Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #16 – Blake Taylor

The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP

We continue the countdown with the number 16 prospect, Blake Taylor.

16. Blake Taylor, LHP

The Pirates have drafted a lot of projectable right-handers over the last few years, leaving their system rich with pitching prospects, but thin on left-handed pitching prospects. With their second round pick in the 2013 draft they went for the rare projectable lefty when they drafted Blake Taylor. He’s a year younger than most high school draft picks, but has some impressive stuff and the potential to get better as he matures.

Taylor throws his fastball in the 89-92 MPH range with good movement. He has touched mid-90s with the pitch in the past, and could eventually get to the point where he is sitting low-to-mid 90s as a starter. The one downside to his fastball is that he lacks command of the pitch, leading to some control problems. The Pirates do a good job of teaching fastball command in the lower levels, so Taylor could benefit from that focus in 2014.

He pairs the fastball with a curveball that could be considered a plus offering. Taylor started off strong this year in the GCL, limiting hits and putting up good strikeout rates in his limited time in the GCL. Taylor doesn’t have much of a changeup right now, although that is another area where the Pirates have had success with younger pitchers.

Not only did Taylor dominate in the GCL, but he had some great numbers in his senior year in high school. He put up a 2.57 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 11 starts. Baseball America rated him as the 32nd best pitcher in the draft. He was a 2013 Rawlings third-team All-American, as well as a California All-Region First-Team selection. The Pirates getting Taylor at pick number 51 was a value pick, considering that he had the talent to go at the end of the first round or in the compensation round.

Overall Taylor has a good fastball with the frame to add velocity and one day sit in the low-to-mid 90s. He has the makings of a plus curveball to pair with that fastball. He’s going to need work on his fastball command and changeup. Those are two big priorities in the lower levels of the Pirates system, so it’s likely he will spend the next few years focused on improving those two pitches. If he can improve in those two areas, he’s got the upside to at least be a middle of the rotation starter. He would have even more value to the Pirates as a lefty in PNC Park.

Taylor is several years from the majors. He’s got a lot of talent, but right now he’s highly projectable. Because of his age, he could go back to the GCL in 2014. It’s also possible that the Pirates could send him to Bristol to give him a bit more of a challenge. They usually don’t send prep pitchers to Jamestown unless their changeup is developed enough for that level, and that is unlikely to be the case for Taylor. He could spend a year or two in short-season ball before making it to West Virginia for a full season league. If the fastball command and changeup develop sooner, rather than later, he could be on a faster track to the big leagues.

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Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • jg941

    Slightly OT, Tim – given their limited playing time in the the MLB, I think TSanchez and McFear are still “rookies”, but do you still consider them “prospects” in this context?

    Looking at last year’s Top 50, looks like about 10 guys are “gone” from the list, whether thru graduation (Cole, Mercer, Wilson, Morris), trades (Herrera, Black, Dickerson) or waiver losses (Robinson, Strickland), with maybe an asterisk on losing Gaffney to football (do we still own his rights if he passses on the NFL draft?).

    (Sorry – gonna order/download my Prospect Guide today, going digital this time, but blew the discount by not ordering it over the holidays. Oh well.)

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      Both still have prospect eligibility, so we consider them prospects.

      The Pirates would get Gaffney back if he returns to baseball.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Let’s hope, like yesterday’s lefty, that he gets command.

    Otherwise, hello, Andy Oliver.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Excellent point about taking it very slow due to his age. Most HS kids we see drafted these days have been held back by their parents at some point to allow them to be more mature through HS/College. This kid was a “young” HS Senior and was drafted and pitched most of the time in the GCL as a 17 tear old. For that matter, Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire only turned 18 right before the 2013 draft. With his build however, 6’3″ 220, he definitely has the physical size to move quickly. I think he will start at Lo A in 2014, but that start could be delayed by a month or two by additional work in extended ST in Bradenton before they send him off to Lo A.

    Over the past few years I have seen a lot of young prospects do well at Lo A WV – hat’s off to the pitching coaching at that level. Has it been the same person? Might not be a bad idea to dedicate a page pf the PP Prospect Guide to some background on the folks we depend upon to develop the prospects. Have not seen Taylor – is he a solid 220 or a little fluffy?

    • Ericfg

      “Might not be a bad idea to dedicate a page pf the PP Prospect Guide to some background on the folks we depend upon to develop the prospects”
      Seconded.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      The reason we don’t profile the coaches is because that information is up in the air when the Prospect Guide is being released. We don’t know who will be coaching where during the off-season. That information is actually going to be coming out today, so expect an article when the news is released.