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GIF Breakdown: Jameson Taillon’s MLB Debut in 13 HD GIFs

After missing two years of ball with Tommy John Surgery and an inguinal hernia, Jameson Taillon came back in a strong way in 2016, dominating during his time in AAA....

After missing two years of ball with Tommy John Surgery and an inguinal hernia, Jameson Taillon came back in a strong way in 2016, dominating during his time in AAA. Inside the Pirates minor league system, the flamethrowing right-hander featured a 8.90 K/9, 0.90 BB/9 and a low 2.04 ERA with a sparkling 1.95 FIP to match. Despite the pre-season hype surrounding teammate Tyler Glasnow, Taillon’s season stats made him a safer call to promote first, and he got his chance Wednesday night against the Mets in front of a home crowd. I was eager to see if he would perform to the hype his numbers demanded or if he would fizzle like plenty of premier pitching prospects before him. Here is the GIF Breakdown of Jameson Taillon’s MLB Debut in 13 HD GIFs.

To get acclimated with Taillon, let’s take a look at his delivery:

The main element to take away is the simplicity of his motion. He keeps his glove arm tucked in close, preventing him for opening up too quickly, and he has few moving parts, allowing him to make simple adjustments during games to reclaim any lost command. It’s a beneficial trait that makes me believe his low walk numbers from the minors will carry over to his time with the Pirates.

Moving on, here is Taillon’s strikezone plot for the evening:

There’s a bunch to take in here. First, Taillon focused on pounding the zone with his Fastball through the start. He threw about two-thirds heaters and they often populated inside the strikezone, throwing it without fear of hard contact. You’ll also notice that he avoided throwing the ball to his glove side, emphasized by his placement on the third-base side of the rubber. Taillon then uses his straight and smooth delivery to create a direct path to the outside corner of the plate, making it tougher to go off course to the inside corner against left-handers. There were a few times he challenged lefties inside – and to great success – but it wasn’t part of his game plan. The ability to command both sides of the plate is a very important trait, and hopefully he’ll expand his approach after getting his debut out of the way. Lastly, Taillon rarely located him Curveball low, throwing his hook in the upper half more often than not. He’ll need to bury it deeper around the knees or below consistently for him to become a strikeout pitcher moving forward.

Now let’s shift our focus to each pitch individually, with the fun stuff: GIFs.

Fastball

It all starts with Taillon’s Fastball, which is a bullet with slight horizontal ride. Please excuse the Pirates’ broadcast cutting off the start of this delivery as Taillon fired a 97 mph heater in the first:

The one element that impressed me about Taillon’s Fastball was how rarely the pitch got out of his control.  There were maybe two or three that seemed wild straight out of the hand, as nearly each pitch was inside or nibbling around the plate. Additionally, with his tall frame and north-to-south delievery, he was able to create a sharp downward plane when delivering the ball low in the zone, helping him get groundballs:

Or even generate extra vertical movement to get a 3-2 whiff:

Now, there is a weakness in his approach. Taillon is a strike-thrower by nature who believes in forcing batters to put the ball in play over handing out free passes. I’m in huge favor of this philosophy, but it leads to situations like this:

Taillon got behind 3-0 – on questionable ball calls, might I add – and pinpointed a Fastball on the corner for the first strike. Now, Taillon has a tendency to miss inside the zonewhen he makes mistakes – as opposed to off the plate – and can often rely on his elite velocity to prevent catastrophic mistakes.  However, he grooved this 3-1 pitch at 94 mph, and it burned him. I wouldn’t put heavy stock on this, but it does make me question if his approach will make him prone to the longball, especially if his 96+ velocity isn’t consistent through the full game and adrenaline isn’t present.

Curveball

We’ve heard a lot about Taillon’s Curveball, but it’s another thing to see it during an MLB at-bat. When we got our first taste of it we knew the legends were true:

The late bite, the heavy drop, the mega-upside, it’s all there in that one pitch. Taillon adores his Curveball, and who wouldn’t after watching Yoenis Cespedes get fooled so badly. He trusted it often during the game, earning early strikes:

And inducing weak swings that turned into double-plays:

There is a problem, however. As I mentioned as we went over the strikezone plot, Taillon had trouble locating his deuce at the knees. Curveballs are best thrown at knee height or lower, as hooks placed up in the zone are ideal for getting smacked a long distance. He was able to get away with it in this outing, but there were too many pitches that looked like this one to Ty Kelly:

When it comes to Curveballs missing the strikezone, the classic belief is to miss down, not up. When it falls below the zone, it can induce whiffs as well as batters rolling over it for groundball outs. In fact, Taillon rarely threw the ball in the dirt, and he should be doing so a lot more. As witnessed in the Cespedes GIF, batters will chase it out of the zone given its huge drop, making it a dangerous strikeout pitch. Currently, Taillon is throwing it to get strikes and induce poor contact in the zone – which explains the low strikeout total for the evening. If he changes his approach to utilize his Fastball/Changeup in the zone and throw his Curveball at the knees and lower, I can see Taillon holding ace upside. We’ll see how he develops, and I’m very curious to see his approach with the pitch next time he’s on the hill.

Changeup

Taillon’s Changeup is the most intriguing of the lot. It has exactly the type of movement you’d want to see from a strong north-to-south pitcher, mimicking his heater almost perfectly outside of a 10 mph drop. Take a look as it fools Alejandro De Aza for his first K in the bigs:

Many a pitcher have been successful with a strong Fastball-Changeup combination, and given Taillon’s deadly hook that should be reserved more as a putaway pitch than a consistent offering inside the zone, his progression will be dictated by his ability to work this Changeup into at-bats effectively. He really isn’t far away from this point, either. Even when he threw it for a ball, it was still a competitive pitch:

And when it did work, he was able to earn a groundout against the most fearsome hitter in the Mets’ lineup:

We’ve seen Michael Fulmer transform from a disappointment to a reliable starter in a blink of eye due to a major integration of his Changeup, and I believe the same metamorphosis can come from Taillon if he relies more on this pitch.

Slider

Taillon surprised me by throwing a Slider in the later innings, as I wasn’t aware he had one in his repertoire (Brooks Baseball doesn’t even acknowledge that he threw them!). When facing Yoenis Cespedes for a third time in the 5th inning, he started the at-bat with his first slide-piece of the game:

It’s not a bad pitch, but it’s clearly the runt of the litter. It’s good to see that Taillon has another trick up his sleeve if one of his other pitches isn’t going his way during an outing, but don’t expect it to become anything more than a backup offering. This Slider will be reserved for a surprise pitch deeper into games and isn’t as developed as his other weapons.

Final Line – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks, 16/24 FPS, 65.9 % Strikes

Just like the pitching prospects who debuted before him this season, Taillon displayed high upside that could come together to create ace-like performances, or it could fizzle out as he makes more mistakes than adjustments. Still, I trust Taillon the most from this collection of 2016 prospects for a few reasons. A) His simple north-to-south mechanics allow his command to be stable (i.e. no 4 BB+ outings) B) He has three quality pitches to keep him around multiple times through a lineup C) And he has a very dangerous strikeout pitch in his Curveball. Taillon has the tools already at his disposal to make a major impact on fantasy teams, and while he was sent down for bullpen help earlier today, I expect him to return to the staff next week and become a staple through the summer. Keep in mind, he will most likely feature some sort of shutdown late in the 2nd half given that he hasn’t pitched in a full season since 2013.

We always conclude GIF Breakdowns with a pitch that encapsulates the pitcher at hand. Enjoy as Taillon stuns James Loney with a perfectly placed Fastball on the outside corner:

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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