Breaking down Taillon's long-awaited MLB debut
By: Nick Ashbourne
Canadian Baseball Network
Jameson Taillon has been a prospect for what seems like eons. Drafted between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2010, the dual-citizen pitcher was supposed to be the ace that would make the Pittsburgh Pirates great again.
With the sixth draft since Taillon's selection underway Thursday, it's hard to believe that he just made his major-league debut last night. Unfortunately, an uncooperative ulnar collateral ligament cost the big right-hander his 2014 and 2015 seasons and made his path to the big leagues a meandering one.
On Wednesday night, the 24-year-old finally took the mound at PNC park. He was neither dominant nor dreadful registering a quality start with three earned runs allowed over six innings striking out three and walking two.
However, more important than the results of one is how he looked. Putting on a scout's hat for a moment, here's a breakdown of Taillon's first taste of baseball's highest level.
While Taillon didn't look overwhelmed in his first MLB start, it wasn't hard to believe it was his debut. The rookie struggled with his command at times, lost the release point on his curveball and often couldn't put away hitters when he was ahead.
He laboured through his outing only registering a single one-two-three inning. On the plus side, he demonstrated the ability to work in and out of trouble without breaking down. The majority of the damage he allowed came when he piped a 3-1 challenge fastball to a man without a MLB home run to his name in Ty Kelly.
Velocity: 95.0 mph
The New York Mets stacked their lineup with left-handed bats against Taillon and he certainly stayed away from them with his primary fastball. His final strikeout of the game came on a beautiful application of that strategy against James Loney.
Taillon's average velocity of 95.0 mph would rank sixth among qualified MLB starters tied with Stephen Strasburg. He touched 97 and never fell below 93.5. Two years in injury purgatory did not take the electricity out of Taillon's right arm.
That said, he only got one swinging strike on the pitch.
Velocity: 95.5 mph
Taillon had good command of this pitch keeping it low and using it to get four ground balls. He had half a tick more juice on it than the four-seam, but this offering is not designed to miss bats, but rather to create weak contact. He was fairly successful in that regard on Tuesday allowing only two singles on the pitch, one of which was on the ground.
He got just one whiff from the two-seamer, but it was a spectacular one. On a 3-2 count Taillon buried the pitch getting Rene Rivera to swing, strikeout and lose his bat.
Velocity: 80.5 mph
Taillon's curveball is highly-touted, but it simply did not look good in this game. He left it up too often and got one whiff in 20 attempts, failing to register a strikeout on the pitch.
The biggest issue was that Taillon simply couldn't get opposing hitters to offer at the curve inducing only six swings in total. The Mets had very little problem laying off, which rendered it ineffective.
It's very easy for a pitcher to lose the feel for a breaking ball in one start, so there's no reason to overreact, but Taillon needs the pitch to be significantly better in his future starts.
Velocity: 86.9 mph
Taillon rarely went to the changeup which was peculiar because it was very effective. He got two whiffs from it and two ground outs, including a crucial double play, and no one hit it out of the infield. He also used it to get his first major-league strikeout against Alejandro De Aza.
In the game the right-hander faced 24 batters and 19 were left-handed. One would think that would set him up for a changeup-heavy day, but it didn't. That may indicate a lack of confidence in the pitch.
Long-term this off-speed offering might wind up being his best weapon against left-handers so it would be good to see him feature it more in the starts to come.
Taillon's debut was workmanlike rather than dazzling, but it would have been unfair to get much more.
He showed promising velocity on both fastballs and maintained it throughout the game. His changeup looked very strong although it was not featured.
Unfortunately, Taillon's curve wasn't sharp and it hampered his ability to miss bats. In six innings the 24-year-old only generated five whiffs and he'll have to do significantly better than that going forward.
By definition, drawing too may conclusion from one start is dubious practice. What's clear is Taillon is healthy, his arm is strong and he doesn't look out of place at the big-league level.
Pittsburgh Pirates fans and Canadian baseball fans will take that in a heartbeat.