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To recap the countdown so far:
20. Jin-De Jhang, C
18. Vic Black, RHP
13. Tony Sanchez, C
11. Clay Holmes, RHP
We continue the countdown with the number 2 prospect, Jameson Taillon.
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Before the Pirates drafted Taillon, they had gone a long period of time without an ace in the majors. The last ace to pitch in Pittsburgh was Doug Drabek. The organization didn’t have a prospect that profiled as a top of the rotation guy. So when Taillon was selected, he immediately became the ace of the future for the team.
There was one alarming trend with his game. Taillon had the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, with a plus fastball and a plus curveball. Despite the great stuff, he was hit around more than expected. That happened in high school, and continued in West Virginia in 2011. He showed his dominance at times, but wasn’t completely shutting down opponents the way you’d expect from a future ace.
The problem carried over to Bradenton in 2012. Taillon started off great, giving up just six runs in 36 innings over his first seven starts. After that he hit a huge funk, giving up 28 earned runs in 31 innings over his next six starts. That was an alarming pace for someone who was supposed to be a key part of the Pirates future.
Some of that had to do with having confidence in his stuff, which finally clicked for Taillon in late July. A bigger issue was reducing the drop in his delivery, which was causing the ball to flatten out, making it nearly impossible for Taillon to throw down in the zone. Taillon finished strong in his final four starts in Bradenton. That earned him a promotion to Altoona, where he looked dominant each time out.
Taillon had a two-seam fastball when he turned pro, but the Pirates took the pitch away from him, getting him to focus on commanding his four seam fastball. They gave the pitch back to him at the end of the year, and he used it to get ground balls and work from behind in the count. Another pitch Taillon focused on this year was the changeup. The coaching staff challenged him early in the year to throw 20 changeups per start. That forced him to use the pitch and get comfortable with it, which he did as the year went on.
Those two pitches give Taillon four above-average to plus pitches. He’s got a four seam fastball that sits 94-96, touching 99. His hard curve works in the low 80s. His two-seamer works in the low 90s and has arm-side downward movement. The change is a circle change which sits in the upper 80s. That mix, plus his success in the second half of 2012, has Taillon on track to reach his potential as a future ace. He should start the 2013 season back in Altoona, and could be in the majors by the end of the year if he pitches like he did in the second half of 2012.
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