Pirates Over-Slot Pitcher Struggling With Command in Return From Tommy John

BRADENTON, Fla. – Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted right-handed pitcher Jacob Taylor out of Pearl River Community College, giving him an over-slot $700,000 signing bonus to get him to turn pro. There was a lot to like about Taylor, especially his ability to sit in the 93-94 MPH range and touch 97, combined with his lack of experience on the mound, which made him close to a blank slate.

Unfortunately, Taylor made one start in the GCL last year, throwing two shutout innings with some poor control, and then went down with Tommy John surgery.

Taylor has since returned, making three rehab appearances so far, including his second one today. The stats didn’t look bad, with 2.2 shutout innings, no hits allowed, two walks, and two strikeouts. However, Taylor’s control was off, leading to an early exit in the third inning after 47 pitches total on the day, and a lot of deep counts. He has five walks in 5.1 innings so far in his rehab work.

“The results aren’t where I want them to be right now, but my arm is feeling great,” Taylor said after today’s start. ‘I’m getting more and more comfortable every outing, so I’m excited about where it’s going right now.”

Taylor was up to 94 MPH today, and last time was up to 95-96, so he is showing the velocity he showed to get drafted and receive a high bonus. But the fastball command is off right now. That’s a normal thing after missing so much time, but part of this also goes towards Taylor’s lack of experience.

“I think a little bit of it has to do with my mechanics, and not repeating the exact mechanics every time,” Taylor said. “For the most part, I feel like it’s just from being out so long, and just getting back into things.”

While the fastball command is off, the secondary stuff is doing much better. Taylor put a focus on improving the changeup, and said he has a pretty good feel for the pitch.

“I threw a couple of changeups [in the past], but not as many as I’m throwing now,” Taylor said. “We’ve been working on it a lot lately. Starting to mix in a lot of changeups, trying to develop that pitch.”

Taylor said that throwing it daily has been the biggest help. He also said that the curveball is definitely coming back to him, and the feel for that pitch returned quicker than the changeup.

The Pirates will keep Taylor on a five-day schedule. Today was his second outing where he was scheduled for three innings. He will make two more starts with four innings each, and two more with five innings each. Since the minor league season is coming to a close, it’s likely he will have to carry his rehab process over to instructs. That should help him to get innings this year, so he can return and pitch next year in one of the short-season leagues.

Taylor is still an interesting arm due to his velocity at a fairly young age. He just turned 21 in July, and if he can find a way to get his command on track, while continuing improvements for his secondary pitches, he’ll be a prospect to keep an eye on in the lower levels next year.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Tim … After reading all these TJ rehab stories, a question finally clicked. You stated that in watching the tail end of Taillon’s rehab, he had fixed his delivery issue in that he now was consistently throwing at a downward plane in the bottom of the zone. I remember semi-joking that all pitchers should be taken out of real game situations to focus on their mechanics.

Is the inconsistency a part of being introduced to game situations? Or was it also present in their deliveries prior to getting back in games?

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