By Jason Shetler
Some of the oldest sayings and cliches throughout history have been “Patience is a virtue”, Time is of the essence” and “Good things come to those who wait”. In regards to Jameson Taillon and his long road to the big leagues, all three of those sayings are certainly appropriate.
Six years ago, the Pirates chose Taillon with the #2 overall selection in the MLB Draft. Taking high school pitchers in the first round has generally been considered risky, but GM Neal Huntington saw enough upside to sign the 6’5 right-hander for $6.5 million. After being selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole made his much anticipated debut with the Pirates in 2013, and the general consensus seemed to be that Taillon would be the next pitching prospect to arrive in Pittsburgh. However, there was a huge bump that he hit on his path to the Majors.
In Spring Training of 2014, Taillon experienced discomfort in his pitching elbow, and there were reports that he would have to undergo Tommy John surgery, which would cause him to miss the entire season. He was fully recovered from the injury last year and was getting ready to pitch in Extended Spring Training where he then sustained an injury to his hernia. Taillon had a procedure done on the hernia, and was shutdown once again.
Taillon began the 2016 season pitching for the Indianapolis Indians, the affiliate that he last pitched for in 2013 before the injuries. Despite missing two full seasons of pro ball, he was outstanding with Indianapolis, posting a 2.04 ERA along with a WHIP of 0.81 in 10 starts.
On June 8th, Taillon finally arrived in Pittsburgh to make his Major League debut against the New York Mets. While the line score from his first start wasn’t great, the fastball and curveball combination that many scouts had raved about was definitely as advertised. Taillon faced the Mets again in his second outing at Citi Field. He was phenomenal in that start, as he tossed eight shutout innings and threw 67% of his pitches for strikes, while outdueling one of the best starters in the National League, Jacob deGrom. Although the 2016 season for the Pirates as a whole was a big disappointment, Taillon’s rookie campaign certainly provides optimism moving forward. In 18 starts with the Pirates, he posted a 3.38 ERA with an ERA+ of 124. Taillon also displayed excellent control, as his 1.5 BB/9 is the best mark among all MLB rookie starters this year with a minimum of 100 innings pitched. While the journey to the big leagues was a difficult one for Taillon, it’s a safe bet that he would say “Better late than never”.