February 1, 2013
Bush League: Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker
In the first edition of Bush League, I discussed the viability of sofa-scouting high-level prospects by scouring the archives of MiLB.tv (for a modest subscription price). I also noted the advantages when evaluating pitchers as compared to position players, given the additional off-camera variables that exist for scouting hitting and defense, along with the caveat that pitchers can have volatile mechanics during their development years. The subjects of the original piece included the top two picks from the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole and Danny Hultzen, and today we’ll take a look at another Pirate-Mariner combination of high-end pitching prospects.
Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker were both high-school products of the 2010 draft. Taillon was selected at number two overall by the Pirates, behind top pick Bryce Harper, and Walker was chosen 41 picks later by the Mariners during the supplemental round. I reviewed both pitchers back in July with a brief study of their back-to-back one-inning stints in the Futures Game, and the early returns were impressive. The mechanics of minor-league players are fickle and a pitcher might show different looks on any given day, especially when making a rare relief appearance in a nationally-televised showcase, so the offseason presents a great opportunity to take a deeper look into the performances of these two high-profile prospects.
Taillon made his Double-A debut on August 21st at Trenton, tossing five shutout frames of four-hit baseball and striking out six without walking a batter on his way to earning the big W. He had solid command of a 95-to-97 mph fastball, off-set by a sharp curve with steep break that had batters flailing harmlessly for the whiff. The heater generated few swings-and-misses but a plethora of foul balls, as opposing hitters were unable to square up the pitch to make hard contact.
Taillon’s curve was his primary instigator of K's, and he struck out four consecutive hitters on buried curveballs during a stretch of the second and third innings of the ballgame. He demonstrated the ability to drop a curve over the plate for strikes early in the count, but the pitch was most effective when targeted under the zone to hitters who had recently fouled off fastballs. Taillon mixed in some flat change-ups the second time through the order, as well as a tighter version of his breaking ball that was inconsistent yet occasionally effective. The break on his pitches was mostly confined to the vertical plane, with heavy downward movement despite his having a lower arm-slot than one might expect with such a steep trajectory.