Fair or not, the tenure of Neal Huntington as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates may be tied directly to the careers of Manny Machado and Jameson Taillon.
The Pirates had the second selection in the 2010 draft, and after the obvious selection of Bryce Harper first overall (by the Washington Nationals), there was no consensus as to what the Pirates should do next. There was a consensus that the next two picks would be Taillon and Machado, but scouts and executives were split on which was the better prospect.
In the end, the decision for most came down to a preference for pitching versus hitting.
In the draft, and especially when discussing players being selected out of high school (which both Taillon and Machado were), there is a significant risk as to whether the player will even reach the majors. That risk is multiplied greatly when discussing prep pitchers.
But potential ace pitchers are extremely hard to find, and that’s what Taillon had the potential to be coming out of his Texas high school.
At the time, no one, even those leaning towards the Machado side, suggested that the Pirates were wrong. And while we still can’t say that the Pirates were wrong, we can say that they’d be much better off entering the 2013 season if they had Machado rather than Taillon.
One of the biggest holes on the Pirates roster is offensive production from the shortstop position. Machado, who has since moved to third base out of need for the Baltimore Orioles, would undoubtedly be competing for the role of starting shortstop were he in the Pirates organization.
The “should have drafted this player” game can be played endlessly in drafts for all sports, but in this case, as early in the draft as the Pirates were picking, it was obvious which two players their decision came down to.
It’s still very early for Taillon, and no one is calling him a bust just yet.
Taillon still has all of the “stuff” that made him the number two overall pick and a potential ace, he just hasn’t dominated the way top minor league pitching prospects often do. He’s been good, just not great. He’s also been young for every level at which he has pitched.
But with Machado already in the majors, and the Pirates obvious need for a shortstop, the comparisons become inevitable.
Regardless of how it turns out, the talented pair of prospects will be forever linked during their careers, and because the Pirates were the team that had the ability to choose between the two, they will be the ones judged on their decision.