Jameson Taillon #10 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: November 18th, 1991(age 21)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#2 overall) in 2010 out of The Woodlands HS(TX)
Evan Rentschler: It’s been instructive, and fitfully amusing, to watch the conversation around Taillon the last three years, much of it stemming from the Pirates’ often controversial development methods. Even before SEAL-gate and cries of Hoka Hey! – at times the organization seemed a hair away from The Men Who Stare At Goats territory – Taillon was the poster boy for Pittsburgh’s emphasis on fastball command. While the more recent revelations were tough to countenance, forcing Taillon to throw a rumored 70% fastball per start was more defensible. Coming out of high school Taillon had a tendency to drop his elbow, causing his pitches to flatten out. Raising his arm slot to a true ¾ and forcing him to throw a steady stream of fastballs to Low-A hitters led to hard contact at times, and delayed much-needed growth of his changeup, but the improvement in command was inarguable.
2012 saw the ledger being redressed, with the Bradenton coaching staff pushing for as many as twenty changeups per start. This resulted in a fresh bout of struggles, spurring more talk from those fans who value box scores over scouting reports that Taillon was less than advertised. By the end of the year something seemed to click as Taillon reeled off several excellent starts to end his FSL assignment, then carried it over for three dominant appearances in Double-A — highlighted by an 18:1 K:BB in 17 innings pitched.
I was as excited as everyone else about Taillon heading into his draft – maybe moreso as I’d followed him since he was a sophomore at The Woodlands – but I felt that there were areas needing marked improvement. In addition to the aforementioned arm slot and under-developed changeup, Taillon needed to be more balanced over the rubber, and, less commented on, needed to work on his conditioning. The fastball regimen may have dominated the conversation in 2011, but I noticed throughout the season that Taillon was adding good muscle, shaping his torso, and smoothing his actions across the board. This, as much as the pitch work, set up his late-season surge this year, and he’s come out the other side of his first phase development with an undiminished fastball that still sits mid-90s and bumps 98/99; a plus curve that has a chance to be a top five offering in that category at the major league level; and much improved feel for his change. So while it’s not untoward to mention his getting hit around at times , the less than elite strikeout rate (Altoona excluded), and the home runs allowed, I think the scouting report is the more compelling narrative, and Taillon’s points to the same top of rotation force we’ve expected him to be all along.
JD Sussman: Evan, I mostly agree. When I saw Taillon’s Double-A debut, he worked off his four seam fastball which never dropped below 95 MPH. He located the pitch well to get ahead of the count and then punished the Trenton hitters with his nasty plus-plus curveball. But, he only threw five change-ups, not twenty and it was well below average on that night. Without much further development Taillon could be a number three starter by September, but if he’s going to become a top of the rotation arm he’ll need to gain one to two full grades on his change.
Chris Blessing: I chuckled after reading Evan’s and JD’s comments because I couldn’t think of anything tremendously relevant to add. Then, I figured I could always get some sabermetric readers fired up proclaiming how useless A-Ball stats really are. But I know that’s a farce too. Jameson Taillon is a perfect example of how A-ball stats should always be supplemented with scouting notes and pitch tendencies before a sabermetric evaluator evaluates a pitcher. Without the work and struggle Taillon put forth in the South Atlantic and Florida State Leagues, I don’t think we’d see him ranked so highly. The way that the Pirates and Taillon tackled his fastball in the Sally laid great groundwork for consistent career long command of the pitch. Blessed with one of the best curveballs in the game, Taillon can dominate using a Fastball/Curveball combination in short spurts but really needs to develop his changeup further to reach his full potential as a top of the rotation starting pitcher.
Fantasy Outlook by Evan Rentschler
Taillon made significant strides in 2012, but I’m not expecting more than a late season call-up. He needs further refinement of his fastball command and serious work on his change-up; unless he makes unexpectedly rapid progress with the latter, it’s reasonable to expect a full season in the high minors. He really is starting to become the front of the rotation arm everyone envisioned during his draft year and could be ready for a 2014 call-up as soon as service time concerns allow. The fastball and curve should spell big strikeout numbers; his control will ensure low walk rates; and his size and durability hold the promise of lots of productive innings pitched. That sounds like top shelf fantasy fodder to me.