Pipeline preview: Walker aims to stay hot for Tacoma

Mariners' No. 1 prospect faces New Orleans coming off 13-strikeout performance

Pipeline preview: Walker aims to stay hot for Tacoma

Taijuan Walker, the Mariners' No. 1 prospect, set a career high with 13 strikeouts Sunday in a victory against Triple-A Fresno. Wednesday, Walker, the top-ranked pitcher on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, celebrated his 22nd birthday.

Walker will look to continue his celebratory week when he takes the mound for Tacoma in the final game of its four-game series at New Orleans on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on MiLB.TV.

Walker, ranked No. 7 on the Top 100, has already had an eventful season. He suffered a shoulder injury in Spring Training and missed much of the first half of the season as a result. Since returning from the disabled list, Walker has thrown a nine-inning shutout for Tacoma, been summoned to the big leagues twice and -- in back-to-back starts -- set new career highs for earned runs and strikeouts.

Now, Walker will try to build on his latest gem. He enters Friday with a 5-3 record and a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts this season for Tacoma. Walker has struck out 52 batters and walked 18 in 55 innings.

Tacoma got a boost this week when shortstop Ketel Marte, the Mariners' No. 11 prospect, was promoted from Double-A Jackson. The 20-year old hit .302/.329/.404 with two home runs and 23 stolen bases in 109 games with the Generals. Marte has a hit in each of his first four games with the Rainiers.

New Orleans is led by second baseman Enrique Hernandez, who the Marlins acquired from the Astros as part of the Jarred Cosart deal. Hernandez hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning Wednesday and is hitting .323 in 78 games in the Pacific Coast League this season.

In addition to Walker, Friday's Minor League slate is highlighted by several other pitchers ranked in the Top 100 who are scheduled to start, including Robert Stephenson (No. 20), Henry Owens (No. 23), Daniel Norris (No. 28), Mark Appel (No. 45), A.J. Cole (No. 62) and Touki Toussaint (No. 83). Fans can watch all but Toussaint on MiLB.TV, beginning with Owens and Triple-A Pawtucket hosting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Norris, the Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Triple-A Buffalo at Lehigh Valley. It will be his second start at Triple-A. The left-hander struck out 10 batters in six scoreless innings Sunday in his Bisons debut. Norris began the season with Class A Advanced Dunedin, and he enters Friday with a 10-1 record and a 2.25 ERA across three levels of the Minor Leagues this season. He has struck out 135 batters and walked 36 in 108 innings.

Top prospect probables
Appel (Astros' No. 2), Corpus Christi vs. Arkansas
Trey Ball (Red Sox's No. 15), Greenville at Savannah
Ty Blach (Giants' No. 6), Richmond at Portland
Cole (Nationals' No. 2), Syracuse at Rochester
Tyler Danish (White Sox No. 7), Winston-Salem at Wilmington
Grayson Garvin (Rays' No. 19), Montgomery at Mississippi
Stephen Gonsalves (Twins' No. 15), Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria
Foster Griffin (Royals' No. 9), Burlington at Danville
Grant Holmes (Dodgers' No. 4), Ogden at Helena
Matt Imhof (Phillies' No. 10), Lakewood vs. Hagerstown
Pierce Johnson (Cubs' No. 11), Tennessee vs. Huntsville
Nate Karns (Rays' No. 15), Durham vs. Charlotte
Bryan Mitchell (Yankees' No. 20), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Pawtucket
Justin Nicolino (Marlins' No. 4), Jacksonville at Chattanooga
Norris (Blue Jays' No. 1), Buffalo at Lehigh Valley
Owens (Red Sox's No. 2), Pawtucket vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Victor Sanchez (Mariners' No. 14), Jackson vs. Birmingham
Robert Stephenson (Reds' No. 1), Pensacola vs. Mobile
Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox's No. 10), Portland vs. Richmond
Blake Taylor (Mets' No. 17), Kingsport vs. Bristol
Jake Thompson (Rangers' No. 6), Frisco at Tulsa
Toussaint (D-backs' No. 3), Missoula vs. Idaho Falls
Nick Travieso (Reds' No. 8), Dayton vs. Bowling Green
Taijuan Walker (Mariners' No. 1), Tacoma at New Orleans
Joe Wieland (Padres' No. 18), El Paso vs. Nashville
Mike Wright (Orioles' No. 7), Norfolk vs. Gwinnett

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.