The next wave of Pittsburgh Pirates stars is coming, and it’s being led on the mound.
The rebuilding of what was once one of baseball’s proudest franchises is now in its 20th season, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Pirates have pitching depth in their farm system that is envied by the rest of the league.
One of those prospects, the best of whom have been deemed untouchable in trades by the front office, is Jameson Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Had it not been for Bryce Harper, Taillon likely would have been the first prep right-hander ever taken first overall, but the Pirates are thrilled that he dropped to them with the second pick. The 6’6″ Taillon has the arsenal that makes scouts drool, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90′s and one of the best curveballs to come out of high school in years.
Yet for all of his abilities, he has not dominated the minor leagues as the Pirates may have hoped.
Taillon was sent to the Low-A South Atlantic League to begin his professional career in 2011, and while he did fine for a 19-year-old just a year removed from high school, he’s not your typical high school pitcher. Taillon went 2-3 with a 3.98 ERA, making 23 starts but throwing just 92 2/3 innings, as the Pirates kept a close watch on his innings pitched.
The Pirates have established themselves as one of the most cautious organizations when it comes to pitcher development, arguably to the point where it becomes a detriment to the player, but they took the handcuffs off of him in 2012.
Taillon spent the majority of the 2012 season in the Florida State League (High-A) where he went 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA. He was allowed to pitch deeper into games, which forced him to work on the development of his changeup, a necessary pitch for his future success.
Still, Taillon didn’t dominate the way many had hoped.
His strikeouts dipped, as he fanned just 7.1 batters per nine innings, again a respectable total, but not what was expected from a player with his combination of velocity and breaking pitches. A late-season promotion to Double-A Altoona provided a high note for the season to end on, however, as Taillon dominated the Eastern League in three starts, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 18 strike outs to just one walk in 17 innings of work.
The future is still bright for Taillon. Few pitchers can offer what he can with his right arm, and as he learns how to pitch and use his talent properly, he will continue to inclrease his levels of dominance.
There is little doubt that Taillon will become a major league starter. The only question remaining is how good he can become. The status as a high draft pick brings with it high expectations, and no matter how unfair, it will feel like a letdown if he becomes only a middle-of-the-rotation starter.