I’ve been asked, a gazillion times, which of the two Pirates pitching prospects did I think would be called up first between Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon? At least I got something right as I’ve routinely said the answer is Taillon. The Pirates, needing a starter for a double header Wednesday, will call up Taillon to start against the Mets. Let’s break down Jameson’s skills and his MLB outlook for 2016.
Taillon was a first round draft pick, second overall, in 2010. He’s been ranked as high as a top-11 overall prospect in baseball by the three of the major outlets. He’s always been an elite prospect.
Prospect Ratings by Baseball America
Pre-2011: Rated #11 Prospect
Pre-2012: Rated #15 Prospect
Pre-2013: Rated #19 Prospect
Pre-2014: Rated #22 Prospect
Pre-2015: Rated #29 Prospect
Pre-2016: Not Rated
Prospect Ratings by MLB.com
Pre-2012: Rated #8 Prospect
Pre-2013: Rated #15 Prospect
Pre-2014: Rated #16 Prospect
Pre-2015: Rated #31 Prospect
Pre-2016: Rated #49 Prospect
Prospect Ratings by BaseballProspectus.com
Pre-2011: Rated #8 Prospect
Pre-2012: Rated #13 Prospect
Pre-2013: Rated #11 Prospect
Pre-2014: Rated #19 Prospect
Pre-2015: Rated #26 Prospect
Pre-2016: Rated #51 Prospect
Taillon is 24 years old, throws right handed, stands 6’6” and weighs in at about 225 lbs.
Taillon throws a mid-90’s fastball that rates as a borderline plus/plus pitch. He can hit the high 90’s when he jacks it up, and the ball tails into right handed batters helping him to get inside on many with that diving movement. He augments that heater with a hammer curveball that follows the traditional 12-to-6 break (the numbers on the clock). The curveball is a true strikeout pitch. He’s worked hard to hone his changeup though the pitch lags well behind his other two offerings. The change is slightly better than average right now as he continues to diligently work on it.
The 2016 numbers for Taillon are stupendous.
Taillon hits the big leagues having pitched at least six innings in nine of his 10 starts.
He’s also allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of those ten outings.
Taillon has also been pinpoint with his control. Over 10 outings Jameson has walked a total of six batters. He’s walked one batter his last three outings. His control has been exquisite.
Taillon has struck out 61 batters in 61.2 innings. Over his last four trips to the bump Taillon has 29 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
Taillon has allowed a mere two homers in 61.2 innings.
You really cannot pitch much better than he has. His skills and performance say he is ready for the big leagues right now.
Here is the biggest issue as I see it with Taillon.
There are no innings on this arm.
Worse yet, look at the past couple of seasons.
Taillon didn’t throw one professional pitch in 2014 as he had Tommy John surgery.
Taillon didn’t throw one professional pitch in 2015 as he was working his way back from TJ surgery before coming up with a hernia that also required surgery.
That’s two seasons with no pitches. None. How can you possibly think he’s going to be allowed to throw 200-innings this season? Obviously he won’t. I can’t see how the team would allow him to throw 180 frames. I mean, seriously, folks. The guy has never thrown 150-innings in a season and didn’t thrown a single pitch the last two years. I can’t even believe he will be allowed to throw 150 frames this season, can you? Think with your head and not your heart, can you see him throwing 150-innings? Really?
This is huge issue number two.
Will Taillon stick in the rotation or is he just up for some help with the doubleheader this week? Don’t believe what you know I will have to say, just read what his manager had to say.
“This isn't an opportunity where he needs to come in and just twirl it to stay,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There are things in his control. There are things out of his control. ... We've had a roster influx for a couple days, so there's a lot of working parts.
"The opportunity has presented itself for him to come up and give us a shot in the arm, so it's a scheduled day to pitch," Hurdle said. "Anything further than that, I don't have the answers for.”
The manager is telling you that he has no idea if Taillon will stick with the big league club.
Here's a note from GM Neal Huntington who said he had no idea if Taillon is making one start of if he will stick.
Realize that the Pirates could always make a trade.
Realize that Tyler Glasnow is actually a better prospect in many folks eyes, and it could be he, not Taillon, that ends up sticking in the Pirates’ rotation.
Please realize all of the above before you blindly add Taillon. We simply have no idea what the Pirates plan is with their rotation in the short, or long, run in 2016.
Over the last two seasons Taillon has thrown as many official pitches as a professional as I have. Let that statement sink into your consciousness. Taillon threw zero pitches in 2014 and 2015. There’s no way that a guy who has never thrown 150-innings in a season, and who didn’t throw a pitch the last two seasons, is going to be allowed to pile up innings this season.
Second, there’s no word at all from the team about whether or not Taillon is going to stick in the big leagues. He might of course, but it’s also completely possible that he will be sent back down (as we saw in the past two weeks with Julio Urias and Trea Turner, other elite prospects that were called up only to be quickly sent back to the minors). Taillon also has to deal with Glasnow, and as talented as that duo is it’s hard to think the Pirates, who have designs on the playoffs, would roll with two rookies in their rotation (as this report from Baseball Prospectus suggests, if both are indeed called up history strongly suggests that just one will have success).
If Taillon is on waivers you can add him in pretty much every format if you want. At the same time please heed the warnings listed above. My thoughts on Taillon have nothing to do with talent or performance since on both those fronts he appears ready to rock. This is all about the other two points that were detailed above: workload and opportunity. Be careful that you don’t move on from an established/solid/productive hurler just to take a shot on the lottery ticket that is Taillon. If you’ve got a roster spot to play with let ‘er rip, but be cautious, I implore you.
Ray Flowers can be heard Monday through Friday, 7 PM EDT and Friday on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). You can also hear Ray Sunday nights at 6 PM on the channel talking fantasy sports. Follow Ray’s work at Fantasy Alarm and on Twitter (@baseballguys).