Jonathan Mayo from MLB Pipeline wrote an article on Thursday morning looking at the top prospects set to break out in 2018. He picked 12 players total and went with 23-year-old lefty Taylor Hearn from the Pittsburgh Pirates as one of six pitchers in the group.
Hearn pitched for Bradenton this season and had his moments where he looked unhittable, while picking up a lot of strikeouts and getting his share of grounders. At other times, he ran his pitch count up to get himself in trouble and then served up big hits with runners on base. He finished with 4.12 ERA in 87.1 innings, but allowed just 65 hits and struck out 106 batters.
The stuff is there for Hearn to develop into a top 100 prospect in the game this season. His fastball sits mid-90s and has hit 100 MPH. He worked on his slider in the Arizona Fall League with excellent results early with the pitch.
He considers his changeup to be his best pitch and is comfortable throwing it in any situation. In fact, Hearn’s changeup was so good that he stop throwing the pitch to work on his fastball command and his slider, leading some to believe the pitch wasn’t any good because he stopped using it. Back in the AFL (see link above) Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway called the changeup a very good pitch with separation, while Bradenton pitching coach Matt Ford said in late July that the changeup was “absolutely filthy”. Last year, West Virginia manager Brian Esposito called it a really good pitch after seeing him a few times, so those old scouting reports were never right and the pitch remains strong.
Hearn ranked in our top ten this off-season due to his upside and his potential, rather than his actual results. We also believe that he has the ability to be a breakout prospect this season due to his three-pitch mix, and the big frame to put in plenty of innings as a starting pitcher. As the MLB Pipeline article mentions, his command might keep him from reaching his upside, but he would still have a chance to be a power reliever if that happens. He should get the chance to prove himself this season in the Altoona rotation.