New York Yankees: Is Jameson Taillon next to realize potential?

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Jameson Taillon next?

Is Jameson Taillon the next highly-touted Pittsburgh Pirate to realize his potential after he’s traded?

Is Jameson Taillon the next Gerrit Cole? The next Tyler Glasnow?

The New York Yankees sure hope so. Last month the Yankees shipped four minor leaguers to the Pirates in exchange for Taillon – the former top prospect and No. 2 overall pick in 2010. And it’s not the first time the Pirates have parted ways with a top prospect.

More Yankees. Frazier has bat designed to look like himself. light

In 2018, the Pirates sent Gerrit Cole to the Astros in exchange for a package of prospects: Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, and Michael Feliz. If you follow baseball, you know what happened. Cole morphed into the game’s most overpowering pitcher. Houston instructed Cole to throw his riding four-seam fastball – as opposed to his sinking two-seam – and that adjustment transformed Cole from a middling starter into a strikeout waiting to happen. The stats do the talking. In 2017 – Cole’s last year in Pittsburgh – he went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. But once he arrived in Houston? Different man. He posted Cy-Young-worthy statistics: in 2018 he went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA, and in 2019 he struck out an eye-popping 326 batters with a 6.9 WAR.

The next Pirate to flourish after leaving Pittsburgh: Tyler Glasnow. The Pirates shipped Glasnow to Tampa Bay prior to the 2019 season, and Glasnow made immediate improvements. Prior to the trade Glasnow was billed as a prospect with sky-high potential, but Pittsburgh never groomed him into the ace he is today. Once he arrived in Tampa, the Rays tinkered with his mechanics, and helped him find a smoother, more comfortable delivery. Glasnow flashed moments of brilliance, ripping 100-mph fastballs to the plate, while snapping off an air-bender of a curveball.

You see the pattern of major talent, undetected and unrealized, slipping through Pittsburgh.

But there’s a big distinguishing factor between Cole, Glasnow, and Taillon: risk. There’s one giant asterisk next to Taillon’s name, and its injuries. Taillon snapped his UCL prior to the 2014 season, which warranted Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2015 season due to a sports hernia. He finally broke out in 2018, posting a 3.20 ERA and 4.7 WAR in 191 innings, but since 2018 he’s only pitched seven games. He received his second Tommy John surgery in August 2019, and missed the entire 2020 season while recuperating.

Taillon is a gamble. The New York Yankees are betting he’ll stay healthy, they’re betting he’ll return to his 2018 form, and they’re crossing their fingers he’ll realize his number-two-overall-pick potential. Some might say he’s a low-risk, high-reward type player, but I’m not sure that’s the case.

New York has a limited window with their current nucleus of stars. The often-injured slugger Giancarlo Stanton is 31 – he played only 18 games in 2019 and 23 games in 2020 – and the older he gets, the more injury prone he gets. Gerrit Cole, their $324 million prize, just turned 30, and one has to wonder if he’ll maintain his lightning bolt fastball as he progresses into his thirties. DJ Lemahieu, who just re-signed to a six-year, $90 million deal, turns 33 in July.

Beyond their aging stars, the New York Yankees slammed into a wall in the playoffs in recent years. The one thing that’s held them back: their pitching, or lack thereof. Since 2017, the Yanks have been eliminated by teams with better pitching – the Astros in 2017 and 2019, the Red Sox in 2018, and the Rays last year.

So, you have to ask yourself, is getting Jameson Taillon enough? On a side note, but similar note, New York also brought in Corey Kluber, another injury-riddled former star, trying to prove he can regain his prior form.

But the same question remains: is it enough? Is bringing in two guys with significant injury histories enough to propel the team past the ALDS? Past the ALCS? I’m not sure it is. It’s a gamble. And it’s a gamble New York will regret if they’re eliminated early in the playoffs again this year.

If the New York Yankees fail to advance in the playoffs, they’ll wonder what might have been had they acted more aggressively. What might have happened had they signed Trevor Bauer? What if they traded for Yu Darvish?

Next. German getting advice far too late. dark

For now, they’ll have to hope Jameson Taillon – and Corey Kluber – are enough. They have to hope Jameson Taillon is the next Pittsburgh Pirate to transform himself into an ace after leaving Pittsburgh.