Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #2 – Jameson Taillon

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
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP
8. Josh Bell, OF
7. Reese McGuire, C
6. Nick Kingham, RHP
5. Alen Hanson, SS
4. Austin Meadows, OF
3. Tyler Glasnow, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 2 prospect, Jameson Taillon.

Jameson Taillon is expected to be in the majors by mid-season.

Jameson Taillon is expected to be in the majors by mid-season.

2. Jameson Taillon, RHP

The 2013 season saw Gerrit Cole make the jump to the majors to help the Pirates rotation, with Cole looking like an ace by the end of the season. Jameson Taillon could do the same thing in 2014. That wouldn’t be the end of the similarities between Cole and Taillon. Both have been projected as potential top of the rotation pitchers since they were drafted. Neither player put up dominant numbers in the minors to back up those projections. Just like Cole, Taillon is rated highly due to his strong arsenal.

Taillon’s fastball sits 94-97 MPH, and has touched triple digits at times, but mostly tops out at 99 MPH. He has worked throughout his pro career to reduce a drop in his delivery, which leads to him flattening out the pitch, making the fastball more hittable. He will always have a drop in his delivery, but he has reduced that and has done a better job of limiting damage.

To go along with the plus fastball, Taillon has a plus curveball, which is the best in the system. The curve is a mid-80s hard breaking pitch which generates swings and misses. It can be confused with a slider, and is more of a slurve, breaking sideways and down. The curve has been inconsistent at times throughout his pro career, which might be due to the focus on fastball command. When the curve is working, Taillon is dominant.

Like most prep pitchers, Taillon has worked on developing a changeup as a pro. The changeup took some big strides in development in 2012, and he continued that development in 2013, sitting 87-89 MPH with the pitch. Taillon added a two-seam fastball at the end of the 2012 season, and used it more often in 2013 to generate grounders. The pitch sits low 90s, moving in on right-handers with a bit of sink.

Taillon has the upside to be a number one starter in the majors. He will start the 2014 season with Indianapolis, and could be in the majors by June. If things go as well for him as they did with Gerrit Cole, then the Pirates could have two young aces in their rotation by the end of the 2014 season.

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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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  • jaygray007

    I can’t wait for him to turn into a 3.8ish ERA, 200+ inning workhorse and people call him a bust because he’s not an ace.

    That said, he could still become an ace.

    • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

      Jaygray – That’s a realistic view and probably close to where I’m at. Sounds to me like he could get lit up when his curve isn’t on. Then again, a 3.80 is OK if your team is consistently scoring 4. And IMO, offense is still the Bucs biggest concern.

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

      Jay Gray….I sure hope he does better than 3.8ish, imho.

      If not, to me, he IS a bust, because I still feel Machado was the better pick at that time and still today.

      I am hoping he AT LEAST, is a strong #2.

      • jaygray007

        I guess it depends on your definition of bust. I think that even if Taillon becomes a 1-2, Machado might STILL have been the better pick based on the results he has already reached. Imagine that 6.2 WAR he put up last year instead of Barmes and Mercer (granted, i don’t know how that WAR would translate to SS. the offensive component would go up, and the defensive component would go down. either way, Machado is awesome). the impact it couldve had on the 2013 pirates already puts points in favor of Machado. That doesn’t mean that they were wrong to take Taillon. Sometimes your process is right, but your results aren’t.

        I didn’t say we couldn’t be disappointed about him becoming a 3 type. it is disappointing to see ace potential not come to fruit. sure.

        I just think that there are too many busts who become nothing in the major leagues to call a guy who becomes a productive player a bust.

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

          One thing about Machado, he might not be in the majors right now if he stays at shortstop. He would have had to work on his defense there. The Orioles didn’t need him at shortstop, so they could put him at an easier position to get his bat to the majors quicker.

        • moose7195

          Manny Machado wouldn’t be on the major league club if he was drafted by the Pirates. Look at his minor league results, Machado would probably only be in AA (barely) if NH was his GM, and all of you would be crying “bust” because he wouldn’t be tearing up the minors as a top 2 pick. Your opinion is solely hindsight.

          • jaygray007

            Yes my point was hindsight. But i was trying to make the point that even with our hindsight view of imagining his WAR on the 2014 club, and even if Machado has the better career, it doesn’t mean that the *process* wasn’t right.

