When Pittsburgh Pirates top-flight prospect Jameson Taillon got news that his season was over, many fans were left with frustration at another year going by without seeing their #1 pitching prospect in the bigs.
Depending on who you ask, this latest injury – granted completely unrelated to his throwing arm – could signify something more than a very unlucky prospect. It could be the final nail in the coffin of Neal Huntington’s 2010 MLB draft report card.
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Taillon was taken at #2 overall that year, and with Gerrit Cole taken at #1 overall the next year, it was easy to see where Huntington’s head was at. Stockpiling two projected #1 or #2 starters could provide a formidable rotation a couple of years down the road. When paired with Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, and a key free agent here or there, that would be a world series-capable rotation if they all panned out. It was a diabolical plan. But did Huntington’s play at an end-game result in passing up on some world-class talent?
Absolutely. We’ll get to the main question of if that matters in a few minutes, but here’s a list of the talent that was drafted after Taillon: Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Sale, Christian Yelich. And those were just the first-round selections. In the supplemental picks, a gem was found in Noah Syndergaard, and capabale major leaguers Aaron Sanchez and Taijuan Walker were mined.
When paired with Glasnow, Kingham, and a key free agent here or there, that would be a world series-capable rotation if they all panned out. It was a diabolical plan. But did Huntington’s play at an end-game result in passing up on some world-class talent?
It was very easy to question Huntington for this draft even before Taillon’s stretch of injuries, and those injuries served as the gas to that fire. Is that fair to Huntington? That depends on your perspective. Was there talent missed? Absolutely. There are legitimate-all stars that were taken after Taillon. Fans in particular like to single in on Machado in light of Pedro Alvarez‘s woes at third, but at that time none could have predicted Pedro’s collapse at third. The one that stings the most for me is Chris Sale. I – like many Pirates fans – am left wondering why, if pitching was the way to go, that Chris Sale was not considered? Sale made his MLB debut a scant two-months after being drafted, and has posted a cumulative 24.5 WAR (Wins above Replacement) since then. In Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings from that year, Taillon was ranked #2 overall while Sale was #5.
We could go on and on about the virtues of the players that Huntington passed on, but until we actually see Taillon pitch in the majors, we cannot judge the draft. It’s as pure and simple as that. Injuries are always the great unknown in any sport, and even though it may sting to see players like Sale, Harvey, and others excel while Taillon can’t stay on the field, Pittsburgh Pirates fans should practice patience.
I mean, the major league team isn’t exactly struggling for pitching, right?