Week In Review: Who Needs to Step Up With Jameson Taillon Out?

At the start of the week, Jameson Taillon received his second opinion on his injured right elbow. After the opinion the Pirates and Taillon were quiet as the Pirates decided the next step. Today we learned that Taillon will have Tommy John surgery.

Taillon was expected to arrive in Pittsburgh this year by mid-season, with the hope that he’d do his best Gerrit Cole impression and look like an ace by the end of the 2014 season. Now that he won’t be with the team, the Pirates will need someone else to step up and take his innings.

The team has a lot of depth, which I outlined after Taillon’s surgery was announced. They have a lot of guys who project as legit MLB starting pitchers, although none come with the same upside that Taillon has.

Obviously the best thing for the Pirates would be for as many pitchers to stay healthy as possible. But injuries are unavoidable, so the only thing the Pirates can hope for is that the injuries don’t go to the extremes that were seen last year.

Beyond that, the Pirates really need Edinson Volquez to step up this year with more outings like we saw today. Volquez looked great at times during Spring Training, and there were other times where he looked horrible. The key difference was his fastball command. His curveball and changeup are both excellent pitches, and were always consistent this Spring. However, when his fastball command wasn’t there, he had nothing to set those pitches up, which led to some pretty poor results. Today the fastball command was there, and we saw the results. He could surprise a lot of people if the command stays more consistent this year.

It’s not groundbreaking analysis to say that Edinson Volquez pitching well would ease the loss of Taillon. However, Volquez was seen as the weakest link in the rotation, and the top candidate to be replaced at mid-season by Taillon if everyone was healthy. With Taillon no longer available, the Edinson Volquez reclamation project just became more important.

Pirates

The Pirates got off to a great start in the first week of their season, going 4-2 with series wins over the Cubs and Cardinals. We had photo recaps of the Opening Day Walk-Off Win, along with the big 12-2 victory over the Cardinals on Friday. After the 12-2 win, I wrote about the Pirates’ chances of contending with the Cardinals.

Here are all of the season preview articles, taking a look at each position group, along with overall team looks for 2014 and beyond:

**On Saturday the Pirates announced Three-Year Extensions For Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. Last night I wrote about the moves, pointing out that the contracts line up with Andrew McCutchen’s deal, which pretty much defines a “window” for the Pirates to contend (if you believe in that sort of thing).

**Chris Stewart Hoping to Catch His First Game on Friday. Update on this: he caught five innings in today’s Bradenton Marauders game.

**Could all of the pre-free agency extensions given out recently mean The Death of Free Agency?

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Opening Day Payroll

**The New Revenue in MLB Didn’t Lead to a Big Increase in Payrolls

**Andrew McCutchen’s “This is SportsCenter” Commercial (Video)

Prospects

The Minor League season started on Thursday. To get you prepared for the season, here are our previews for each level, along with an article on breakout candidates with each team:

Each night we have a minor league report, called the Prospect Watch, which profiles what happened that day in the farm system. Here are the articles from this week. The Pirates got a lot of good pitching from their top pitching prospects, and not just the guys in the headlines below.

**Prospect Watch: Six Shutout Innings For Brandon Cumpton, Josh Bell Homers

**Prospect Watch: Casey Sadler and Chad Kuhl Dominate With Their Sinkers

**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell Picks Up Two Hits and an RBI in Bradenton Debut

**Prospect Watch: Gregory Polanco Homers, Nick Kingham Throws Six Shutout Innings

Here is the rest of the minor league news from this week:

**Updates on McPherson, Worley, Meadows and more. This included a note on Stetson Allie, who was about to join the Altoona roster. He has since joined Altoona.

**Pirates Still Top Farm System in Baseball America’s Updated Rankings

**International and Amateur Draft Bonus Numbers Released

**Pirates Have Four Players Among Youngest In Their League

**Harold Ramirez and Barrett Barnes Injured in West Virginia Game

Site Updates

I did a few updates on the site this week. I’m also in the process of adding writers at each level for the season. I’m hoping to announce those new writers in the upcoming weeks.

