Jameson Taillon Should Be In The Pirate Rotation


The Pittsburgh Pirate rotation has struggled this season, and there is help at AAA in the form of Jameson Taillon.

Anyone who has watched the Pirates this year knows their starting rotation has struggled. The Pirate rotation ranks 27th in the Majors in FIP (4.59), 24th in xFIP (4.36), 28th in walks (4.34 BB/9), and 28th in WAR (-0.1), all of these numbers are awful. However, there is help at AAA in the forms of Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow.

While Glasnow still needs time at AAA to work on fastball controle and his change up, Jameson Taillon is Major League ready. If not for injuries costing him the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Jameson Taillon would have been in the Majors awhile ago. The time has come for Jameson Taillon to get called up to the Major Leagues.

Jameson Taillon has absolutely dominated AAA this season. Taillon has made five starts and pitched 30 1/3 innings in those five starts. In his 30 1/3 innings pitched Taillon has a 1.19 ERA, 1.87 FIP, he’s allowed just 20 hits, zero home runs, and is averaging 0.89 BB/9 and 7.71 K/9.

It is absolutely remarkable that Taillon has been able to dominate the way he has considering he had not pitched in a professional game since September of 2013 prior to the start of the season. What is also remarkable is the crispness Taillon has had on his pitches. His fastball has sat in the mid to upper 90s. Plus his curveball, the pitch he is best known for, has had great bite and has been an excellent out pitch for Taillon.

Monday May 9th is the next day that Taillon is slated to take the ball for the Indianapolis Indians, that is also the day of Jon Niese‘s next scheduled start. That works out very well, because Niese is the pitcher I would have Taillon replace in the rotation. Even though Niese had posted the numbers of a solid number three starter the past five seasons, he has been nowhere near the pitcher so far in 2016. 

Niese has pitched 33 1/3 innings in six starts this season. In those 33 1/3 innings pitched Niese has posted a 5.94 ERA, 5.74 FIP, -0.3 WAR, and his walk rate (3.78 BB/9) and home run rate (1.89 HR/9) are both entirely too high. Also, his 6.7 percent swing and miss ranks 97th out of 103 qualified pitcher in the Majors.

I covered Niese’s struggles this season in deeper detail here.

Now, Niese still has talent in his left arm. He has demonstrated as much the past four seasons, so for this reason I would still keep him around. However, I would move him to the bullpen to make room for Jameson Taillon in the rotation. To make room for Taillon on the 25-man roster, I would cut ties with long man Ryan Vogelsong.

The Pirates signed Ryan Vogelsong to a one year deal in the offseason, I did not like it then and I still do not like it. Between making one start and pitching out of the bullpen this season Vogelsong has a 5.73 FIP, 4.98 xFIP, and a -0.3 WAR in 15 innings pitched.

Furthermore, Vogelsong’s walk rate (4.20 BB/9) is his worst since 2005 and his home run rate (1.80 HR/9) is the highest of his career. Also, like Niese, Vogelsong is not missing bats this season as his swing and miss rate is an abysmal 5.6 percent. Ryan Vogelsong simply brings no value to the Pirate roster, and should be cut loose to make room for Jameson Taillon.

The biggest thing holding Taillon back right now is baseball’s silly Super Two rule. If the Pirates keep Taillon in the Minors past the first week of June, they will save approximately ten million dollars down the road. However, there is a way to get around this.

Due to the fact Taillon had not pitched since 2013 entering this season, the Pirates are going to want to watch his innings anyway. Therefor, the Bucs can use this to help them avoid having Jameson Taillon reach Super Two status.

Let’s say the Pirates call up Taillon to take Jon Niese’s next turn in the rotation on Monday in Cincinnati. This would put Taillon in the Majors approximately 28 days before the Super Two Deadline. If Taillon were then to spend 28 additional days in the Minor Leagues at any point this season, he would avoid reaching Super Two status.

The Pirates could promote Taillon on Monday, and then shut him down for four weeks in late July/early August to help save innings for the stretch run in late August/September, as well as avoiding Super Two status. If the Pirates would send Taillon back to AAA for four weeks he would only miss four or five starts depending on how off days fall, he would (most likely) avoid hitting his innings limit this season, and he would not become Super Two eligible.

The Pirates need to think outside the box with Taillon to get him to the Major Leagues now, and this is a way they can do it. Personally, I would just call him up now and say Super Two be damned but the Pirates will not do that. So for that reason they still need to call him up now, but they should then demote him back to AAA for four weeks this summer to avoid Super Two down the road.

While entering the season Taillon did need some starts at AAA to make sure he was all the way back from his time off, as well as to build him arm strength back the time has come to move him to the Major League rotation. With how poor their rotation has been it is a minor miracle the Pirates are 15-13 right now. Taillon has all the tools needed to be a number one starter in a Major League rotation, and the time has come for the Pirates to promote him to the Majors.