There was a lot to take away from today’s article on Jameson Taillon. The information in that article was some of the most insightful stuff we’ve had on this site, and I feel comfortable saying that without feeling like I’m taking credit, because the bulk of the article was basically Taillon and Jim Benedict quotes. Seriously, there were 1,800 words before I even typed a sentence.
While everything they said helps to further understand the delivery and the process a pitcher goes through to have command of his pitches, there was one thing that really stood out: the talk of how Taillon’s drop and drive approach got so bad in the first place.
Taillon felt he needed to make a big move in order to gain velocity. His focus on gaining velocity stemmed from the fact that velocity gets you paid in the draft. Here are the explanations from Taillon and Benedict.
Taillon: “Specifically talking about the drop in the delivery, at that time, 19 years old, first outing in pro ball, I think the drop is attributed to the draft process. Trying to throw hard. Trying to get paid. [Laughs]. That’s how you’re trained growing up, unfortunately.”
Benedict: “This tape, all of the things he had done from a delivery standpoint, from an arm action standpoint, were created in high school. We were trying to get him taller, but at the same time, his training was to light up the gun and not to get people out with angles and spins.”
There are a lot of problems here that often get overlooked when evaluating a player. Throughout Taillon’s entire career, there have been questions about whether he can reach his upside as a top of the rotation starter. Pretty much all of these questions stemmed from the numbers he was putting up, while ignoring what might be happening behind the scenes. In his case, it was multiple things — learning a changeup (the Pirates forced him to throw it 20 times per game in High-A), altering his delivery, and as Benedict mentioned, learning how to get people out with angles and spins.
Fortunately, Taillon has been open to all of the changes since day one. There have been some hiccups and a lack of trust in his stuff at times, but he has done a good job with the adjustments and has really improved since being drafted. That said, it’s kind of concerning that draft picks can get so far off track with poor mechanics, all for something that really doesn’t matter, like velocity.
I was talking with Vance Worley after his start in the B game on Monday when a few minor leaguers walked by with the radar gun chart. Worley asked them what he was sitting that day, and they responded 87-90. His response? “That’s good.”
When you talk about the draft, and you mention a right-hander who throws 87-90, you start thinking things like “late round pick” and “organizational depth” and “I hope he’s got the potential to increase his velocity.” But Worley started explaining how you don’t need an upper 90s fastball. All you need are angles and command. It has worked for him in the past, prior to his injury, and it seems to be working for him since getting his mechanics back on track.
That’s not to say it isn’t nice to have velocity. But I’d take a guy like Worley — with an 87-90 MPH fastball, great command of his pitches, and the ability to fool batters — over a guy with an upper 90s fastball, horrible control, and no ability to fool a hitter with his stuff.
The ideal situation is to have both, and that’s why you draft a guy like Taillon, even with his mechanical flaws at the time. The hope is that you can take that hard throwing pitcher, iron out the mechanics, and have a hard thrower who can command his pitches and throw on a downhill plane. Those guys usually end up as top of the rotation starters.
It’s too early to say whether Taillon will end up with that result. I think he’s still on track, even with the Tommy John setback. He has made a lot of good changes over the years, and is a much better pitcher now than his career minor league stats give him credit for.
Brandon Cumpton underwent Tommy John surgery today, which will put him out for the entire 2015 season, and possibly the start of the 2016 season. This impacts the early season depth a bit, although if Clayton Richard can step up as a reclamation project, the Pirates won’t feel the loss of Cumpton as much. I wrote about Richard yesterday, noting the changes he is making with Ray Searage to get his mechanics back to where they were before all of his injuries the last few years.
The Bradenton Marauders roster is starting to shape up, and it’s looking like a team loaded with prospects. Today I reported that Austin Meadows and Harold Ramirez will both be going to High-A, which follows last week’s news that Reese McGuire and Luis Heredia will be heading to the level. In the Meadows/Ramirez link, I broke down the expected lineups and rotations as things sit right now. It’s possible there could be some changes as camp goes on, but I don’t see too many differences from the roster I laid out.
ESPN ranked the Pirates sixth overall when looking at the talent teams have in the present, the talent in their farm systems, and the amount of money they can spend. It’s good that they are ranked so high. The unfortunate news is that a lot of other NL teams, including a few NL Central teams, are also ranked up there with them.
**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
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