Name: Jameson Taillon
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.98 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 9 HRA, 22 BB, 97 K, and 45% GB% in 92 2/3 IP with West Virginia (A)
Why He’s This High: Taillon was the #2 pick and top pitcher selected in the 2010 draft, and in years where Bryce Harper wasn’t in the same draft class, he’d likely have gotten strong consideration for the top selection. He went straight to Low-A in 2011 and performed quite well, striking out over a batter per inning while walking just 5.6% of the batters he faced; his excellent control was a nice surprise. It’s telling, then, that there was a lot of talk toward the end of the season that scouts felt Taillon was underperforming his stuff. If those strikeout-to-walk numbers in full-season ball at age 19 are less than he’s capable of, then Taillon could be a true monster if he harnesses his stuff.
The righthander is a huge, imposing pitcher who looks built for annual 200-inning workloads. He works in the 92-97 mph range with his fastball, which has good riding life up in the zone. His curveball is still inconsistent but has the look of a future plus offering, showing vicious two-plane break at times, and his changeup is advanced for a teenager as well. He hides the ball well in his delivery, and he does a nice job repeating it for someone so big and so young.
Why He’s This Low: We’re splitting hairs here in the top 10, and Taillon is simply further from the majors than any of the pitchers above him. There’s a lot that can still go wrong with him, as he has yet to make it to the upper minors; he also needs to stretch out far more, as the Pirates had him on a very short leash all season. While he’s built for durability, build alone isn’t necessarily going to keep him healthy, and he’ll also need to prove he can hold his stuff deeper into games.
There was concern that Taillon threw too many fastballs in his first year, when he really should’ve been working on tightening up his offspeed pitches–he’ll need to improve his sequencing as he moves up the ladder.
Conclusions: Taillon has definite ace potential, but pitching prospects have high attrition rates, and right now he simply hasn’t advanced far enough to give us a good degree of certainty that he won’t fall victim to injuries or experience erosion in his stuff or command. That’s one heck of a minor hangup, though, and it’s nothing that a good 120-inning 2012 won’t go a long way toward alleviating. Taillon and Gerrit Cole give the Pirates two extremely exciting pitching prospects, and if both make it through the coming season healthy and productive, look out.
Check out all of the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects here!
For more on the Pirates, check out Rum Bunter.