RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
- heavy 92-94 FB; also seen at easy 93-95; most recently hit 96-97
- plus 77-84 CB; 75-76 maybe?
- underutilized 76 CU with real potential
- 83-84 with SF
- plus command
- 6-7, 230 pounds
- popular comps include Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Beckett, and, wait for it, Roger Clemens…
[Before I get to all of the drawn out prose I had originally planned, let me add this late edit that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the piece, but was too good to let pass. Random Anonymous Scout (so take it for what it's worth) told me the other day that Jameson Taillon could currently pitch out of a big league bullpen and hold his own. Pretty high praise, I thought. It also reinforces the idea in my head that Taillon is the 2010 version of Tanner Scheppers, another talented fastball/power curve guy that I thought could pitch out of the bullpen from day one if called upon. For the record, I don't advocate either guy pitching exclusively out of the bullpen professionally, although I get why it makes sense for Scheppers to go that route. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Taillon scouting profile...]
The first sentence in my entirely hypothetical yet undoubtedly terrible essay entitled “Why I Love Following Pro Sport Draft(s)” might go a little something like this: “There’s a very obvious thrill that comes in forever chasing the next big thing…” One of my favorite parts of following the respective drafts in all of the major sports is the lack of and/or conflicting information out there about certain players. This isn’t so much a problem with NBA and NFL draft coverage where the college game is televised seemingly every day of the calendar year, and I can never personally name more than 3 players in a given NHL Draft, but the Rule 4 MLB Draft is different. Sure, baseball’s draft coverage has become more prevalent what with the rise of many quality rogue handsome bloggers — which reminds me that I have to update the sidebar links in the coming days — in conjunction with increased output from the major media standbys (BA/Kevin Goldstein/Keith Law), but information regarding the skills of specific draft prospects, high school guys mostly, can be very, very hard to find, especially outside of the top handful of big name prospects. I like that. I like the mystery that comes with nobody having a 100% idea of the ins and outs of a player’s particular skill set.
(Incidentally, one of my ideas for “proving” the NBA and NFL Drafts get more coverage than the MLB counterpart was by comparing Google hits for each phrase. I figured “NFL Draft” would have the most by far, “NBA Draft” would be a clear second, and either “MLB Draft” or “NHL Draft” would bring up the rear. How wrong I was. “MLB Draft” produced more hits than any of the others. Go figure.)
The lack of concrete information regarding specific players makes following the baseball draft all the more rewarding in the end. You can really come up with just about any wacky justification about why you prefer Player X over Player Y as long as you can back it up with some kind of reasoned argument. It’s damn hard to say with any kind of certainty that any one player is definitely, absolutely, positively a better prospect than another; there are too many variables at play. Prefer Player X? Fine, but tell me why. Hope your team drafts Player Y? Alright by me, so long as you can explain the relative pros and cons of the two.
There normally is more exposure given to college athletes and certainly more of a significant statistical base to draw from, so arguments over which college players make the best pro prospects have more of a “right/wrong” feel to them. Arguments about prep players, however, can be spun in any number of directions. With limited and/or conflicting information to go off of, it’s inevitable that personal preferences will come into play. If you are predisposed to believing the changeup is the neatest pitch around, then chances are high you are going to elevate the ranking of a pitcher with a plus change. I watched a college game a few years ago next to a scout that told me that his scouting director was only interested in college pitchers with at least two above-average to plus pitches. Another scout chimed in that his scouting director told him that any prep pitchers taken by his time were required to at least show three different pitches, no matter the quality. We all look for different ways to differentiate the good prospects from the so-so prospects, and, perhaps more importantly, the great prospects from the good prospects.
There are a lot of different ways one can evaluate high school pitching prospects, with no real right way or wrong way of reaching a conclusion. Of course, let’s be honest here – there is little accountability on my end when it comes to how I rank these guys. I take pride in my work and am ridiculously appreciative of every single reader who stops by, but I understand my job isn’t on the line when I endorse one player over another. One of the things that really stood out to me in really digging deep into the high school pitching prospect ranks last year was how rare finding a high school pitching prospect with two present plus pitches is. Jameson Taillon has those two pitches.
Taillon will easily sit in the low-90s as a professional, with a peak fastball that has already reached the high-90s. He is close to a finished product coming out of high school as I can remember in recent years, a fact that will unbelievably work against him as draft day draws closer. The comparisons to fellow top high school righthander AJ Cole are inevitable. AJ Cole has a plus fastball and a potential plus curve; Jameson Taillon has a plus fastball and a present plus curve. Taillon also has the current leg up with his changeup, although he hasn’t really shown the pitch off in real game situations just yet.
It’ll be really interesting to see if the Cole vs Taillon storyline emerges as a viable draft subplot this spring. The two young arms are a study in contrast, despite sporting similar high end velocities and offspeed stuff. Additionally, both young righties have top of the rotation upside. Cole may ultimately have more upside, but there is little arguing he is currently further from reaching it. Taillon is the more finished product, but some scouts worry he is currently throwing better than he’ll ever throw professionally. In a world that encourages controversy by demanding that all things boil down to building up one side of an argument while simultaneously tearing down the other, it would not be the least bit surprising to see plenty of people frame the Cole vs Taillon debate in this way. There is no problem with picking a favorite horse in the race, heck it’s part of the whole reason this site is around. Building up one player is appreciated, but I don’t see why it has to come at the expense of another. I guess it’s just the subtle different between Cole over Taillon (or vice versa) and Cole vs Taillon; I’m hoping for the former, but I fear we’ll see more of the latter.
I can’t really speak to the rather generous comps to Strasburg, Beckett, and Clemens, but I think it’s pretty clear that Taillon is a far more well-rounded prospect than Gerrit Cole was coming out of high school in 2008. To take it a step further, Taillon’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of what scouts said about Josh Johnson as he was coming up through Florida’s system. While I’m not brave enough to claim Taillon will ever have a pro season quite like the one Johnson just had, I have no problem pointing out that Taillon is currently a better prospect than Johnson ever was. Taillon has a better overall fastball, better secondary offering (though Johnson’s slider has turned into a real weapon professionally), and eerily similar command, makeup, and mound presence. The light clearly went on for Johnson enough to turn him from a good prospect to a great pitcher, a perfect example of how different developmental paths can be for different players. There’s no telling what kind of path Taillon will actually take, but the fact that he even has the chance to follow in the footsteps of a guy like Johnson is darn exciting.
A thought just occurred to me. I may be a bit overzealous with some of my comps, but let’s go with what I’ve got so far, for argument’s sake if nothing else. If AJ Cole is Justin Verlander and Jameson Taillon is Josh Johnson, and neither player is excepted to go number one overall in this draft, then what is there really left to say about what kind of prospect Bryce Harper is?