**How To Use and Navigate Pirates Prospects. A quick guide to help you navigating the site, and to introduce you to the site features.

**Pirates Prospects Shirts Are Now Available. Get your Pirates Prospects merchandise. All proceeds go to helping the site grow with new writers and new features.

**The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational Probable Pitching Chart

2014 Draft

The draft is now two months away and not much has changed among the overall picture. It’s still top-heavy with pitchers, both college and prep arms. More mock drafts are coming and we will see them even more often as the draft gets closer. What the new ones are showing is that even the best bats in the draft are slowly falling, especially the college bats. Even a few of the best prep bats have questions surrounding them, whether it relates to their bat or their ability to remain at a key defensive position. Pitching rules the first round, but will the Pirates go with the strength or take a bat before all the good ones are off the board? We will find out on June 5th.

**Draft Prospect Watch: New Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Alex Blandino  A new mock draft from this week has the Pirates taking Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino. There were two new mock drafts recently, the other had the Pirates taking Michael Gettys, a prep outfielder out of Georgia.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Hoffman vs Lemond Highlights Friday Night Former Pirates draft pick Zech Lemond goes up against one of the top college pitchers, Jeff Hoffman. Friday night was filled with strong pitching performances.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Carlos Rodon Has Trouble With Clemson Catching up on some of the best college hitters in this draft class.

**Draft Prospect Watch:Louisville’s Nick Burdi Is Worth Watching Recapping the weekend for some hitters, one top pitcher, two relievers and some former Pirates draft picks that didn’t sign.

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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  • csnumber23

    Any chance we see Nick Kingham in the 2nd half?? Also, I really hope they don’t wait until June for Polanco!

  • szielinski

    We could see Nick Kingham in the majors near the middle of August — if, of course, another starter goes down. Pimentel can start, but he would need to increase his inning counts to those of a starter. Kingham would not have that problem.

    Also, much depends on the ML team. If it’s out of contention by the trade deadline, the FO may choose to trade any of the three starters who are pending free agents. That would open spots for Cumpton, Kingham, Irwin, etc.

    I expect the Pirates to stay in the race, though.

  • leowalter

    I watched Kingham this afternoon, and he wasn’t real sharp. His overall command wasn’t what he needs it to be,working behind often, I think he threw 52 strikes and 38 balls in 6 IP. However he only gave up 3 hits and 1 Ernie. Not bad for his first start in ‘ 14.That is what MiLB is for.

    • Ian Rothermund

      Haha. I was about to say. If that’s Kingham at his worst, I’ll take that. I think the big takeaway is that given the depth of starting pitching in the organization, Taillon would have primarily been a luxury. The part that really sucks isn’t that they won’t have Taillon at the end of the season, but at the beginning of next. Given the guarantees to leave next year in free agency, and considering that maybe only Liriano would be worth a QA, there are holes that will need filled.

      • leowalter

        Ian : I am a big fan of Kingham’s myself,all I wanted to do was point out that he wasn’t as effective as you need to be at the higher levels,and I did attribute that to the weather problems screwing up the pitching,,,and the hitters also I might add. And yes,if he can be that effective given his control yesterday,he isn’t lacking in competitiveness,thats for sure.

  • freddylang

    I feel like this could open a door for Locke at some point. He was an all-star last year and if his control improves he could be back up ad contributing again because of being a lefty in PNC and his mlb experience.

  • freddylang

    Kingham could catch Taillon on the depth chart with a big 2014…at least for early 2015. Kingham in theory should be MLB ready by opening day 2015..of course chances are they will let him sit at Indy until June unless they really need him. Kingham is a guy I thought they could trade to get a 1B or other need down the stretch but now with Taillon and even Glasnow a little injured…Kingham is the best pitcher in the system actually pitching right now.