he’s a prized young pitcher who has had arm troubles in the past, the Mariners wisely took their time getting him back into game shape. He ended up making six starts with Triple-A Tacoma, putting up a 3.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.

Walker made his major league debut last year, posting a 3.60 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 1.00 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in 15 innings. His four-pitch repertoire is highlighted by a fastball that sits at 95 MPH and a cutter that averages 91 MPH. While those are his two most frequently used pitches, he also has a nice curveball and a changeup that he sometimes uses on lefties.

Perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and fantasy owners, Walker is a player who can be a game-changer at this point of the season. Fantasy owners looking for pitching help can get that in Walker and, if he’s available on your league’s waiver wire or free agent list, it’s very cheap help. Those of you who have stuck with him all year and let him occupy a roster spot should give yourselves a pat on the back. Walker’s arrival means getting a potentially high-impact pitcher who, assuming his shoulder woes are fully behind him, shouldn’t have to worry too much about an innings cap since he has amassed just 40 frames this year. The Mariners are 43-38, occupying the second Wild-Card spot entering play Sunday. Should they stick around the playoff race, they’d have even more reason to take the kid gloves off Walker.

Walker has a great matchup in his first start of the year, facing the Astros on Monday. It’ll be tougher for him over the weekend against the White Sox, but don’t let that sway you from getting him in your lineup this week. He should be owned and started across the board.

Roster Trends

Most added

Mookie Betts, Red Sox – The Red Sox promoted Betts from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he hit .322/.425/.444 in 106 plate appearances, on Friday. He started the year at Double-A Portland, slashing .355/.443/.551 in 253 plate appearances. Betts is a natural middle infielder, but will mostly play outfield for Boston. He should be added in all mixed leagues.

Jake McGee, Rays – McGee picked up consecutive saves on Friday and Saturday, and appears to have taken control of the ninth inning for the Rays. If he’s somehow still available in your league, add him now.

Jesse Hahn, Padres -- You could always do worse than grabbing a San Diego pitcher, and Hahn appears to merit attention based on more than just his pitching environment. In 22 2/3 innings he has a 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 27 strikeouts.

Most dropped

Wei-yin Chen, Orioles -- Chen had a rough start against the Rays over the weekend, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. He’s really no more than a streaming option, even in deeper leagues.

Ronald Belisario, White Sox -- Robin Ventura finally made the move he had to make, removing Belisario from the closer’s role. He’s unlikely to get back into it, meaning he has zero fantasy value.

Danny Santana, Twins -- The Twins placed Santana on the 15-day DL on Friday with a knee injury. Right now, the team doesn’t expect him to miss too much time, as he’s dealing with a bone bruise. You’re better off putting him on your DL than dropping him outright.

Two-start pitchers
1. David Price
2. Jordan Zimmermann
3. Anibal Sanchez
4. Garrett Richards
5. Corey Kluber
6. Scott Kazmir
7. Mat Latos
8. Jake Arrieta
9. Alex Wood
10. Rick Porcello
11. Chris Archer
12. Josh Beckett
13. A.J. Burnett
14. Jered Weaver
15. Zack Wheeler
16. Henderson Alvarez
17. Taijuan Walker
18. Tim Lincecum
19. Hiroki Kuroda
20. Dan Haren
21. Jesse Hahn
22. Collin McHugh
23. Danny Duffy
24. Drew Hutchison
25. Jake Peavy
26. David Phelps
27. Jarred Cosart
28. Joe Saunders
29. Marco Gonzales
30. Brad Mills
31. Ricky Nolasco
32. Ubaldo Jimenez
33. Hector Noesi
34. Yohan Flande
35. Wade Miley
36. Jeff Locke
37. Christian Friedrich
38. Yohan Pino
39. Nick Martinez

Teams playing seven games
Angels
Orioles
Rockies
Tigers
Astros
Dodgers
Twins
Yankees
A’s
Rays
Rangers

Teams playing five games
Brewers

Weekday day games (all times Eastern)
Tuesday
Brewers @ Blue Jays, 1:07
Wednesday
Brewers @ Blue Jays, 12:37
Rays @ Yankees, 1:05
A’s @ Tigers, 1:08
Royals @ Twins, 1:10
Mariners @ Astros, 2:10
Indians @ Dodgers, 3:10
Reds @ Padres, 3:40
Thursday
Cardinals @ Giants, 3:45
Friday
Cubs @ Nationals, 11:05 am
Orioles @ Red Sox, 1:35
Yankees @ Twins, 3:00
Blue Jays @ A’s, 7:00
Favorable matchups
Angels (@ Chicago White Sox, vs. Houston) – The Angels get to play three games in Chicago without facing Chris Sale. Then, they host the Astros for four over the weekend, and get decent matchups against Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh and Jarred Cosart.
Braves (vs. New York Mets, vs. Arizona) – After the Braves deal with Zack Wheeler on Monday, things get considerably easier. The rest of their week features Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacob deGrom, Josh Collmenter, Mike Bolsinger and Wade Miley.
Pirates (vs. Arizona, vs. Philadelphia) – The Diamondbacks have the fifth-worst ERA and sixth-worst FIP in the majors. That’s a great start for the Pirates this week. They get nice matchups against Roberto Hernandez and Dallas Buchanan on Friday and Saturday.
Mariners (@ Houston, @ Chicago White Sox) – The Mariners aren’t the best offensive team, but they spend the entire week in good parks for hitters. They also only have one really tough matchup, getting Chris Sale in Chicago on Friday.
Rangers (@ Baltimore, @ New York Mets) – While the Rangers are on the road all week, they at least get four games at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards. They also don’t have any matchups that should really concern them, outside of perhaps Zack Wheeler on Sunday.

Unfavorable matchups

White Sox (vs. Los Angeles Angels, vs. Seattle) – It’s not a terrible week for the White Sox, but they do have to deal with Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker.

Reds (@ San Diego, vs. Milwaukee) – The Reds start the week in San Diego where they’ll face Jesse Hahn, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross. They return home to take on division-rival Milwaukee over the weekend, and they’re scheduled to face Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo.
Rockies (@ Washington, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers) – The Rockies have a nightmare week ahead with the Nationals and Dodgers. They’re slated to face Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Dan Haren and Josh Beckett.
Tigers (vs. A’s, vs. Rays) – The Tigers have a tough string of matchups this week, facing Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and David Price. It’s not quite what the Rockies have to grapple with, but it certainly isn’t a friendly set of pitchers.
Cardinals (@ San Francisco, vs. Miami) – The Cardinals start the week in San Francisco, and will go up against Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner. They return home to host the Marlins over the weekend, and will see Andrew Heaney and Henderson Alvarez.

 

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