BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates do a lot of video work with their prospects, using MLB players as comparisons for how a player should focus their development. The MLB players aren’t full comps in the sense that the Pirates feel the prospects will turn out exactly like those players. Instead, they take similarities from certain players, and try to show the prospects how MLB players with similar skills approach the game, in hopes of maximizing the potential of the prospect.
That said, you can kind of tell how highly the Pirates think of the prospect and their skills based on some of the comparisons. For Taylor Hearn, the video has been focused on three highly regarded lefty pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, and David Price. That doesn’t mean Hearn projects to have the upside of those pitchers. It just means he’s similar in the sense that they are all power lefty starters, and as a power lefty starter, Hearn can only benefit by studying the best in the game.
But the Pirates weren’t the only ones looking at these pitchers as a guide for how Hearn can improve. The tall pitching prospect was doing the same thing.
“The funny thing is, I beat them to the punch,” Hearn said of the video work. “I actually watched video. They said Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, and David Price. I’ve been watching video since I was in college. It’s nothing new to me, but it’s just another thing that I can enjoy. It’s someone who has the same type of mechanics and stuff.”
Hearn has been working on some mechanical adjustments since instructs, aimed at fixing his command. He used to pitch from the stretch, but added more of a windup, starting his delivery while facing the batter. This incorporates his lower half more often, leading to better command of his pitches by repeating his delivery more often, and relying more on his big frame than just his arm to do the work. Incorporating the lower half is a big lesson he’s taking away from his video work.
“For them it was just look at video to see how they do with their legs,” Hearn said. “They get into them a little more. Seeing how [they] are throwing the slider and the changeup. That’s something I try to key in on.”
Hearn is comfortable with the changeup, throwing the pitch since he was eight years old. He added a slider last year, and shelved the changeup so that he could improve the breaking pitch. The slider got good reviews in the first year, and the increased focus on the pitch led to some quick results, with Hearn getting a lot of strikeouts. This year he plans to incorporate the changeup into his arsenal more often, which will be easier since he will be a starter again.
But the secondary stuff is a secondary takeaway. The mechanics and the control are the big focus, as they could be the thing which prevents Hearn from reaching his upside, while limiting him to a power reliever role. One encouraging sign is that Hearn feels comfortable with the changes he has made so far.
“I’ve gotten real comfortable with it,” Hearn said. “That’s something I really took to heart in the offseason, was trying to make sure I could be consistent to the plate. I did that, and it’s paid off. Watching video of myself, trying to figure out where am I landing, trying to be on top of it, making sure everything is coming. I know I’m a big guy, and everything is going to be all over the place sometimes. What I worked on this offseason, hopefully it will pay off.”
If it does pay off, the Pirates could have another top pitching prospect in their system, creating what would become an embarrassment of riches. They currently have Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow with top of the rotation potential. Mitch Keller has the same upside, and is a few years away. Hearn has top of the rotation stuff, but is a much bigger risk than the other pitchers due to the control. He still fits into that “poor control because of the tall frame and mechanics that are difficult to repeat” category, so there’s a chance his command issues could improve as he irons out his mechanics. If he stays healthy, the 2017 season will be his first full season in pro ball, and that will go a long way to his development on the command side of things.
**Prospect Notebook: First Looks of 2017 at Taylor Hearn and Gage Hinsz. My report from Pirate City today, with video of Hearn and Gage Hinsz.
**Pirates Notebook: “Friendly Competition” Between Williams and Brault. Sean McCool had the game coverage from LECOM, with a look at the competition between Steven Brault and Trevor Williams, along with updates on Chris Stewart and Austin Meadows.
**Barrett Barnes Aims to Remain Healthy With His Offseason Routine. Sean’s feature on Barrett Barnes and how he has improved his durability over the last two years.
**Site Updates: Double Spring Training Coverage, Not So New Writers. All of the latest updates to the site, including announcing that our entire writing staff will return in 2017.
**Stephen Alemais Spent the Offseason Learning From Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. If you missed it from Sunday, a detailed feature on Stephen Alemais and the work he did this offseason with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.