For the past few seasons, the New York Mets’ hopes of making the playoffs has been derailed by constant injuries throughout the roster. In particular, the pitching staff has been infected with the injury bug. Unfortunately for the Mets, the injuries have already begun to pile on again after just 15 games of Spring Training. It was already announced earlier in the week that star SP Jacob deGrom would be shut down for a month after suffering a stress reaction in his right scapula, a significant blow to the top-end of the rotation. Now, there’s good reason to be concerned about Taijuan Walker after he revealed he’s dealing with knee soreness in the same knee he had damaged tissue removed from this off-season.
During Spring Training, Mets skipper Buck Showalter wanted to play it safe with Walker and hasn’t had him go very deep into games. So far, the most innings he’s pitched in one outing was 3.2 innings against the Nationals on March 31st. In total, the 29-year-old righty has had just 3 total outings in the Spring. The most puzzling part of his Spring was his final outing against the Nationals, where Taijuan got lit up like a Christmas tree. In just 1.1 innings, Walker gave up 6 ER and allowed two HRs to a Nationals squad who isn’t supposed to be a competitive bunch heading into 2022. It could just be a one-time thing, but Walker’s past performances indicate that a greater problem is at hand.
After signing with the Mets on a 2 year deal in the 2021 offseason, Walker was off to an incredible start. Before the All-Star game, Walker had a record of 7-3 and an ERA of 2.66 and made his first All-Star team. However, his second half performance fell off a cliff as his 2nd half stats were abysmal. He was 0-8 with a 7.13 ERA and looked like a completely different pitcher, struggling with his fastball and giving up the long ball. With this season being his first coming off Tommy John surgery, bumps were to be expected but not this significant. Overall, Walker’s consistency just hasn’t been there throughout his career.
Potential options for the Mets
Although Walker has been slated to start the 4th game of the season, he hasn’t been stretched out enough to pitch that deep into games. Instead of throwing him into the fire and watching him burn, the Mets should play it safe with Walker. Instead of having him make his start against the Nationals, he should be skipped in the rotation and allowed the time to get 100% ready. Although this sounds like a disastrous idea, the Mets do have a couple of options on their roster that could fill this role in the short term.
Trevor Williams and Tylor Megill both have varying degrees of experience as starters in the MLB. Williams, a 29 year old righty, has pitched for 3 different teams throughout his 6 year MLB career. After joining the Mets, Williams had some success with a 3.06 ERA in 3 starts. His counterpart, Megill, is coming off a rookie campaign where he had a 4.52 ERA with a 4-6 record. Megill is also a lefty, which is currently a need in the Mets rotation. Although neither of them are world beaters, both can eat up innings while Taijuan works on getting his pitch count up and focuses on his health.
There’s no question that Taijuan Walker is an incredible talent. The 6 foot 4 giant has shown he can be an elite starter at times throughout his MLB career. The problem for Walker is injuries have derailed him, and now put him in an unfortunate position heading into the 2022 season. With that being said, Walker should look at things from a long-term perspective and shouldn’t pitch during his next scheduled start.