Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jameson Taillon: He's Here - What He's Got & What To Expect

Man, talk about your long and winding road. Picked second in the 2010 draft between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (fun fact: despite all those over-slot prep pitchers the Bucs drafted, JT will be the first HS pitcher drafted by Neal Huntington to make it to the bigs), Jameson Taillon was in AAA by 2013 and on the radar to land in the show by 2014. Then...boom.

Taillon missed all of 2014 and 2015 after undergoing Tommy John and then inguinal (sports) hernia surgeries. Most 20-somethings would lapse into po' me syndrome with back-to-back blows like that, but not JT. Showing remarkable maturity, he used the time to hone both his body (the 24 year old is 6'5", 240 pounds) and his mind, getting stronger and learning the nuances of his craft and personal mound mechanics. So it's a bummer that he missed two full seasons, but the end result is a more improved pitching product.

Jameson Taillon (photo via MLB Pipeline)

He began the comeback late last year in Pirate City's instructional league, and then took it to another level at Indy this year. In ten starts covering 61-2/3 IP, Taillon has a 4-2/2.04 slash with some gaudy peripherals. His WHIP is 0.811, he gives up 6.4 hits per nine, has fanned 61 and walked just six, and sports a 50% ground ball rate. His arm seems strong enough as he's worked at least six innings every start, although like Gerrit Cole, the seventh is a red flag frame. Taillon has yet to hit 100 pitches in a game this season as a concession to his arm (although he has been to 99 a couple of times).

JT was widely regarded as the next man up from Indy once Super 2 status was in the rear view mirror, and here he is. If he sticks, he'll have 118 service days this year; Super 2 has never kicked in with fewer than 122 days served during a rookie campaign. He shrugs it off, telling the media that he still had some pitching issues to resolve at Indy, so it was all good.

His toolbox consists of three main components: a fastball that sits at 95, a 12-to-6 drop curve, and a change up; he also has a two seamer to coax a grounder. The first two pitches are MLB quality; there's still some concern that his change sometimes comes out flat, and he'll have some work to do to get a consistent feel for that pitch. The organization mantra is to think sinker, so his two seamer may come more into play with the Pirates.

JT has four pitches in his arsenal (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Mentally, he does his homework; that maturity factor should prove a great help to him as he acclimates to the league. The only performance factor that comes up is his inability to hold runners with his long delivery, but that's a minor quibble in the overall scheme of things.

The big question is what the immediate plans are for JT. As Clint said, there are things involved, some of which are under Taillon's control (ie, pitch well) and others that aren't. If the FO isn't blowing smoke, those issues are primarily how many innings they intend to allow him after his layoff (tho Hurdle did say the recovery time has left the righty with “a full gas tank”) and how the brass decides to juggle the current rotation. So Jameson's outing today could run the gamut from a one-and-done for the time being to earning him a regular turn in the rotation.

No matter how that coin lands, the transition has begun. Jameson Taillon is the front edge of a wave of talent including Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl, and that group may be established in Pittsburgh by sometime after the All-Star break. It's hard to predict how their maiden voyages will end up, but boy, does 2017's starting pitching look like the dawn of a promising new era.

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