Pirates prospect Taillon working his way up
ALTOONA — It could be tempting for Jameson Taillon to watch Gerrit Cole and Brandon Cumpton make their major league debuts and wonder when his day will come.
Even more tempting would be to watch Stolmy Pimentel earn a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis and guess whether he could be next. But Taillon said watching his former teammates and fellow pitching prospects move up the Pirates' ladder doesn't give him extra motivation.
“It's kind of weird. I love to see them move up and do well, but at the same time I really don't put that much stake into what they're doing versus what I'm doing,” said Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of The Woodlands High School in Texas. “I'm here for a reason. So I can't really think about it too much.”
The 21-year-old right-hander is 3-5 in 15 starts in his first full season with Double-A Altoona. His ERA of 2.90 is sixth lowest in the Eastern League. Taillon last week was named the No. 10 overall prospect by Baseball Prospectus in its midseason update, but the publication noted his trajectory was down because of issues with his changeup and fastball command at the upper levels.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Taillon needs to continue to refine the total pitch package and that they've been targeting the development of the changeup.
“He's got a good one. It's a matter of picking when to use it, which hitters to use it against and which situations to use it, but ultimately using it and trusting it and believing in it,” Huntington said. “We've had some guys that have had changeups that didn't trust it. We're working awfully hard with Jameson to get him to trust that changeup because once he does, that becomes a pretty strong package for him to go along with the two-seamer and the four-seamer, the hard breaking ball and the changeup.”
Taillon admits it has been a challenge. It was even more challenging at the beginning of the year, he said, because once at Double-A, it is more about getting outs and showing what you're capable of versus developing. When the season began, he knew he could go out and throw his fastballs — which are routinely in the upper 90s and occasionally hit triple-digits — and curveballs, but his pitch count would be at 100 after five innings.
The more he's thrown the changeup, however, the more it's become a go-to pitch.
“I'll throw it in 1-0, 2-1 counts, hitters' counts where they're trying to jump my fastball, and I've found if I can show I can do that, later in the game in those similar counts, I can throw fastballs and don't have to be as perfect,” Taillon said.
“They're not going to be just sitting dead right on it and whatnot. It takes a little pressure off my other pitches.”