Pittsburgh Pirates, Taillon, and Super Two


The Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation has been receiving a lot of criticism lately, and for good reason.

They simply are not getting the job of late.  This past series against the Cubs only one starter got through the fifth inning, Jon Niese, who also gave up 6 runs.  Many wants the Pirates’ front office to make a change.

The Pirates have two top pitching prospects in all of baseball sitting at AAA Indianapolis right now.  As many people know, Tyler Glasnow is the top prospect, but with that he still needs some work at AAA.  He will go out and have a strong outing then come out the next and struggle with control.  In fact, just in his last start he walked five batters in 6 innings.  He still needs polishing at the triple-A level.  Is he better than the current options?  Most likely.  However, you have to look at the long term negative impact that bringing a pitcher up before he is ready can have.

The other option that is talked about even is former #2 overall pick Jameson Taillon.  Taillon has lost the last two season to Tommy-John surgery and a sport hernia.  However, so far this year he has not seemed to miss a beat, in fact he seems even better.  On the year he is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 26/3 in 5 starts.  What has really built up the hype is his last start, where he threw 7 innings of scoreless ball, which included retiring 14 straight at one point. Very impressive stuff from the now 24 year old.

Is Jameson Taillon ready? Yes, he seems to have been able to continue to develop even with being side lined for nearly 2 seasons.  His numbers this year back that up.  However, should the Pirates ignore Super-Two and call him up now?  Let us play a hypothetical.  Jeff Locke is set to make his next start on Saturday (5/7) against the Cardinals. Locke always seems to be the pitcher that fans are trying to replace.

The hypothetical will go as follows.  Let us say Jeff Locke pitches 4.2 innings on Saturday giving up 5 runs, walking 4, and chalks up a loss on his record.  Fans likely will be calling for him to be taken out of the rotation and to be replaced with Taillon.  If the Pirates made this decision they would be calling up with talented prospect about a month early of the Super-Two cut off.

In one month how much a difference will this make? After Locke’s start on Saturday he would be projected to make five more starts before the Super-Two cut off( typically around June 10th).  That is if the Pirates would not skip any of his starts due to off days.  The question is whether or not it would be worth the Pirates calling Taillon on up before Super-Two.

A couple things to keep in mind with that.  First, just because he is up does not mean they will win those games.  So far we have seen top pitching prospects Jose Berrios (Twins) and Sean Manea (Oakland) get the call to the big leagues.  So far in their combined four starts they have won one game.  They are talented no doubt, just as talented as Jameson is, but there is a big difference between AAA and the MLB.  Taillon likely will not be lights out right away and would likely have to make adjustments over his first few starts to get comfortable.  Essentially, the question is whether or not the Pirates feel that if Taillon gets the call will he go 5-0 in his starts.  Most likely that will not happen.

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Second, if he is making 5 starts and in that small sample size he does not give you any more wins than say Locke will give you , is it worth giving up the extra year of cheap control?  If teams avoid Super-Two they obtain an and extra year of league minimum control, while they player is only given three years of arbitration.  On the flip side, if the Pirates threw away Super-Two and called Taillon up early he would be granted four years of arbitration.  What does that all mean?  Typically a player in his 3rd year of arbitration will get around 11-14 million dollars.  However, if you throw an extra year in there and Taillon performs the way that many believe he will he could earn around 18-20 million that fourth year.  What it comes down to is whether or not these five potential starts would be worth paying him 18 million dollars more in the long term.  I know what the Pirates front office would prefer to do!

On the other hand, Pirate fans have been waiting for a long time to see the former #2 overall pick.  What if he comes up and does dominate in those five starts and gives you four or five wins.  He could keep the Pirates in the NL Central race and would have already been making those big-league adjustments.  He could really bolster the rotation and give the Pirates another top-flight arm rather than a mediocre back-end of the rotation arm in Locke.

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Unfortunately there is no clear cut in all of this.  The only people who know the answer of whether not this is worth it is the Pirates’ brass.  Fan can sit back and say that it is worth it, that is the easy decision.  Many believe the window is open right now and with the way the Cubs are playing that it is closing already in early May.  The purpose of this article was to share some of the factors that play into calling Jameson Taillon up.  Although around the water cooler it seems like the obvious thing to do, but there is more at play than just the Pirates being “cheap”.  Regardless, fans should be wanting their top prospect up and when he does get that call it will be an exciting day for the fans and the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.