Pirates draft Jameson Taillon

The Pittsburgh Pirates have drafted high school pitcher Jameson Taillon (click his name to go to his BUCCO Fans player page) with their first pick, number two overall, in the 2010 MLB draft.  Taillon was rated the number two prospect in the draft by Baseball America, behind Bryce Harper and one ahead of high school shortstop Manny Machado.  Harper went first overall to the Washington Nationals, leaving the Pirates with a choice between Taillon and Machado.

For weeks, every mock draft had the Pirates’ choice down to Taillon and Machado, with Drew Pomeranz still mentioned as a dark horse candidate, even as late as yesterday.  Only in the last week did we start hearing that the Pirates were leaning more towards Taillon, which was a bit of a surprise.  The Pirates avoided high school pitching in the first round last year, opting instead to draft Tony Sanchez, and load up on hard to sign high school arms in the later rounds.  It was assumed that the Pirates would take the same approach this year, although they could still load up on signability picks in the later rounds.
For an organization that has lacked a top of the rotation starter for a long time, Taillon could finally be that guy. Taillon can get his fastball up to 99 MPH, and also has a curveball and a slider. All three pitches are plus pitches. Taillon also has a good changeup, although he doesn’t use it as often. Taillon works in the 93-95 range all throughout the game, even in the late innings. One concern this year has been his tendency to be hit around in certain games. A top prep pitcher shouldn’t get hit as much as Taillon did, especially with an upper 90s fastball. The Pirates stress fastball command at the lower levels, which means that’s an issue that can hopefully be protected.

Taillon has been compared to former Texas prep pitching prospect Josh Beckett, and it would be amazing if he lived up to that potential.  I don’t expect Taillon to be in the majors as quickly as Beckett arrived.  Beckett was drafted in the first round in 1999, coincidentally with the second overall pick, then made his debut in A-ball in 2000, pitching half a season at the level.  Beckett pitched between high-A and AA in 2001, then received a September call-up.  From there, Beckett continued his career in the majors, starting with the 2002 season.

Taillon will probably take the same approach that Quinton Miller took last year, and the same approach that Zach Von Rosenberg is taking this year.  He will likely start the 2011 season in Extended Spring Training, then pitch half a season in low-A ball.  From there he could take the same path as Beckett, although I don’t see him jumping from AA to the majors.  Then again, a lot of talk I’ve heard recently has said Taillon could advance through the minors at the same pace as a college pitcher, partly due to his 6′ 6″, 225 pound frame.

Don’t think that because the Pirates avoided Scott Boras they also avoided a tough negotiation.  Negotiations with the Hendricks Brothers can be just as tough as with Boras.  All you need to do is look at this description of the negotiations between the Hendricks Brothers and the Washington Nationals over Aaron Crow in 2008.  Crow ended up not signing over a difference of $500 K, then re-entering the draft in 2009 and getting what he wanted.

Taillon won’t have that same luxury as a prep player.  He has a commitment to Rice, but he won’t be eligible to re-enter the draft until 2013.  Taillon could go to JuCo in order to re-enter the 2011 draft, but he would pass up his scholarship to Rice, and isn’t a guarantee to get what the Pirates could be offering at number two, as the 2011 draft class is much more talented than the 2010 draft class.  With a fair offer, the Pirates should have no problem signing Taillon.  My guess is that he could receive something in the range of what Tyler Matzek ($3.9 M) and Jacob Turner ($4.7 M) received last year, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets $5 M with the Beckett comparisons.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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