Bucs draft high school arm Taillon at No. 2
Righty out of Texas impresses Huntington, Smith with makeup
PITTSBURGH -- Jameson Taillon doesn't have to look far to see what he can become.
The power-throwing right-hander, whom the Pirates selected with the second overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday, hails from an east Texas area that has bred plenty of great Major League arms.
One year before Jameson made The Woodlands High School baseball team as a freshman, a right-hander by the name of Kyle Drabek graduated from it and became Philadelphia's top Draft selection. Drabek is now Toronto's top pitching prospect after being a centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade over the winter.
Twenty-three years earlier, a pitcher by the name of Roger Clemens emerged from the same area. That Texas connection would explain why Taillon called it "extremely neat" that Clemens attended one of his high school games this spring. And, of course, the two talked about pitching afterward.
And then there is Josh Beckett, an alum of Spring High School, which just so happens to be The Woodlands' first scrimmage opponent each season. So it should come as no surprise that Taillon, unsolicited even, identified Beckett at his role model.
2010 top picks
|1||WAS||Bryce Harper, OF|
|2||PIT||Jameson Taillon, RHP|
|3||BAL||Manny Machado, SS|
|4||KC||Christian Colon, SS|
|5||CLE||Drew Pomeranz, LHP|
|6||ARI||Barret Loux, RHP|
|7||NYM||Matt Harvey, RHP|
|8||HOU||Delino DeShields, 2B|
|9||SD||Karsten Whitson, RHP|
|10||OAK||Michael Choice, OF|
|11||TOR||Deck McGuire, RHP|
|12||CIN||Yasmani Grandal, C|
|13||CWS||Chris Sale, LHP|
|14||MIL||Dylan Covey, RHP|
|15||TEX||Jake Skole, OF|
|16||CHC||Haden Simpson, RHP|
|17||TB||Josh Sale, OF|
|18||LAA||Kaleb Cowart, 3B|
|19||HOU||Mike Foltynewicz, RHP|
|20||BOS||Kolbrin Vitek, 2B|
|21||MIN||Alex Wimmers, RHP|
|22||TEX||Kellin Deglan, C|
|23||FLA||Christian Yelich, OF|
|24||SF||Gary Brown, OF|
|25||STL||Zack Cox, 3B|
|26||COL||Kyle Parker, OF|
|27||PHI||Jesse Biddle, LHP|
|28||LAD||Zach Lee, RHP|
|29||LAA||Cam Bedrosian, RHP|
|30||LAA||Chevy Clarke, OF|
|31||TB||Justin O'Conner, C|
|32||NYY||Cito Culver, SS|
|35||ATL*||Matthew Lipka, SS|
|43||SEA*||Taijuan Walker, RHP|
|44||DET*||Nick Castellanos, 3B|
"I don't feel a lot of pressure to being the next big righty out of Texas," Taillon said, after rattling off names like Beckett, Clemens and, yes, even Nolan Ryan. "But it's definitely fun to be [mentioned] in a class of all those great guys,"
Beckett is the pitcher Taillon calls his favorite; the Pirates are hoping similarities emerge between the two. It was Beckett whom the Marlins took with the No. 2 pick in the 1999 Draft, marking the last time a high school pitcher had been taken that high.
And it is Beckett who has proven to be one of the few high school pitchers taken near the top to actually enjoy sustained success at the big league level. Sure, there have been recent exceptions, with Beckett, now with the Red Sox, and Royals ace Zack Greinke (No. 6, 2002) among the best examples. But for every player that has successfully made such a climb, dozens haven't panned out.
It was because of such risk that the Pirates spent excessive hours identifying what traits Taillon shares with those pitchers who have succeeded. Scouting director Greg Smith, general manager Neal Huntington and the rest of the scouting department felt comfortable with what it found.
"We looked at everything you can imagine," Huntington said. "Given the upside, given how he does things both on and off the field, we felt like Jameson Taillon was the right pick for us.
"He has the stuff that allows you to envision down the road a top-of-the-rotation starter," added Huntington. "A lot has to go right between now and then -- development, health and performance at the Major League level. As you look around baseball and you look at the most often recognized top-of-the-rotation starters, he has a lot of those traits."
