The Jameson Taillon FAQ

UPDATE: Added a few more to the bottom based on things I’ve actually been asked/seen people ask.

OK, so the Pirates drafted a hightly touted high school pitcher that has the Hendricks Brothers for agents. How much money is it gonna take to sign this kid?

In terms of money, the following pieces of evidence are important: The last two #2 picks, Pedro Alvarez and Dustin Ackley, signed for $6.3 million and $7.5 million, respectively. The Tigers’ Jacob Turner was the highest paid high school pitcher last year, when he signed a big league contract for $5.5 million with the potential to go as high as seven. The term most high school pitchers evaluate themselves by seems to be “Porcello money,” which was a major league contract worth $7.28 million, plus two options that brought the total deal to $11.1 million. I don’t know why the Tigers have a thing for signing high school pitchers to Major League contracts, but they apparently do.

Now, Taillon hasn’t thrown Porcello’s name out at all as far as I can tell, but he’s still very likely to require a bigger signing bonus than Alvarez did. He’s got a committment to Rice to use as leverage and since they passed on Turner last year, they obviously value Taillon more. I have absolutely no inside information here and I haven’t heard any dollar figures tossed around, but I’d guess that it’ll take between $6 and 8 million to ink Taillon. And given that the Pirates have been awfully cautious with young arms, I’d be absolutely blown away if they gave him a big league contract.

That’s a lot of money. Nutting is cheap and also evil and eats puppies. They’ll never sign him.

Yes, they probably will. Neal Huntington met with this kid for four hours before the draft. He already knows if the kid is amenable to signing with the Pirates. And if I can do the math and figure out who his agents are and what precedents have been set, so can he. They’re not trying to get a deal here. The Pirates wouldn’t even consider making this pick if they weren’t willing to pay what he’s worth.

I thought that “There’s No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect?”

It’s true. There’s a ton of inherent risk in drafting any pitcher in the first round. But both of last year’s Cy Youngs were top six picks and Zack Greinke was drafted out of high school. CC Sabathia? First round pick out of high school. Josh Beckett? First round pick out of high school. Cole Hamels? Matt Cain? Phil Hughes? Obviously I’m cherry-picking here to support my point and there are more failed high school first rounders from recent seasons, but teams have gotten much more cautious with their young investments and it seems to me, subjectively, that they’re having more success bringing them along in the last few years.

But is there any evidence that the Pirates’ minor league staff can bring this guy along without making his arm go boom?

Honestly, it’s awfully early to say. I really like what this front office has done with most of the pitching prospects they’ve had their hands on for more than a year or so. Obviously Rudy Owens has broken out in a big, big way in the last two years and right now it seems like they handled Bryan Morris and all of his various injuries pretty well. Jeff Locke and Nathan Adcock are making nice progress in the system, as well. Of course, it’s not all roses; Quinton Miller is really the only high school pitcher they’ve drafted to do any real pitching in the system and he’s been out since April with “biceps tendonitis” that the team swears isn’t serious but is pretty worrisome to me (note that it’s the same thing Kevin Hart went down with before his labrum surgery; I’m not saying Miller has the same injury, just that tendonitis that keeps the guy out for a couple months without any update from the team concerns me). We’ll know a lot more in the next couple years as they bring Von Rosenberg, Cain, Stevenson, and now Taillon along.

The Pirates suck now and have sucked for as long as I can remember. Why should I be excited about a guy that might not see Pittsburgh until 2014?

Because the draft is about acquiring talent and the Pirates just got the most talent they could get with their pick. Because 6’7″ inch high schoolers with four good pitches don’t grow on trees. Because the Pirates haven’t had a real ace in forever and this guy just might be one someday. Because Dave Littlefield would’ve lit himself on fire before making a pick like this (OK, that’s a bad reason and a cheap shot, but it’s also true). Because there’s really not any such thing as a “safe” pick in the MLB draft and every team has to roll the dice every once in a while and if the Pirates are going to do it, Taillon sure seems to be a better bet than the pitchers they were lambasted for skipping in favor of Tony Sanchez last year.

What are the chances he signs quickly and pitches for Bradenton/State College this year?

Not good at all for a couple reasons. One is that he’s likely to command an over-slot bonus, and MLB almost always sits on the paperwork for those sorts of agreements until right before the deadline so that precedents don’t get busted for the teams that do sign players for slot. The second is that his agents are the Hendricks brothers, who are notoriously tough negotiators who were Aaron Crow’s agents when he didn’t sign with the Nats after they took him ninth overall in 2008. There’s very little chance he’ll sign before, say, August 13th.

Once he does sign, how quickly will he move through the system?

Tim at Buccofans speculates that given his frame and polish he could move more like a college pitcher than a high school pitcher (think of guys like Beckett and Porcello and Kershaw), but I’m guessing the team will move him slowly at least at first to keep a firm leash on his innings. He only threw about 60 innings for his high school team this year and given the money the Pirates are going to give him, they’re not going to overwork him by rushing him through the system. That means he probably won’t begin next year until June and they probably won’t move him past West Virginia no matter how well he pitches in 2011. After that, I suppose he could take off rather quickly, Rudy Owens style, if he earns it and stays healthy. This is a pretty rough timeline but it’d be really surprising to see him in Pittsburgh before 2013 while 2014 is probably more realistic. But of course, that’s just a ballpark guess and there are so many things that could change how he moves through the system that really, it’s pointless to even try and put a number on his ETA right now. Kyle Drabek, who attended the same high school as Taillon, was a highly regarded first round pick in 2006 and he’s in Double-A now (thanks partially to TJ surgery), but he’s still a very good prospect. Really, this sort of thing changes on a case by case basis.

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.