Pirates select Jameson Taillon with No. 2 overall pick
For the first time since drafting Andrew McCutchen in 2005, the Pirates have used their top pick in the First-Year Player Draft on a high schooler. Pittsburgh selected hard-throwing right-hander Jameson Taillon in the Draft on Monday after the Nationals took Bryce Harper as the No. 1 overall selection.
Taillon, who just finished his senior season at The Woodlands (Texas) High School, is out of an area that has produced power pitchers Josh Beckett and Roger Clemens. Now, the Pirates can only hope that the 6-foot-6, 220-pound righty touches similar success.
The potential is unquestionably there. Taillon, 18, has a four-pitch mix with his fastball sitting consistently in the mid- to upper-90s. Reports have that fastball touching 99 mph on the radar gun at times throughout the spring. Taillon’s curveball and slider have also already developed into solid secondary pitches.
Taillon finished his senior year 9-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. And in addition to his on-field success, scouts have raved about Taillon’s makeup. His commitment to Rice University is a product of his focus on academics. His work ethic – not to mention, his offseason time spent in the gym – was unmatched among his teammates.
“He’s a pretty special young man,” Taillon’s high school coach Ron Eastman told MLB.com earlier this year. “We knew that coming in. He’s a hard thrower and a great kid. He’s continued to grow and mature, not just as a player.”
Given the risk in taking high school pitchers high in the Draft, the Pirates were also strongly considering taking high school shortstop Manny Machado with that No. 2 overall pick. Machado and Taillon were widely agreed to be the top two high school players in a Draft class heavy in high school talent.
But even though history shows that high school pitchers are among the biggest Draft gambles, the Pirates believe they have identified reasons why Taillon can be an exception like Beckett (No. 2 overall, 1999) and Zack Greinke (No. 6, 2002) have recently proven to be.
But for every player that has successfully made such a climb, dozens haven’t panned out.
Since 1970, the Pirates have taken a high school pitcher with their first-round pick six times. Only two of those arms – Rod Scurry (No. 11, 1974) and Sean Burnett (No. 19, 2000) – ever made it to the Majors, and both of those pitchers made their mark as middle relievers. However, the Pirates have never selected a high school pitcher as high as they drafted Taillon with that second overall pick.
Taillon is represented by the Hendricks Brothers, and negotiations are not likely to be as simple as they were with first-round choice Tony Sanchez last season. The Pirates will have to go well over slot (approximately $3.5 million) to get Taillon signed, and it might take until up to the Aug. 16 midnight deadline to do so. Those negotiations are expected to begin immediately.
The Pirates will not make another Day 1 Draft selection, but they will have another 49 coming as the Draft continues on Tuesday (rounds 2-30) and Wednesday (rounds 31-50).
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