            They weren’t wrong to pick the ace-caliber pitcher EVEN IF he doesn’t quite turn into an ace. Even if Machado turns into Cal Ripken, we can’t blame them for going for the ace. I’m in no way saying that Taillon was a bad pick or the wrong pick. Heck. i’m just glad they didn’t get Christian Colon.

            that doesn’t mean that looking at Machado’s 6 WAR can’t make me think about what he mightve added to that 2014 team. i realize how silly it is to think that he would even be up on the club. but i still do it because it’s fun.

            Taillon <3

      • moose7195

        Machado’s instant success was a stroke of luck by the Orioles. He was dragged kicking and screaming through the minors despite lackluster numbers, so don’t write off Taillon because his minor league results don’t sceam, “SUPERSTAR.” He could take the same track. And a 3.8ish ERA isn’t the end of the world if it’s his ERA through the first 2 seasons. Look at Gerrit Cole, he had a 3.8 ERA going into September, was he so terrible then?

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

      You just described Matt Cain for the first three years of his career.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        Big difference Tim…..Matt can was taken 25th in the first round, also right out of high school, in 2002. He made his major league debut at the age of 20, in 2005. So, given his draft position compared to Taillon, I would think the expectations were not as high on Cain.

        I still think and believe Taillon can and will be an above average SP in the majors – that does not make him a bust IMHO, but does make it somewhat a disappointment – given his draft position, expectations, and the alternative (Machado).

        BTW, Machado could play SS for the Pirates – or anyone else for that matter – today and be more than represent himself and the team well in all facets. His range and arm are unbelievable. He came up to play 3B, and not SS, not because he was not up to the challenge – it was because of the presence of JJ Hardy and the Orioles lack of a third baseman who could field at all.

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

          I’m not trying to compare players here. I just read the “3.80, 200 IP per year…still could become an ace”, and I thought of Matt Cain.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD

            Well, all pitchers have their ups and downs – even the best ones.

            I will be watching Taillon closely this year – I really want to see him be dominant at AAA – assuming that is where he starts. He has the stuff to be dominant – maybe he needs more of a killer instinct? This is going to be a very important Spring and early Summer for him.

            I am not sold on the likelihood of a Volquez turnaround, and Wandy is a big question mark. So, by June, we may need a guy like Taillon to come up and take a spot in the rotation. My concern is that our rotation is very much RH dominated….I think we need more balance there ideally – but, other than Wandy and Locke, there isn’t much else available.

            • buster09

              Just a friendly question BFSIM : do you like a glass half full ? Or half empty ?

            • jamminjoe66

              St. Louis hasn’t had a Lefty in rotation in awhile. I think they’ve done OK.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

            I’ve thought of Matt Cain a lot in comparing Taillon to current MLB pitchers. Not sure why, but that’s come up in my mind frequently.

            Realistically the scouting report indicates AJ Burnett with a legitimate change up. Tall righty, mid-90′s, low-mid 80′s sweeping curve, and a low 90′s two-seamer. The change up was always something AJ has lacked. He’ll throw 1-2 a game, but it’s so ineffective and used so infrequently, it’s not even of any value in giving a different look.

      • jaygray007

        That sounds beautiful to me haha. but that won’t be good enough for a lot of fans i guess.

  • Kevin_Young

    With Taillon having such a dominant curve, do you think the Pirates have him unleash it right away this season so he can have a better feel for it by his call up? Cole had to slowly work in his breaking stuff this past year at the big league level, and I wonder if we do it differently with Taillon.

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

      The Pirates always have their pitchers working off the fastball to set up other pitches. I don’t know if Taillon will throw 80% fastballs like Cole did his first month, but Taillon will lean heavily on the pitch.

  • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.humbert Bruce Humbert

    One thing that gets overlooked and affects things like WAR projections, is that the Pirates do not want their minor league pitchers to “dominate” for the sake of domination. The work hard to develop each of them with a plan – Cole was asked to do certain things at Indy before coming to Pittsburgh and did them well – even in his first few starts he was not really turned loose – his number of strikeouts was “disappointing” to some. The rose to over 1 per inning in September and October once they – and he were comfortable with his ability to make his pitches.

    I Taillon’s case I would expect they will be asking him to work on command of the curveball in his 8-12 starts at Indy – that might produce some ugly numbers – but the overall package should be fine once it arrives in Pittsburgh.

