The Pittsburgh Pirates may finish 2013 with their 21st consecutive losing season—a feat unrivaled in Major League Baseball history. However, the future appears bright.
Led by center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have a solid young core playing well in PNC Park. Outfielder Starling Marte will compete as one of the best young players in the game, while the more veteran Neil Walker proves to be one of MLB's better second baseman.
The pitching is in flux, though. A.J. Burnett continues to power the rotation as its ace, while Jason Grilli is authenticating his ability in the ninth inning. In between those two are many question marks.
Top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon continue to linger in the farm system. Both prospects rank within the top 11 prospects, according to Baseball Prospectus. While Cole is the likeliest of the two to see extended action in the majors this season, there is plenty to like about Taillon.
Unanimously considered the second-best prospect within the Pirates organization, right-handed pitcher Taillon continues to develop at a pace that will leave him with the major league club in 2014. On the other hand, his current absence from the 40-man roster does not imply he won't see MLB action at some point in 2013 either.
Taillon dominates with an intimidating four-seamer that is consistently clocked at 93-95 mph. The young righty has shown the ability to hit 99 mph with absent action on the fastball. He is also developing an elite curveball. The action on this curve is incredible. Thus far, it has proven to paralyze even the more equipped left-handed hitters.
Taillon's changeup appears improved from 2012 as well. The velocity is still ranging in the mid- to high-80s. Therefore, he must improve on lessening its velocity in order to utilize it more effectively.
Command has been an issue for Taillon since he made the jump to Double-A Altoona. More likely than not, his shaky confidence has not boded well for his command. Establishing a greater presence on the hill will improve his temperamental confidence while allowing his growth as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher to continue.
Saturday night, Taillon took the hill for the Altoona Curve, squaring off against the Detroit Tigers' Double-A affiliate Erie Seawolves. He proved as to why he is likely to see extended action in Double-A. He did hit 99 mph once on the radar gun, but his velocity settled in at 93 mph for the most part.
Taillon threw 97 pitches, 40 of which were balls, in 5.2 innings. The Seawolves hit him hard, as he struggled to dominate. While his changeup showed better action at a decreased velocity, he struggled with his curveball against right-handed hitters.
Additionally, Taillon appeared to lack confidence from the stretch. Like most young pitchers, it appeared he became anxious when runners reached base. He seemed to worry more about the runners on than the batter at the plate.
Taillon allowed three earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. Aside from several missteps, he showed the propensity to have swing-and-miss stuff, even on lefties. It was another developmental outing that will lead to him learning from mistakes.
The command will eventually come with Taillon. Projected to be a power pitcher with the ability to toss deep into games, his upside as a No. 2 hurler in a rotation is what bodes well for the Pirates. More must be seen in order to think of him as a late-2013 call-up. However, there is little doubt that Taillon reaches the majors next season as an impact pitcher.