Could Jameson Taillon Pitch in Pittsburgh This Year?

Jameson Taillon threw five innings and 74 pitches today at Pirate City. He was efficient with his pitches, needing to face a few extra hitters in several innings, just because he worked so quickly through the order each time out. This outing puts him one step closer to returning to Indianapolis, and his next outing will most likely show up in a minor league box score.

“I’m not 100 percent, but I think they wanted me to pitch next Tuesday in the GCL,” Taillon said. “I think that will be my last one [at Pirate City], hopefully. And then I’ll look to ship out of here. I think I’ll be with the Marauders for one or two, depending on how everything goes.”

The current schedule would have Taillon lined up to pitch in the GCL on Tuesday, followed by Bradenton’s home game on Sunday the 28th. From there, he would gradually move up, until he’s ready to pitch in Indianapolis. But the big question is whether he has a shot to pitch in Pittsburgh this year.

“I’d like to think I do,” Taillon said. “They haven’t said yes or no, but in my head the reason I worked so hard at the rehab is so I could be ready to help this year. They’re throwing the ball pretty well up there, so I don’t know if they’ll need me. My goal is to just be ready if they do. I, one hundred percent, think I could be ready.”

In watching every step of Taillon’s rehab, I’ve noticed one big change. His fastball command is much better now than what it was before his injury. He is throwing the ball with ease, and getting results down in the zone. A few years ago, it didn’t even seem possible for him to throw below the waist. Now every pitch comes in at an angle, and he works consistently down in the zone. He’s not going to have a lot to work on when he arrives in Indianapolis, so the idea that he could pitch in Pittsburgh this year is legit.

“A lot of people say with Tommy John you miss a year, it’s just a lost year,” Taillon said. “But I feel like I developed more this year than I could have if I was pitching at an affiliate. I learned a lot about angles, and being on time, reading hitters, and my mechanics. I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot.”

One challenge going forward will be the test that he sees in the upper levels. Taillon went five innings today for the first time, but he didn’t get a chance to fully execute his game plan, due to the undisciplined hitters in the lower levels.

“It’s tough down here, because these kids swing so much,” Taillon said. “I wanted to try to throw more changeups, more curveballs. I wanted to try to throw more two-seams, which is tough against these kids. They’re swinging early counts, and my changeup I like to throw behind in the count. It’s tough to pick and choose a spot.”

He was sitting around 92 MPH today, touching higher. I’ve seen him sitting 93-94 MPH and touching 96 in other outings. His normal velocity is in the 93-96 range, touching the upper 90s. However, I wouldn’t think much of the velocity down here, since it was extremely hot, humid, early in the morning, and a game that was the equivalent of a Spring Training start.

“It’s tough in a 10 AM game, intrasquad, to really be up and throw 98,” Taillon said. “I don’t know if I was intentionally taking anything off. But I wasn’t by any means out there letting it eat 100 percent, trying to embarrass anybody. Trying to ease my way through five for the first time and see how my arm felt, which feels good.”

That last part is the most important thing, and has been consistent every step of the way with the top pitching prospect. If that continues, and if the Pirates need him, then I could definitely see him in Pittsburgh by the end of the season.

Other Notes

**Clay Holmes, who is also rehabbing from Tommy John, went four innings today. Holmes has been making two starts at each inning total lately, having previously thrown three innings in each of his last two starts. He expects to throw four innings in a GCL game next week, although that could come on six days rest to get him separated from Taillon. From there, he’d throw one more outing before joining the Bradenton Marauders, who just created a rotation spot today by promoting Steven Brault to Altoona.

  • Patrick Rodgers
    June 20, 2015 12:16 pm

    With the better command and location down in the zone, can he reclaim the #1 prospect ranking before the year is over?

    • I doubt it. As long as Glasnow gets back to Altoona without too many problems, I’d say he’s safe as the #1.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 18, 2015 10:08 pm

    A little off topic, but there is one reliever who I would love the Pirates get, but he probably wouldn’t come cheaply given his age and potential going forward – its Ken Giles of the Phillies. He has been very good last year and this year, on a terrible team. I like his aggressive attitude, and he has awesome stuff.

    • Relievers should come cheap. We don’t need to spend a lot for Giles.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 18, 2015 11:42 pm

        His ERA has been sub 2.00 in 2014 and 2015 – and he’s only 24. I don’t think he would be cheap.

        • the phils have no reason to trade giles ,many years of control for a future closer is gold in this market.

        • I think thats the reason he doesnt get moved. He wont come cheap, with good stats for multiple years and under 25 age. Maybe a team like LAD buys high on him, but i dont see a ton of teams wanting to throw multiple decent prospects for a reliever. In any case, that for sure doesnt seem like a typical PIT move to spend multiple assets on a relief pitcher.

  • If JT comes up in Aug/Sep won’t that start his clock?

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 18, 2015 6:40 pm

    It would appear that Taillon could be a candidate to pitch in Pittsburgh by around the All Star break, if everything goes well physically and the results are good. My guess is they will not rush him to Pittsburgh, unless an injury occurs to someone in the rotation.

