When he was drafted back in 2010, with the second overall pick, then 18 year old Jameson Taillon was seen by many as a future ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates for years to come. For the first three seasons of his professional career he gave little reason to doubt the original projections as he quickly moved through the Pirates system from Low A-West Virginia to AAA-Indianapolis, all before his 22nd birthday. During this time he posted a 3.75 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, all while earning a spot in the 2012 Futures Game, a Top 10 Prospect Ranking in all of MLB and a stint in the Arizona Fall League after the 2013 season.
Unfortunately for Taillon the 2014, one where he would be on the cusp of making his Major League debut, ended before it even really began. After pitching in a minor league scrimmage during spring training he experienced pain in his right elbow, which eventually led to season ending Tommy John Surgery. As he was preparing for his first rehab start the following year in the GCL, Taillon once again felt a pain, this time in his abdomen. The inevitable result was sports hernia surgery and another missed season.
Following two disappointing set backs Taillon would finally make his big league debut on June 8, 2016. He would go on to make 17 more starts that year and five to begin the following year, posting a 3.35 ERA, a 7-5 record and an ERA+ that was at least 10% above the league average. Finally the future looked promising again, at which point he was promptly placed on the IL after a May 3rd game against the Reds. This time it wasn’t a normal baseball injury, it was something much more serious, a testicular cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery. After a remarkable recovery Taillon took the mound a mere five weeks to the day after his surgery. The remainder of the year clearly was not easy for him as his ERA rose from 3.31 to 4.44, including several disastrous outings along the way, but it was truly a victory anyway you look at it.
In 2018 everything finally came together for Jameson as he made 32 starts, which included two complete games, one of them a shutout. He ended the year with a career best 3.20 ERA, to go along with a 1.178 WHIP and a 4.9 WAR. Sadly this high wouldn’t last very long.
Taillon’s 2019 got off to a rough start, as he got the nod as the opening day starter in Cincinnati. He gave up four earned runs in six innings in a 5-3 Pirates loss. He would go on to start six more games before being placed on the IL after his outing versus the Texas Rangers in Arlington. It wasn’t made official that his season was over until the beginning of August. He underwent his second Tommy John Surgery less than two weeks later; putting yet another year, and possibly the rest of his career, in jeopardy. For Taillon the recovery process had to begin again, and this time it was well documented.
Beginning on May 7, 2020 Jameson began sharing videos concerning almost every step of his throwing program.
Toward the beginning of September, he reportedly pushed to return, even if it was going to be on a limited basis. But the season ended, with at least some live at bats under his belt.
Then came the rumors, as it was first reported by Jason Mackey of the Post Gazette that the Pirates and Yankees were having conversations about Taillon and Josh Bell, prior to his trade to the Nationals. However, even Mackey reported at the time that there was uncertainty concerning how serious these talks were. After a few days Rob Biertempfel reported in The Athletic that it seemed like nothing more than intelligence gathering on the part of the Yankees.
Then just a few days ago, Bryan Hoch, Yankees Beat Reporter from MLB.com reported during an Instagram Q&A that New York had been “doing there homework” on Taillon. Some may have brushed this off as another fact finding mission at first, until Saturday even when Mark Feinsand reported that he and Adam Berry had been told that Taillon could be the next domino to fall on the Pirates Trade Front. Almost immediately the Twitterverse exploded with speculations as to the packages that the Yankees could offer Pittsburgh for their once promising young ace.
This flurry lasted late into the night and into the next morning, and eventually the afternoon, until it was finally announced that Jamo’s Journey in a Pirates Uniform had officially ended.
They only thing left to do, other than pick up the pieces of what Pirates Fans had envisioned as a promising career that we have been watching for 10 plus years, was to see what the eventual return would be; and we didn’t have to wait long.
In the end it would be four of the Top 30 Prospects in the Yankees System according to Fangraphs; Right Handed Pitchers #11 Miguel Yajure and #15 Roansy Contreras, Second Baseman #20 Maikel Escotto and Left Fielder #22 Canaan Smith. Three of the four, excluding Escotto are also apart of the Top 30 on MLB Pipeline.
All players involved currently have ETA’s between 2021-2023 and all have future values of 40+ or above, with Yanjure already having some big league experience under his belt. Last season the young right hander from Venazuela appeared in 3 games, after not having reached above AA the year before. Over 7.0 innings he posted a 1.29 ERA , with 8 strikeouts and 5 walks. A very small, yet promising sample size. It should however be noted that Yanjure has regularly been a starter during his Minor League Career, earning a 2.14 ERA and a 1.075 WHIP across two levels in 22 appearances and 18 starts.
Contreras, was the leader in wins in the Low A South Atlantic League in 2019, led by a 92-95 riding fastball that touches 97 on occasion. During his time with the Charleston River Dogs, he posted a 3.33 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 132 innings and 24 starts.
Escotto is listed as as a second baseman, but has spent his time all over the infield at every position other than first base. The soon to be 19 year old has yet to play a game outside the Dominican Summer League, however, he slashed .315/.429/.552 with 8 homers and a 14.7 BB% in 45 games.
Smith is extremely athletic outfielder who played both baseball and football in high school, something that Cherington has obviously been targeting with his acquisitions since arriving in Pittsburgh. Drafted in the 4th Round of the 2017 draft, he broke out in 2019 by hitting .307 with 11 homers in Low A. At only 21 years old, the speedy left fielder, slots right in to a prospect outfield that had been lacking some depth prior to the most recent moves by the Pirates.
Now, I don’t want it to seem like I am trying to sugar coat yet another trade by Pittsburgh during what has become an extremely busy off-season, as I have just begun to dissect this most recent move. Look for more articles from Gary and myself as we move forward with a much different team than we started with exactly a month ago.