Jameson Taillon could contribute to Pirates’ success in 2015

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Heading into Spring Training as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ second-ranked prospect, right-hander Jameson Taillon is nearing the end of his stint in Minor League Baseball.

And for the Bucs, the timing could not be better.

After back-to-back postseason appearances, Clint Hurdle‘s club is taking aim at the top of the National League Central in 2015 with a rotation anchored by left-hander Francisco Liriano and young righty Gerrit Cole. Throw in the likes of Vance Worley, Charlie Morton  A.J. Burnett and Jeff Locke and you’ve got the makings of a solid starting five (or six).

Liriano, who has emerged as the left-handed ace of the team over the past few seasons, re-joined the Pirates this winter on the richest free agent contract in team history, signing a three-year deal worth $39 million. Burnett came back to the Steel City for one last go-round before he rides off into the sunset, while the supporting cast is all returning from 2014.

Cole is probably the biggest question mark – he recently said that he’s not ready to be labeled the staff ace – but he’ll be a front-end quality arm regardless of that. But with Burnett in his late 30s and the question marks that surround the likes of Locke – an opportunity could very well arise at some point this season. Who will be waiting in the wings? None other than Jameson Taillon.

Jameson Taillon could be a major player in the Bucs’ pursuit of a division title in 2015.

Coming off a season lost to Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old prospect is set to begin throwing to hitters in the next couple of weeks – and it poised to make a midseason debut for the big league club, according to recent reports.

In 2013, his last season pitching in the Pittsburgh minor league system, Taillon mixed most of the year with Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. Although he lost 10 games while winning only five, the right-hander pitched well – showing again why he is so highly-regarded throughout the game today.

His 3.68 ERA in 2013 is largely on par with where he’s been at each stage of his professional career to-date. Here’s a look at his numbers at each level of the Pittsburgh farm system so far.

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As demonstrated by the numbers above, the right-hander hasn’t missed a beat along the way as he’s continued his ascent to Pittsburgh – where fans are clamoring for a glimpse of the former second-overall draft pick on the hill at PNC Park. And with him sitting on the brink of the big leagues, that’s a very promising sign.

Something else that jumps out is the fact that Taillon has just 37 innings under his belt at the Triple-A level; the Pittsburgh front office has shown patience with its prospects and while he continues to recover and fine-tune his skills early this season, it’s already clear that this will happen at the minor league level.

By comparison, Cole – who was once as highly regarded as a prospect as Taillon, had just under 100 innings with Indianapolis notched before his big league debut. However, he tallied less than 60 frames at the Double-A level – which is far less than what the Bucs’ current number two prospect already has.

For now, Jameson Taillon will continue to work back from his injury, opening the season at the Triple-A level. But when it comes down to crunch time this summer when the Pirates are in the mix of a hard-nosed battle for the NL Central crown, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be anywhere apart from alongside Cole, Liriano and Burnett, doing his part to bring a crown to the Steel City.

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