Baseball America has ranked Jameson Taillon the number two prospect, as well as the number one pitcher, within the Pirates system. Prior to the 2013 season, MLB.com ranked Taillon the 15th best prospect in the game, while Baseball America listed him as the 19th best. However, he has seen his stock slip in these rankings over the past couple of years, and some seem to believe his ceiling is nothing more than a number three starter in the Pirates rotation.
Nevertheless, many will be expecting Taillon to reach the major leagues this season around the same juncture that Gerrit Cole joined the team in 2013. The Pirates rotation is already stuffed, as All-Star Jeff Locke will likely begin the season in either the bullpen or the minors and if A.J. Burnett does decide to return, the rotation will become even more crammed. So there won't be any rush to push Taillon through the the majors early in the season, barring any injury.
Taillon split his 2013 season between Altoona and Indianapolis, posting a 5-10 record with a 3.73 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. His problem clearly wasn't his stuff, as he was able to strike out nearly a batter per innings, but his control will need some refinement as he walked more than three per-nine innings. Comparing Taillon's 2013 to Cole's 2012, one notices many similarities. Cole walked a nearly identical amount as Taillon per-nine and had a similar strikeout per-nine number as well. While Cole finished his 2012 season with an overall ERA of 2.80, nearly a full run lower than Taillon, his numbers were enhanced by the time he spent pitching for Bradenton, where he put up a 2.55 ERA.
Both Cole and Taillon were 21 in these seasons, but Cole had the added benefit of pitching in college before going pro. From the onset, it was clear that Taillon would need more seasoning then Cole before he was truly major league ready, and this shouldn't cause Pirates fans much concern now, even though Taillon's numbers leave something to be desired.
As long as Taillon can harness his control while maintaining his strong power numbers, his style of pitching will transition seamlessly to the big leagues, whether it is in mid-2014 or at the start of the 2015 season.
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