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Has Taijuan Walker Arrived?

A popular sleeper heading into 2015, the ballyhooed Seattle prospect continues to show flashes of dominance. His last two turns have been much improved, but is it smoke and mirrors or is the ace-in-waiting finally figuring things out?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Our main man Ray Guilfoyle wrote about Carlos Rodon in Friday's Roto Roundup, where he implored the masses to exercise patience with the young White Sox hurler. Sure, Rodon's command issues have cost his fake owners here and there, but with two solid turns in a row he may finally be figuring some things out. Owned in only 32% of leagues right now, he is someone to jump on for sure.

Taijuan Walker is almost an identical story. Still only 22 years of age, the hard-throwing right-hander began the season very poorly. To date, his HR/FB ratio is an ugly 13.9% and he has allowed 10 home runs. He is also walking far too many batters, even though he has shown improvements in his last two turns. We'll get to that in a second, though. First, let's address these home runs.

Walker's current HR/FB ratio of 13.9% is a very high number, one that is likely due for regression. The league average mark is about 9.5% and Walker has a career 10.3% HR/FB rate--albeit in a small sample size. But expecting this number to come down and for more balls to stay in the park is entirely reasonable. A regression here would obviously improve Walker's 5.80 ERA and his 4.32 xFIP. And those numbers are already dropping as Walker continues to work on his walk rate. Consider this:

Walker walked 11 batters in 19.2 April innings. He then walked 12 batters in 31.1 May innings. And he started off June with a bang by allowing only one free pass in eight innings of work against the Yankees on June 3rd. Unfortunately, he also allowed two home runs in that game, which ultimately proved to be his undoing as the Yanks prevailed, 3-1.

And that is pretty much the story with Walker right now. He is a mixed bag. When the command is there he can be filthy. When it isn't he can get shelled. The talent and the strikeout upside (as well as the risk of a blow-up) make him a textbook tournament play for all you DFSers. But he is relevant to the seasonal fake owners among you as well.

His K-rate is still an excellent 8.24, and this seems entirely sustainable given Walker's minor league numbers and pedigree. That's a slight improvement over last year's 8.05 Ks per nine, but still lower than the 9.12 K/9 mark he had in his 73 AAA innings in 2014. In short, the man can strike some people out, and it is likely Walker will continue to grow in this area--which makes him enticing in the fake game.

Walker is owned in only 36% of Yahoo! leagues at the moment, which seems like a low number to me. We have just passed the quarter pole (shout-out to American Pharoah!) of the season, and surely there are some among you in need of strikeouts and upside. Walker is exactly the sort of guy you should be targeting. I would add him now before he spins his third quality start in a row. And if his next start happens to be poor, maybe you can pry him away from the owner in your league for cheap. Do it now!