What would those traits be? Huntington listed Taillon's size/frame (listed at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds), his rhythmic delivery, his already solid three-pitch repertoire and his work ethic as a few.
"This is a quality young man," Smith said. "He has the makeup, the competitiveness. He has a lot of the ingredients that we believe is going to make this guy reach his potential. We were very excited about calling his name here tonight."
Taillon becomes the first high school player the Pirates have taken in the first round since nabbing Andrew McCutchen in 2005. He is the seventh high school pitcher the organization has used its first pick on since 1970.
Of those previous six arms, only two -- Rod Scurry (No. 11, 1974) and Sean Burnett (No. 19, 2000) -- made it to the Majors, and both of those pitchers made their mark as middle relievers. Taillon, who was at his Houston-area home enjoying barbecue with family and friends when Commissioner Bud Selig announced his name Monday night, seemed every bit confident he'd be one of the exceptions.
"I have a personality where I really want to succeed, and I work as hard as I can to my goals," Taillon said. "I'm extremely goal-oriented. I'm not going to look at the track record of high school pitchers taken early. Each person is a different case. I'm going to keep working hard and give it what it takes to be successful."
The potential is unquestionably there. Taillon, 18, has a four-pitch mix with his fastball sitting consistently in the mid- to upper-90s. That fastball touched 99 mph on the radar gun at times this the spring. Taillon's curveball and slider have already developed into solid secondary pitches. The Pirates believe the changeup will come.
Taillon finished his senior year 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. 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 time spent in the gym -- was unmatched among his teammates.
"I'm a competitor," said Taillon, who also added a March 23 no-hitter to his resume this year. "I'm pretty controlled aggressive. I don't really show my emotions too much, but if it's a big game and I'm under the big lights, I'm not afraid to kind of let out a fist pump here or there."
Off the field, Taillon comes across as your average Texan, one that plays the guitar and enjoys fishing. He is also highly successful in the classroom, though that should come as no surprise given the footsteps he's following.
The youngest of four children, Taillon has a sister in law school, a brother beginning his medical school residency and another brother who is a Ph.D. candidate. Taillon, himself, has dreamed of attending Rice University since he was nine, and began realizing that dream when he committed to the academically strong university as a sophomore. Now, the Pirates can hope that those academic aspirations don't stand in the way of getting Taillon signed.
"We've got a significant challenge in front of us to work through this signing process," Huntington said. "The education is obviously important to the family. It's going to be a challenge, though obviously we feel good about our chances to get Jameson signed."
Taillon is represented by the Hendricks brothers, and negotiations are not likely to be nearly as simple as they were with first-round choice Tony Sanchez last season. And like the negotiations with first-rounder Pedro Alvarez two years ago, it might take until up to the Aug. 16 midnight deadline to get something done.
"I haven't even thought about it yet," Taillon said, when asked whether he's considered forgoing that college commitment. "I'm really big on Rice University. Now I'm faced with a really tough decision. I know in the end, I'll make the right choice."
Huntington called it "gut-wrenching" to pass on high school shortstop Manny Machado, who was the other player the Pirates were considering with their top pick. Machado didn't fall far, though, going to the Orioles with the No. 3 pick. The Nationals took Bryce Harper with the Draft's first selection.
Taillon had read the Draft projections just like everyone else in recent weeks. And as Monday approached, he surmised that he might be the one to follow Harper. Still, even Taillon admitted that even that didn't prepare him for the emotions that would follow.
"I kind of had a general idea of where I would go, but I didn't know it was going to hit me like that," Taillon said. "My legs went kind of numb. I know they're looking to build through the Draft, so whenever you get picked by a team like that, it's a really special honor because I guess they see me as a future centerpiece of the organization. Hopefully, I end up signing and turn it around. Hopefully, I can be a part of that."
Taillon represented the Pirates' only selection on Day 1 of the Draft, but they will have another 49 coming as the Draft continues on Tuesday (rounds 2-30) and Wednesday (rounds 31-50).
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.