Jameson Taillon, Baseball’s Top Prospect
Jameson Taillon is baseball’s top prospect, and I don’t mean just in the minor leagues, I’m talking period. Over Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Matt Moore and anyone else you can think of.
What Dylan Bundy is doing so far this year as a high school draftee is almost like a chapter out of the official biography of Sidd Finch, but I’ve seen ten year olds with less conservative pitch counts.
Matt Barnes has thrown well, as has Trevor Bauer. From Taillon’s own draft, five pitchers have already made their major league debuts, while Taillon is toiling in the Florida State League for Bradenton.
Heading into the 2010 draft, Taillon had the highest upside of any pitcher, college or high school, and was considered the best high school pitching prospect since fellow Woodland High graduate Josh Beckett back in 1999. Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington even went so far as to say if the Bucs had the first overall pick, they still would have taken Taillon over Harper.
The Pirates are taking it slow with the 6’6″, 230 pound Taillon, obviously realizing they have built themselves a Tampa Bay Rays like pitching dominated farm system, with Taillon, and not Gerrit Cole, the future number one of the group.
Taillon throws a heavy, four-seam fastball(1) which sits in the 93-96 range but has hit triple digits on occasion. He has the ability to add/subtract movement and velocity from the pitch without sacrificing arm speed just by moving the ball around in his hand or changing grip pressure, a great sign for such a young player. The pitch comes easy out of his hand with litte effort, his catcher in West Virginia describe being behind the plate for him as “just playing catch”.
In baseball terms, his curveball is a power, 12-6 breaker which is already a plus plus offering and his best pitch. Despite the Pirates’ insistence he throw 80 percent fastballs in order to work on his command, would throw a curve when in need of a strikeout in a tough spot. I remember watching a game where he buckled the knees of a LEFT handed hitter.
There are some scouts who believe Taillon has the best curve in baseball, and that includes the major leagues.
Taillon’s slider improved dramatically as the season wore on, from nothing more than a show-me pitch in spring training to being almost as good as his curveball by the end of the season. A little more polish on it and he’d be the owner of three plus major league offerings.
His changeup, while trailing far behind in effectiveness to his other offerings, has shown promise and even if it becomes nothing more than an average pitch would put Taillon into the upper level of major league pitches almost from his first appearance, in the same vein as Tim Lincecum or Stephen Strasburg.
As 2012 began, the Pirates have somewhat taken the reins off Taillon and have given him a chance to pitch more, and to figure things out more while he’s on the mound. That’s a big part of maturing as a pitcher, to use your own intelligence and stuff to get out of trouble instead of always feeling you have to look into the dugout for a sign.
In 2005, the Pirates’ first round pick was an athletic yet raw high school outfielder from Florida. Taking their time with him for the fiirst couple of seasons, the Pirates started to push him, he was the youngest player in the Eastern League and in the Arizona Fall League following the 2007 season. Even while some prognosticators felt he wouldn’t be the star the Pirates kept insisting he would be, they didn’t back off, and now he’s an All-Star.
The young, raw kid turned into Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates, with Taillon, are hoping history can repeat itself, and that Taillon leads them back to the postseason in the not too distant future.
If I was running the Pirates, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, as he defines untouchable.
1) In scouting terms, a “heavy” fastball is a high velocity pitch with true backspin which gives the impression as it reaches the plate of rising. Because it doesn’t tilt one way or another like a two seamer or cutter, it stays on it’s release line longer and more often than not hits the catcher’s glove in the center, which hurts. Alot. Thus, a heavy ball.