Jameson Taillon might be the key to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 season. However, we would be perfectly fine if he wasn’t. Don’t get us wrong, we have enjoyed watching Taillon dominate hitters on numerous occasions. Seeing him come up as a September callup and blow away St. Louis in the final series against the defending NL champs would be acceptable for us.
We are comfortable knowing that the big right-hander is going to be a solid pitcher for the Bucs one day very soon. But for me that’s not enough. When a team like the Bucs spends their cash on top picks like Taillon, they need to be ace-like. We also tend to think that the idea that 2014 Jameson Taillon will be just like 2013 Gerrit Cole is ridiculous. The odds of that are slim.
Watching Taillon pitch is exciting. But we have also been disappointed on occasion. The 22-year old has suffered from questionable defense on numerous occasions, but more importantly he also has worked through several refinement tweaks during his minor league career. Some feel he still needs to master those at the minor league level if he ever wants to have the confidence needed by a big league hurler.
Jameson Taillon firing strikes in Spring Training. PHOTO Rumbunter.com
The big question Pirates fans were clamoring about on sports talk today were similar to the ones from last March about Cole…. If Taillon is the best pitcher during Spring Training why won’t the Pirates put him in the rotation? Of course there are numerous points of view on this question. The only one that matters is that of the Bucs General Manager. Fortunately, Neal Huntington spoke about the top pitching prospect in the Pirates system on 93.7 The Fan with Dan Zangrilli.
"Our measuring bar has elevated a signifincant amount from three years ago. Now it’s not only is he (Taillon) ready to pitch in the big leagues and, as I have said publically,…the stuff to go compete at the Major League level. He’s got Major League caliber stuff, but the consistency of it, the command of it, the ability to go out and win against Major League playoff caliber opponents. That’s the next step that we have to continue to work with him on. The changeup refinement. The ability to command the two and the four seamer down in the zone. The ability to run the four seamer up, the curveball for chase and for strikes. And as I alluded to earlier, Gerrit Cole came to the major leagues and made adjustments that very, very few minor to major league guys can do. He changed his pitch use, he changed the quality of his curve ball, the changeup got better, His evolution at the Major League level set the bar awfully high and it’s rare."
Huntington realizes what Cole did is something that might not happen with Taillon. It seems obvious that Taillon is different from Cole. Sure there are times that the Pirates demanded that Taillon focus on certain pitches. The changeup was given a lot of attention this year. The delivery was much discussed and as you watch Taillon’s delivery now, it’s different than it was just a couple of years ago.
Taillon is really close to being on the big league roster. But like Cole, there are still improvements to be made. The breaking ball needs consistency. The changeup really needs to become a weapon at the AAA level–it would have been nice to see Taillon work more in the Arizona Fall League to really get a feel for his progress against some of the best young talent in the game, but a groin pull killed that plan. Just being in the rotation isn’t something that any Pirates fan should settle for with such a high profile pitcher like Taillon. Neal Huntington said it best:
"In Jameson’s case, we want to put him in a position to thrive not just survive."
If Taillon doesn’t pitch for Pittsburgh until September, we would be perfectly fine with that decision. It would also certainly mean that pitchers like Wandy Rodriguez, Edison Volquez, Brandon Cumption, Phil Irwin, Jeff Locke and maybe even Kyle McPherson are all pitching well. If that occurs Taillon could master the plan Ray Searage and Jim Benedict have laid out for him.
Feb 13, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon at Pittsburgh
We want to see an ‘as close as possible to a finished product’ Jameson Taillon arrive in Pittsburgh. The season might not allow something like that to happen, and if Taillon is the best option, the Bucs will give him the call.
But seeing a nearly finished version of Taillon is really exciting to dream about. And if somehow the dream season does line up and Taillon can spend most of the season mastering his craft…. just how much of a weapon would that provide the Bucs in September? It’s pretty exciting to think about. http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/02/22/huntington-great-competition-for-rotation-spots/