  • deacs

    This is a two parter – speaking of Cain, I’m not a big sabremetrics guy but isn’t he a guy that typically has an ERA lower than his FIP every year? Kind of the exception to the rule every year?

    Also Tim do you remember an article you did on Taillon a couple years ago comparing his first couple years to other Aces like Beckett, Oswalt, Cain? I can’t remember why the article was posted. Either it was after his first year or the fact you were just comparing him to other expected Aces in the last 15 years. It wasn’t an optimistic article but like a lot of your pieces it was just factual and a comparison rather than a “Taillon will never be X player”. Can you post a link to that article?

    • deacs

      Maybe the article was comparing Taillon to other HS pitchers selected in the top 10 if that helps.

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

      I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything.

      I will say that the argument against Taillon has always focused on his numbers, then cited the numbers of other players and said that he can’t be an ace because he didn’t have good numbers in A-ball.

      I’ve always focused on his actual stuff and development. Most of the articles I did find looked beyond the numbers and looked at what he was focusing on at each level.

      Gerrit Cole had similar complaints about his numbers, and we saw how that worked out. I think the same will happen for Taillon.

      • deacs

        Thanks for looking Tim. One of the reasons why I read this site so often is because you can’t tell everything from the stats and I never get to see these guys play in Altoona, Bradenton, wherever. I remember posing a question about Polanco’s numbers in AA and I remember someone responding (Leadoff, Lee, Buster – I forget) that said something to the effect of “Don’t worry, this dudes a star in the making. Just watch him play”. So like most people I pay attention to the stats but also love to hear people talk about what they see first hand.

        And since we’re on the subject I remember when Cole’s numbers weren’t #1 pick overall worthy last year and someone claimed on a Keith Law chat that Cole didn’t have #1 stuff. His response was “That’s a copout. If Cole doesn’t have #1 stuff nobody does.”

        So as far as the numbers not matching the potential all you really have to do is look back to last year with Cole. Hopefully Taillon can do something similar.

        • buster09

          Deacs : Bruce’s comment above,along with those of Tim’s,are right on the money as far as I am concerned. Watching several of Taillon’s starts in May and June of last season,I actually thought he might be better than the Cole I saw here in ’12. He also showed me stretches where he couldn’t get that great curve working and did get hit around some. But like I said about Polanco : NO problem !

    • Andrew

      You are right about Cain, he has a career 7.4 win gap between his RA-9 WAR and his FIP based WAR, FIP assumes league average BABIP which is like .290-.300, Cain’s is .264.

      Not sure if that relates to Tallion, comparisons usually become strictures.

  • piraddict

    It’s possible that Taillon could be the #4 on the Pirates simply because Cole, Glasnow and Kingham will be better pitchers than him. The Pirates will be great not because any of those four will be among the best in the League. It will be because their #1 and #2 will be competitive and their #3 and #4 and #5 (many good possibilities to choose from here) will dominate the other teams’ #3,#4, #5.

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

      Piraddict…if that is the way it turns out (and I DO think Kingham will be better than JT), I would be ecstatic!

      • csnumber23

        I am perfectly fine if it turns out the way you suggest, since we have all 4 of them. My opinion however is that Taillon is going to be the best of them all, including Cole and I love Cole. I have seen Taillon pitch live as well as Cole and while I love them both, I think Taillon is going to end up the ace. I haven’t seen Glasnow or Kingham live yet and I certainly like them a ton as well.

        One thing is for sure, however it turns out we are going to have the best young rotation in baseball to go with the best outfield in baseball.

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

    Btw, I DO hope JT proves me completely wrong!!

    Foo

    • deacs

      Lee why do you like Kingham over Taillon so much? More consistency from Kingham? I’ve never seen either pitch other than clips on the internet.

      • buster09

        I don’t get that either deacs. Don’t get me wrong,I like Kingham a lot,but his best stuff isn’t on the same level as Taillon’s and Cole’s.

        • deacs

          Yeah I just asked because I figured he had a reason. Everything I read about Kingham is good stuff, good numbers low 2 or high 3. And with Taillon it’s great stuff but he needs to put it together and if he does he’s an ace. And once again, I’ve never seen either pitch more than a few clips.

          • piraddict

            Can’t speak for Lee. But I like the fact that Kingham has had better numbers than Taillon at each level. Whether that’s due to better consistency (Taillon gets lit up more often) or Taillon has more to work on, I don’t know. I think that they’ll both be great. Taillon seems to have a better reputation because his fastball has a few MPH higher ceiling than Kingham’s. I am not sure that is as important as location and the ability to mix pitches.