    But, assuming he is a strong candidate to get to Pittsburgh in late July/early August, I would not think the Pirates would be looking for a starting pitcher – who could effectively block Taillon. Unless of course, they think they have a deal too good to pass up – which I doubt will occur – this is going to be a seller’s market. I do think the Pirates need another quality left-hander in the bullpen to replace Bastardo and maybe another righty as well.

    The only other need would appear to be a better platoon partner for Alvarez – or a better full time first baseman. There do not appear to be many that fit that description, are on the market, and would be a strong addition. Napoli is old and cannot hit anymore. Howard is too expensive, left handed, and basically profiles much of the same as Alvarez. Aramis Ramirez might be an option worth checking into, as I think he will bounce back in the second half if playing in a pennant race.

    • bastardo has actually been pretty decent for the past month, i’m no longer worried about him

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 18, 2015 10:05 pm

        I’m still worried about him…he isn’t consistent and his control is always an issue it seems….we can do better…

        • okay i didn’t notice he had moved to 1st. i’d take ramirez full time over alvarez honestly, let alone hart, even at his age

        • Name a LHP that is in the bullpen who is a clear upgrade, and likely to be included in trade rumors. We say we can do better, but come the trade deadline finding a LH relief pitcher isnt all that easy, unless you are dead set on getting one and paying twice his value price.

        • “we can do better” really isn’t a valuable statement. It’s always true, just dependant on what you want to give up to get it. From an efficiency standpoint, I rather doubt we can do better than he’s pitched in the last month.

    • How would Ramirez hit? He doesn’t play first base does he???

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 18, 2015 10:06 pm

        He is only hitting .207 with 7 HRs, but if he was just in a platoon and just facing lefties, he could be effective – he would be HUGE upgrade over Hart. I believe Ramirez has been playing some first base this year.

        • I’m pretty sure he hasn’t played any 1b. Not that either of us have actually looked it up.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            June 18, 2015 11:41 pm

            You are correct – he has not played first base this year – my error. I thought I had seen him listed at first base in a few box scores this year – looks like he has only played 3B and DH. So, never mind!! 🙂

    • All star break is July 14th. That means in a month we, or you i should say, thinks he will be ML ready. The article has him saying he thinks the team will have throw 1 for the GCL, then Bradenton for 1-2. Thats 3 weeks right there, without facing AAA hitters. If Taillon is correct on the gameplan for him, he wont be facing upper level hitters for 2-3 weeks. Tough for him to be theoretically ready by mid July. I’d say some point in August is when Taillon might be theoretically ready for a call up.

      Which, as you said, makes for interesting decisions at the deadline for PIT as they could go get a mid rotation upgrade for the rotation OR not and promote Taillon late in the year. I’d bet money on them not promoting Taillon for service time issues as a full year of Taillon later is likely to be more useful than him throwing two months this year and half a season next year (or slightly less than half a year).

  • As good as this team is now, it’s gonna be scary good come 2017-18. A potential 2017 rotation of Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Liriano, and Morton is exciting. Not to mention, that offense with Bell and Hanson instead of Alvarez and Walker. I’m starting to think Serpico should get like a 2 or 3 year extension for like $4MM per year. Having him and J-Hay around the next few years gives them so much flexibility.

    • Interesting. I wonder if they’d approach a utility player about an extension. And I only mention utility player because I wonder if he would try and grab more money as a starter somewhere else. Where is his natural position? Him and Kang have been great offseason additions and on the cheap as well.

      • I don’t see why not. Harrison is essentially a utility player. Rodriguez is a valuable utility guy and I think he embraces that role. Look at Ben Zobrist. He signed an extension as a utility player.

        • Darkstone42
          June 18, 2015 4:53 pm

          Zobrist was also a top-10 or so WAR player when he signed his, and is an everyday player, even though he bounces around the field a lot.

          I don’t think the Bucs will sign Serpico to any sort of long extension, though, even though he’d be useful, because I think they’d rather have that money free to spend on extensions for their core players or to address other needs as they arise.

          • Brian Finamore
            June 18, 2015 5:04 pm

            Exactly, there’s a difference between a “utility” player and “super-utility” player who is position-flexible but still an everyday player. Although, Rodriguez is kind of in-between in that he plays almost everyday now but half the time it’s in the late inning defensive replacement role.

          • I’d like to think that an extra $3MM per year on a useful role player won’t hold them back from giving other players extensions.

            • It shouldn’t, but at the same time Sean Rodriguez just isn’t the type of player you need to tie yourself to for multiple years. His replacement can be found rather easily.

              • Exactly, Rodriguez is 30, playing at replacement level and hacks at everything. I’m not sure were his discipline of season’s past went. You go year to year with players like him.

