The Pirates have pushed Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at the end of the season. Taillon received a promotion to Double-A for his final three starts, after having an up and down year in Bradenton. Cole was sent to Indianapolis for his final start of the year, and for some playoff experience, despite dealing with some control issues in his final two starts in Double-A.
Taillon handled his starts at the next level very well. In his three appearances he combined for a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings, with an 18:1 K/BB ratio, and just a .183 BAA. Those are the numbers you’d expect to see from a top pitching prospect like Taillon.
Cole got off to a rough start in his first appearance in Triple-A. He gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning, then settled down to pitch five shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out six during those innings. He didn’t see the walk issues that led to ten walks in the final two starts with Altoona, instead giving up one walk in six innings tonight.
Neither player has spent a significant amount of time at his new level, so while the results have been good, they come with the “Small Sample Size” disclaimer. Both players are expected to return to their current levels to start the 2013 season, with Cole going to Triple-A, and Taillon going to Double-A. Getting their feet wet for a few starts at the end of the season should help that progression going in to next season.
The big question with each player is whether they can make it to the majors next year.
That question is more for Taillon than it is for Cole. Cole will be starting off in Triple-A. So far this year at each level he’s struggled for a few starts, then hit his stride and pitched like the first overall pick in a draft would pitch. He’s got a great arsenal, with three plus pitches and two above-average offerings to add to his fastball, slider, and changeup trio. With Cole, it’s not a question of “if” he will be up next year, but “when” he will be up. I wouldn’t expect him to open the season with the team. He probably won’t be up in the first few weeks of the season, as the Pirates could get an extra year of service time keeping him down a few weeks. Depending on how well he does out of the gate, and how well the rest of the rotation does, I could see him coming up before the Super Two date. For that to happen, he’d have to be dominating from the start of the year, and there would have to be an obvious need in the rotation in late-April or May.
If you would have asked me back in June whether Taillon would make it next year, my answer probably would have been different from now. In the last month, Taillon has gained confidence in his pitches, has learned when to throw each pitch, and in the process has become more of a pitcher than a thrower. He’s also reintroduced a two-seam fastball, which should bring more ground balls, and add another weapon to his plus fastball, plus curve, and developing changeup, which also might be a plus pitch one day.
All of this led to Taillon’s success in Double-A. The fastball was down in the zone, and located well. The curve was sharp, getting a lot of strikeouts. He didn’t use the changeup as much, but feels comfortable enough to incorporate it in to the game plan, throwing it about ten times per start in Double-A. Most importantly, he was actually dominating, with an 18:1 K/BB ratio in 17 innings, which was a result of good fastball command and his plus curveball.
If Taillon carries this over to next season, I could see him moving quickly through the upper levels. He already has some experience in Double-A, thanks to the late promotion. His numbers weren’t a fluke, and the pitcher that was struggling in June and July in Bradenton wasn’t present in Altoona. He’s still young, so there are some concerns that he might revert back to not trusting his stuff, and throwing rather than pitching. But he’s also smart and mature, which gives a good chance that he’ll continue to move in the right direction. If he does keep moving in the right direction with his development, he might not be long for Double-A. He’s got the stuff to have success at Triple-A without any major adjustments, so there’s a chance he could move quickly through that level and arrive before the end of the season.
One year from today we could be seeing both Cole and Taillon in the major league rotation. Neither of them are ready right now, but they’re both close enough that 2013 could be realistic for each player.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Brewers 3-2. Not a good thing to lose the first two games on the road against Milwaukee when Yovani Gallardo is pitching in game three.
**The Pirates will have Kevin Correia start on Wednesday. The better move would be going with Kyle McPherson. Or Chris Leroux. Or even Justin Wilson. Correia would be the ninth option in the majors for me right now. Seems like another example of the Pirates going with the “safe” choice of an established player, rather than a prospect who comes with risk, but could be better than the established option.