            • NastyNate82

              Except Kingham hasn’t had better numbers than Taillon at each level. Taillon had better BB/9 and K/9 at WV and at Altoona, while Kingham was better in Bradenton. To me, I think a big part of the Kingham/Taillon discussion is that since Kingham has been such a nice surprise in his progress as a prospect, they tend to put him ahead of Taillon for that reason alone. Taillon’s been fine; you’re right, he does get lit up occasionally, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any elite pitching prospect who doesn’t get cuffed around occasionally.
              Of course, the biggest question with both of these guys remains: can they hit like Cole?

  • Cecil.

    With his stuff he should be dominating — is what we heard last year about Cole. I’m very optimistic about Taillon. The kid is talented, intelligent and has done everything he’s been asked to do. If he’s not a 1 or 2 starter, then a lot of very smart baseball people have been very wrong.

    As for him or Machado, that’s like re-hashing the Sano situation. If mistakes were made, let’s hope TBMTIB has learned from them.

    1-2-3 in the 2010 draft, Harper, Taillon and Machado. IF they reach their potential, has there been a better top 3 in an MLB draft?

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

      I wrote player profiles for both Taillon and Machado before the draft. When Taillon comes up and gets established, I’m going to publish the Machado one and compare it to Taillon. I haven’t read the Machado article since I saved it as a draft. Haven’t gone back to read Taillon either.

      • buster09

        That should be really interesting Tim. I ll be waiting …just like I m waiting for Glasnow to get to the Curve !

  • bucnright

    Everyone needs to realize with these prospects especially pitchers they are in the minors for a reason…to get better and further polish their skills. I find it funny when a guy like jt gets labeled as a number 3 starter based on nothing more than minor league stats. The same thing was said about cole last year before he came up all these reports came out about him now having a peek of a 2 or a 3 based on what he was doin in tripleA. The pirates thankfully understand how to groom these guys in the minors making them throw the ir secondary pitch they are least comfortable with the most along with fastball command…im glad they took jt with the 2nd pick simply bc in the playoffs a dominating starter or starters can get you farther than a dominating bat or two and I def think jt will be dominating sooner rather than later

    • deacs

      That’s a good point. Bats tend to be more important over the regular season in my opinion but when the playoffs come around I really think that if you have 2 dominant starters you can get away with scoring only 3 runs a game in the post season. Unless you just hit like crazy but for the Pirates to ever win a World Series I think it’s going to have to be 2 or 3 excellent starters and good enough hitting. I just don’t envision a scenario where the bats propel the Bucs to a World Series.

    • stickyweb

      Bucn, Excellent point about stud pitchers in playoff series. While Machado would provide more offense through the entire season (and we all know offense puts asses in the stands), once the playoffs start, you want at least 3 stud SPs to get you through a 5 or 7 game series. Even if Machado puts up 1 or 2 more WAR each season than JT, as long as the Bucs are good enough to get to the playoffs, if JT is the stud we all think he can be, he’ll be just as or more valuable than MM.

    • weltytowngang

      Good c moment. Every pitcher needs other ways of getting outs when their best is not working. They know what he’s good at so they don’t need to develop that stuff, they to develop other pitches so he can compete when he’s not “on”. You don’t get that by working on what you’re good at and posting good numbers; you do it by developing your “not so good” pitches and so your numbers will suffer accordingly,

  • CalipariFan506

    I’m not taking a shot at Machado but to assume he gives us 6 wins last year makes no sense. Best case scenario he goes through WV in 2011. High A and AA in 2012 and then half a season in AAA last season. So best case he’s up in June. Also he will be a FA after 2018. Taillon after 2020. Taillon could easily still produce as much value as he will pitch his prime here while Machado won’t play his entire prime in Baltimore.

  • csnumber23

    I think a lot of people are getting too caught up in the minor league numbers and saying he hasn’t dominated. It’s not like his numbers are bad. Pitchers are working on specific things in the minors, he has been working a lot on the change up. The fastball and curve are already elite.

    My opinion is that Taillon will be the best of our young pitchers and become the ace. I love Cole but I think Taillon is going to be even better. Obviously I could be wrong but I am extremely high on Taillon as well as Cole. I also like Glasnow and Kingham a lot too. However it plays out, we should be set in our rotation for years.