Why does it seem like only the good pitching prospects get hurt? Nevertheless, we at S2S acknowledge Taylor Jordan‘s nice season in the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2011 with a spot on our SAL All-Star team as the team’s #4 starter.
Name: Taylor Jordan
2011 Team: Hagerstown Suns (WAS)
Basic Pitching Stats: 9-4 record, 2.48 ERA, 63 strikeouts (6.0 K/9), 23 walks (2.2 BB/9), and 1 home run allowed (0.1 HR/9) in 18 appearances, 17 starts, 1 complete game, 1 shutout, and 94.1 innings pitched
Taylor Jordan has not gone through your average experience as a prospect. Coming out of Merritt Island High School in Merritt Island, Florida, Jordan was a highly-touted enough prospect, hitting the low-90’s with a projectable frame, to be drafted in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2007 MLB Draft. After not signing, Jordan attended Indian River Junior College but swiftly quit the baseball team and went undrafted in 2008. In 2009 though, he attended Brevard Community College, and suddenly he was back to being the prospect evaluators thought he was, hitting 95 MPH with his fastball while also flashing a nice breaking ball, and he signed for $99,500 when the Nationals drafted him in the 9th round of the 2009 Draft.
Taylor Jordan finally figured it out in 2011. In his age 22 season, Jordan could not overpower hitters, striking out just 6.0 batters per 9 innings in a league where the average K/9 was 7.8, but he kept them unremitting off balance. In addition to his excellent control, Jordan forced hitters to make weak contact on the ground, making his 0.1 HR/9 not really too much of a fluke. Minor League Central tells us that 51.8% of the balls put into play against Jordan were groundballs, well ahead of the 42.8% league average and was in fact the 5th-best mark among Sally League pitchers who tossed a minimum of 90 innings. Hitters made contact at a high rate against Jordan, connecting on 65.2% of their swings compared to the 59.2% league average, but they simply could not do anything once they put the ball into play, posting just a .058 ISO against him, the best mark among Sally League pitchers, minimum 85 IP. Even ignoring his nice groundball rate, Jordan posted a nice 2.92 FIP. However, SIERA hated Jordan for his low strikeout rate, giving him just a 3.95 mark, and xFIP thought similarly of him, putting him a 3.90. He may have forced a great amount of groundballs, but almost no one can allow just 1 home run in 94.1 innings without luck. Nevertheless, Jordan’s great groundball rate and outstanding control were excellent signs for him.
Time out. If you were paying attention when you read the “Background” paragraph, you saw that Taylor Jordan was drafted by the Reds and then the Nationals as a projectable power arm, able to hit 95 MPH with the possibility for more while also throwing a breaking ball with plus potential. Where did that go in 2011?
As it turns out, Jordan still hasn’t filled out his frame. He’s been 6’3″, 190 since 2007. And without the body to support him, Jordan’s velocity tailed off quite often in 2011. Sometimes he could hit 95 MPH, but other times he could barely hit 90. Rather than looking like a top prospect beaming with potential, Jordan looked like a shifty veteran trying to get by in 2011, and although he did a good job, the Nationals were hoping for more than just shiftiness from him. Jordan’s fastball features nice sink and movement down and away from right-handed batters, helping him to compensate for his lost velocity, but when you expect a pitcher to his 95 and he’s hitting 88, that’s not what you want. Taylor’s slider in the low-80’s was occasionally the strikeout pitch that his sinker could not be, but it flatted too often and hitters at higher levels would have hit it harder than the young South Atlantic League hitters did. Jordan did mix in a changeup, and that’s a solid third pitch for him but seemingly nothing more. Jordan still has upside, but he didn’t pitch like a pitcher that will be able to handle upper-level pitching in 2011.
And then there’s the injury. Jordan suffered an elbow injury in July and underwent Tommy John surgery that will sideline him until at least June of 2012. But the time off could very well be a blessing in disguise for Jordan. Maybe it will allow him to bulk up and when he gets his velocity back on his fastball, maintain it in the low to mid-90’s. You never want to see a pitcher suffer an elbow injury, but Jordan could come out of the whole ordeal a better pitcher.
Jordan first of all has to worry about getting healthy, but once he gets past the TJS rehab, he will need to bulk up and get more consistent velocity on his fastball and movement on his slider. I’m not discounting Jordan yet as a prospect, but he has a lot to prove. He has a nice arsenal that could realistically get him into the big leagues as a 4th or 5th starter or a high-leverage middle reliever, but he has to get the most out of his arsenal to have any chance. Taylor Jordan, despite his nice season in 2011, is a sleeper prospect in the Nationals system because of both his injury and his lack of pure stuff this past season, and we’ll have to see how he does when he returns to the mound.
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