The Bucs took high school fireballer Jameson Taillon with the second pick of the draft tonight, right after the Nats nabbed Bryce Harper.
Taillon was universally considered the best high school pitcher in the draft, and maybe the best arm available, end of story. He went 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA, striking out 114 batters and walking 21 in 62-2/3 innings of work during the season. In March, he struck out 19 in a no-hit win.
He pitched in two high school All-American games, and led the USA Baseball 18-and-under national team to its first gold medal in the Pan American under-18 games last fall. In the championship win over Cuba, Taillon tossed shutout ball and struck out 16 batters in 7-2/3 innings, setting a Team USA single-game record for whiffs.
The RHP is a big kid (6-7, 230 pounds), from The Woodlands HS of Houston, Texas, Kyle Drabek's alma mater. The 18 year-old has a power combo, with a mid-nineties heater and a mid-to-high eighties slider. He also has a curve and changeup. The first three pitches are considered plus pitches, and his change is above average for his level.
Another selling point is his makeup; his poise and work ethic are considered outstanding for a teen.
The MLB Scouting report is "Taillon is the complete package in a high school pitcher, with tremendous size, stuff and a feel for pitching. He's got three plus pitches in his fastball, slider and curve."
"Even his changeup, while not used that much, is solid. He uses his size to his advantage and has tremendous mound presence. As impressive as his stuff is, his makeup might be even better."
The only downside is that Taillon likes to work outside; he'll have to learn to use both sides of the plate, but that's not thought to be a problem. We've also heard that some scouts think he may end up a closer with his stuff, while others consider him a potential staff workhorse because of the load he's carried so far.
The Pirates obviously think he's top-of-the-rotation material to draft him so highly, not a bullpen back-ender.
He's healthy and his only mechanical issue is a tendency to rush his delivery, which is considered an easily correctable flaw once he's coached up some.
The big guy, because of his power and size, is projected by some scouts to make his MLB debut after just a couple of seasons in the minors (which sounds pretty aggressive to us), so sometime in 2013 could be his arrival date at PNC if that holds true. We'll take that with a grain of salt; he is only 18 (BD 11/18/91).
Taillon made a college commitment to Rice, and that's a big-time program to use as leverage against the Pirates if contract talks get sticky.
The Hendrick brothers represent him, and while they may not be the devil incarnate, they did recently negotiate a record $30.25M contract with the Reds for 21 year-old Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, so they can play hardball for their clients, too. It's safe to assume they're looking for Pedro money, if not more.
An interesting choice, given the fizzle rate of top high school picks, and especially so when State College is going to have a rotation that consists entirely of 2009 high-school draftees, all taken in the top eight rounds.
Huntington admitted to MLB Network during a post-selection interview that the team knows the risk involved, but they couldn't pass up Taillon's "big arm."
Let's hope a couple of last year's pups and Jameson Taillon can beat the odds and match the hype.
-- BTW, the other two guys high on Pittsburgh's board were snapped up quickly. SS Manny Machado went to Baltimore as the third pick, and LHP Drew Pomeranz was selected fifth by the Indians. So there were no reaches this year.