Every Friday through the rest of the season I plan on looking at a prospect who is currently in the lower levels of the minors, but should be on the radar of every dynasty league owner for their next minor league draft. Today's prospect is one who has been near the top of prospect lists since he was drafted directly following Bryce Harper in 2010, and who has been a bit of a difficult read so far due to his usage by his parent club. That prospect is right handed pitcher Jameson Taillon of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Taillon was considered by many to be the top prospect available in the 2010 draft, non-Bryce Harper division, and would likely have been the first right handed prep pitcher taken #1 overall in a different year. Drafted out of a high school in Texas, Taillon agreed at the deadline to a deal worth $6.5 million dollars. Unfortunately, he did not sign soon enough to be sent to any of the short-season leagues, and would have to wait to make his debut until 2011.
At the start of the 2011 season, Pirates Prospects gave this brief scouting report when ranking him as the team's #1 prospect:
He can touch 99 MPH with his fastball, and consistently works in the 93-95 MPH range, even in the late innings. He also throws a curveball and a slider, which like his fastball, are both plus pitches. He has a good changeup, although he didn't have much use for the pitch in high school.
Clearly, the repertoire pointed at the time toward a top-of-the-rotation type starting pitcher, and the build toward a potential workhorse as well. The Pirates sent Taillon to their low-A full-season affiliate in West Virginia. He made 23 starts there, but was not allowed to pitch past 5 innings in any of them, as he was on a strict 75 pitch limit in each start. The numbers were very good there (97 K, 22 BB, 3.98 ERA, 1.198 WHIP in his 92 2/3 IP), but it was hard to judge how that will translate as he only had to face most batters twice in a game.
The leash came off of Taillon for the 2012 season, and it has been a bit up and down so far this year. He was moved up to High-A Bradenton, and seen a drop in his strikeout rate. So far, he has 73 strikeouts against 24 walks in 86 2/3 innings pitched. However, his starts have been a bit mixed up, as he has allowed 4+ earned runs 4 times in his last 9 starts, including an 8 ER disaster against Fort Myers on 6/13. But he has also allowed 2 or fewer in 10 of his 16 starts overall, including his last one on 7/2.
Overall, I'm not sure if the opinion on Taillon has really changed all that much. He still looks like he has the potential to be top of the rotation, but the difference may be the timeline it takes him to get there. I could see him finishing the season in High-A, and remaining a level-per-year type. As a result of that, we would likely not see him in Pittsburgh until late 2014, at which point he will still not turn 23 until after that season. I think that the potential for a fantasy rotation anchor is still there, and I would probably have him in my top 10 pitching prospects if I had to rank them today.