In the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, the top overall pick was the 2015 MVP, Bryce Harper. Selected third overall, was the two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover Manny Machado.
Sandwiched between these two perennial-MVP candidates was the Pittsburgh Pirates selection: Jameson Taillon.
Although there were some other legitimately great players in that draft* (Matt Harvey, Yasmany Grandal, Chris Sale), Taillon looked like a really nice talent destined for the Major Leagues. And at least half of that sentiments will now be fulfilled, as he is being called up and is expected to make his Major League Debut tomorrow against the Mets (and Noah Syndergaard, enjoyably enough).
Before his call-up, Taillon had been pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis and had been doing so quite well. In fact, he’s the Pirates’ fourth prospect overall and was a top 50 prospect according to MLB Pipeline (ranking as high as 15th overall). But before we jump right into his numbers, let me give you a brief history of what took the second overall pick in the 2010 draft so long to finally reach the Major Leagues.
Taillon, 24, first reached Triple-A Indianapolis back in 2013 and appeared close to a promotion. Unfortunately, a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm forced him to miss the entirety of the 2014 season after he underwent Tommy John Surgery in April 2014. His debut may have even come late in 2015, but as he was returning, Taillon needed to undergo surgery once again, this time for a hernia. So it wasn’t until 2016, this season, that he’s really ramped back up to speed and so far, he’s looked really really good.
In 10 starts (61.2 IP) at the AAA level this season, Taillon kept a tidy 2.04 ERA, with peripherals (for example, 1.93 FIP) that supported it. His 25.9% strikeout rate might have been one of the most impressive things about him, if it weren’t for his minuscule 2.5% walk rate (together creating an insane 10.17 K/BB ratio). In addition to limiting the walks, opponents have been hitting just .192 off Taillon, giving him a WHIP of just 0.81.[Adinserter block=”2″]
So, with a rainout on Monday and a double header on tap for today, the Pirates needed a starter for Wednesday’s finale against the Mets, and Taillon will be the guy. “I’m very happy for him. I’m proud of him,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said via Pirates.com. “I think it’s wonderful for the player, for the organization.”
Hurdle wouldn’t comment on whether Taillon would return to Triple-A Indianapolis after his start or remain in the big league rotation, but with the Super-Two deadline being roughly around now (it varies from year to year, and is determined only in retrospect), he may have a shot at sticking around. As of Monday, the Pirates starting rotation has been the third worst by fWAR, with a team ERA of 4.20, so Taillon could be a nice addition. And remember, the Pirates have yet another top pitching prospect in Tyler Glasnow (8th overall by MLB Pipeline), waiting and performing very well in AAA (2.04 ERA), so their rotation might quickly turn scary.
But it’s one player and one game at a time. For Taillon, tomorrow’s start against the Mets will be his Major League debut and will come six years after he was drafted second overall. Although I tend to love top prospect promotions – they’re exciting and make the games more interesting – the Pirates may have just improved themselves quite a bit. Even if they’re 10 games back in the NL Central, it’s just early June. There’s plenty of baseball to be played yet, and Jameson Taillon might just be there for most of it.
*The Cubs selected Hayden Simpson. Oof. Don’t worry, though, as you might recall their next five picks: Javier Baez (MLB), Albert Almora (now MLB), Kris Bryant (MLB, All-Star, 2015 ROY), Kyle Schwarber (MLB), and Ian Happ (High-A).