BRADENTON, Fla. — It seems Jameson Taillon has been a prospect forever.
The Pirates selected the right-hander with the second overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft following his senior year of high school in suburban Houston. Nearly five years later, he has yet to pitch in a major league game.
Compounding matters is that the player selected behind him, infielder Manny Machado, has already won an American League Gold Glove as a third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles and been selected to an All-Star Game. He is just 22, eight months younger than Taillon, who turned 23 last November.
It is only natural to wonder how good an already very formidable Pirates lineup would be with Machado in it, especially with Taillon rehabbing from the Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery he underwent last April.
However, the Pirates don’t second-guess their decision and have been encouraged with how Taillon has looked this spring.
“What I’m seeing (is) that he’s feeling real good, the ball is coming out of his hand very nice,” Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said after a recent spring training workout. “He looks free and easy. You don’t have to watch him long to understand why he is so highly regarded.”
The Pirates signed Taillon to a $6.5 million bonus to persuade him to give up a scholarship to Rice University. Like many young pitchers, his development has not been linear, as he has gone 16-21 with a 3.72 ERA in 75 games over four minor league seasons.
Taillon made it to Class AAA Indianapolis for seven starts at the end of the 2013 season and seemed primed to make his major league debut sometime last summer. Tommy John surgery halted that timetable.
However, Taillon is getting closer to the end of his rehab. He will likely face hitters in live batting practice next week for the first time since the surgery and could be in Indianapolis’ rotation by May 1.
He is still considered a top prospect. Baseball America ranks him No. 2 in the Pirates’ strong farm system behind only fellow righty Tyler Glasnow.
“The positive about this whole process is that it’s been a learning experience,” Taillon said. “I’ve learned more about taking care of my arm and taking care of my bod. I’m going to be (a) better pitcher in the long run because of this.”
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