Taijuan Walker could very well be hitting the prime of his career at 28 years old, but he’s aging like one of the fine wines he collects — showing why he was such a highly-touted prospect that was drafted in the first round 11 years ago.
The veteran right-hander continues to exceed expectations that have been limited ever since he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018, lowering his ERA to 2.12 after going seven innings while allowing two runs on five hits while striking out a career-high 12 Chicago Cubs in a 3-2 Mets win on Tuesday night.
His ERA ranks fifth-best in Major League Baseball while he’s bolstered a Mets rotation that has been tried by the injury bug; outperforming original projections as a lower-end starter by leaps and bounds.
And to think, Walker was home with his wines without an offer from a big-league club until February when the Mets came calling.
It was his only offer on the table — one that suddenly is carrying divine connotations while undoubtedly providing bulletin-board material that he can now show the rest of the league
“I feel like everything happens for a reason and the Mets being my only offer, I think it was destiny for me to be here,” Walker said. “I’m glad the Mets were my only offer.”
Along with his 2.12 ERA, Walker is on pace to at least tie a career-low in WHIP (1.000) while his strikeouts per nine innings is at a career-high. So is his home runs allowed per nine innings, which is currently leading Major League Baseball at 0.4.
“He knows how his stuff works and he’s able to pitch and work through games with whatever he has that day,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said of Walker. “His pitchability is absolutely plus and he’s got great stuff.
“So with that combination, it’s no surprise that he’s carving guys up this year. He’s having a hell of a year.”
Mets manager Luis Rojas kept his analysis of Walker far more simple.
“We hit the jackpot with this guy,” he said. “He’s been outstanding for us.”