                • is he? I haven’t pulled up his WAR stats, but I really don’t see his value in line with a replacement level player. If anything, he fills the need for a replacement level player at 4 positions at least- which is something that can’t be captured by WAR

                  • He’s actually been below replacement level by the numbers, but I’ll agree that his player type does bring some intrinsic value that can’t really be captured. I just don’t think that is a terribly rare thing to find.

                    • its not as rare as it was 15 years ago, but its still fairly rare to see a player whom is actually competent at that many positions

                  • Rodriguez is a useful player, his effectively zero WAR is tied up in his usage, he has played 130 innings at 1B, and 95 elsewhere. (Call it the Corey Hart lack of knee cartilage spill over effect.)

                    A late inning defensive replacement at 1B isn’t really valuable. I do worry about his approach, it is hard to have much confidence in trends based on 200 PAs/year, but Rodriguez is fastball hunting.

                    Yes it is harsh to be critical of how a bench player gives you near league average but a player the wrong side of 30 and selling out for pulled power are red flags for going forward, another reason not to sign him for more years.

      • He came up as a shortstop- we were actually interested in acquiring him back in 2010 I think right after his succesful rookie year.

        • The Pirates seem to get their man eventually. I remember they were after Nady for awhile. I think they wanted Cervelli for a while too. The Pirates seem to have a reasonably priced white whale they go after for years.

      • On a normal team S-Rod would not be needed to fill in at first…and really shouldn’t be relied on for that role the rest of the season. His versatility and power are nice off the bench and to me he is close to the perfect 25th man on a roster…but it’s not like he is going to be an impossible sign or he is impossible to replace with an Allen Hanson. The Rays replaced S-Rod with Jake Elmore who was on the Pirates 40 man for a minute…and Elmore has been better than S-Rod.

    • I would bet against Bell and Hanson providing more WAR in 2017-2018 than Walker and Alvarez do in 2015-2016, but anything is possible

      • I wouldn’t bet against Hanson providing similar production as Walker with a little less power and more steals. I also wouldn’t bet against Bell provided an OBP about 75% higher than Pedro’s with less homers but more doubles and triples. How many rallies have Walker and Pedro killed this year cause they don’t get on base enough.

        • LOL.

          75% higher? Yeah, totally reasonable expectations.

          • Pedro’s hitting .240 with a .315 OBP in 2015 which is above his career norms. Bell is hitting .320 with a .391 OBP and has more walks than K’s and is more than 2 years younger than the average age player for AA. So yeah, I think it’s reasonable to expect Bell to put up a much better OBP than Pedro. Granted, he may struggle at first but most scouts have said that Bell has one of the most advanced approached at the plate in the minors. Although, with Polanco’s struggles, I’ll admit my optimism should be a little more muted.

        • steals very rarely equate to much WAR unless you are 80% plus in success rate

        • not many really compared to what you get from 2 rookies. go ask polanco

    • You are kidding, right. Serpico is a retired undercover cop with the N.Y. Police Department. LOLO!!!

  • Hopefully, he’ll be mowing them down in August. Until then…….

    This is good news so far, but let’s see how he does in real competition.

    • foo: I hope to see him in Pittsburgh in either August or as a September call-up. I guess other teams do the same thing, but this seems to be very . . . . very . . . . very . . . . d e l i b e r a t e. Obviously, at this point in time, the Pirates do not necessarily need him in the Rotation, but I think he would do well to have at least 10 starts this year at AAA or a combo of AAA/MLB.

      Great discussion on MLB yesterday relating to the change taking place in MLB of not being afraid to bring kids up too early. Five or ten years ago the consensus was that you could hurt a players long term development by exposing them to failure at a young age. That is changing now to where many GM’s feel that the talent and skills will outweigh any of the possible negatives, and the early experience can actually be a great benefit to their overall development.

  • Maybe I’m just old, but hearing Taillon refer to the hitters as “kids” made me laugh.

    Really good interview, Tim. Taillon’s quote about the year off was great. I think in a lot of ways that reinforces the idea that it’s incredibly difficult to make adjusts during game action. All these guys are competitors, and it can be extremely challenging to get them to completely buy into worrying about process, not results.

    • Darkstone42
      June 18, 2015 4:55 pm

      Taillon’s quotes about the recovery year were great. I’d like to add that it also speaks well of him that he was able to see the injury not as a setback, but as an opportunity to be embraced, as well. That’s a great attitude, and it will help him, I think, to make the necessary adjustments in the Majors.

  • Good news today!

  • piraterican21
    June 18, 2015 3:13 pm

    Why does he means not being 100%? Is he referring to his TJ recovery or something else?

    • I believe what he meant was he isn’t going out there like a regular game. He is trying to pitch and get his innings, but he isn’t just out there to strike people out. He isn’t trying to throw the ball the hardest.

      • Yeah, he said he wasn’t trying to embarrass people, that’s all. I don’t think it has anything to do with how he feels.

    • peanutbutterguts
      June 18, 2015 4:36 pm

      I’m pretty sure he meant he’s not 100%, as in not sure that he is starting tuesday in the the GCL. He thinks but isn’t 100% sure.