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:
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.