Pirates and success are two words usually not found in the same sentence, but the 2010 Major League Baseball draft looks very promising for the losingest franchise in sports history. While no prospect can be labeled a Pirate yet, the possibility of signing right-handed pitchers Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie should excite Bucco fans.
Taillon and Allie were ranked the two best high-school pitchers in the draft and both can deliver fast-balls in the high 90′s, but there is some concern here–specifically with Allie. Tom Au of Bleacherreport.com is one of the concerned, stating that “There might be a reason that Stetson Allie was available to the Pirates at the beginning of the second round. The conventional wisdom regarding high school players might have turned off all the first-round pickers (plus the Nationals in the second round).” Au points out that signing a player straight out of high-school ensures that their contract will be up before their prime if the prospect even makes it to the Majors. Young pitchers are considered such a risk because they have not faced the best competition or endured years of wear on their arms. Au references the 2001 draft to prove this point “Three of four teams ahead of the Texas Rangers drafted pitchers (only one of whom became an All-Star), as did four teams right after the Rangers (two of whose pitchers didn’t make the majors). But Texas drafted future All-Star Mark Teixeira, who could have been trade bait for any (established) pitcher you could name.”
Au’s theory most likely does not hold true with the Texas slinger Taillon though. According to Chris Mottram of MLB.com, Taillon was a no-brainer for the Pirates and would have been the top pick in many years draft. A pure power pitcher with a fastball recorded at 99 mph, Taillon is often compared to big-league ace Josh Beckett. He sported an 8-1 record with 114 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in 62 2/3 innings this spring; 19 of those K’s came in a no-hitter against Conroe HS. Just to give an idea of how dominating he was over the past year, 60% of outs while he was pitching were strikeouts. However, the highlight of his young career came when he played on the U.S. under-18 national team and struck out 16 in 7 2/3 innings against Cuba in the championship game; even more impressive is that he primarily used his slider in the outing.
The few complaints against Taillon are these: He has at times been hittable and there are hints of inconsistency. His lack of a change-up may be the biggest concern for the Pirates but a definitive conclusion should not be draw considering he has not yet shown a need for the pitch. Pittsburgh fans may scoff at previous picks or the current status of the team, but Taillon is as close to a sure thing as possible and was the best possible pick for he Bucs.
If Taillon’s fastball is commanding then Allie’s is dominating. Reportedly topping out at 10o mph Allie’s fastball carried him to 9-1 record with a 1.29 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 60 innings. A smooth motion with a quick release allows Allie to gain an advantage over most pitchers with his power. However, there are issues with Allie’s control and lack of focus at times. Nick James of PNR Scouting stated that “there are two big flags that could be contributors to his bouts of wildness. First, his arm action is very long in the back; with so much torque in his mid-section as he rotates through, his arm is going to have a hard time taking the same path each pitch, which will in turn make it difficult to nail down a consistent release point on his offerings. Second is his head/shoulder tug as he releases ad rotates through.” Despite these shortcomings though, the scouting agency ranked Allie as having the best fastball velocity-wise in the draft and as the best future reliever. However, if you Combine his mechanical errors with the fact that Allie has outstanding glove and a strong enough arm to throw runners out at first and he might be served better as a third baseman. Bucsprospects.com writer Anup Sinha stated after seeing Allie in person that he had “very little pitchability, minimal confidence as a pitcher, and just about zero control, [but] the batter’s box was another story. Stetson Allie showed a lot of edge and aggressiveness as a hitter. He mashed in the tournament. Even after he was pulled from his disastrous outing in the ECPBS, I remember him coming up in his next at-bat and hitting a laser to the gap.”
It may sound like Allie is a project, but the reality of the situation is that he may be the most versatile player in the organization already. There is also a possibility of Allie becoming a closer or short reliever for the Bucs. With his blazing fastball and solid secondary pitches he has enough gas to go for multiple innings, the concern is weather he can stay focused into the latter part of the game. Another issue is that his secondary pitches tend to trail off as his pitch count rises. All of these factors combine to make professional scouts think that he may never be a starting pitcher in the MLB; however, one thing the scouts do agree on is that his raw arm strength is nothing short of incredible. Sinha still likes him as a fielder though, saying “Allie projects for plus raw power and solid-average big league bat-speed, and has just the right amount of aggression in his swing and demeanor to hit big league pitching. It’s no comparison, to me, for where he’s most comfortable and where his makeup profiles best.”
While the Pirates may have drafted a sure-thing in Taillon, they could be just as far off with Allie. Some say that his selection was a steal in the second round while others are confident that he slipped out of the first round for a reason. MLB Bonus Baby ranked Allie the 22nd best prospect of the draft, but the only sure thing about Allie right now is his superior athleticism. Perhaps a safer pick should have been selected for a franchise that has drafted their fair share of ‘projects’, but ultimately it would be a shock to see Allie not become at the very least a solid Major Leaguer some day.
The Pirates rounded out their top five picks by selecting Mel Rojas Jr., Nick Kingham, and Tyler Waldron. Rojas Jr. was the only positional player the Pirates took in the first ten rounds and is a tough read. Playing at a small community college made it difficult to evaluate the out-fielder but there is no missing his defensive prowess. He is a switch hitter who regularly makes contact at the plate and packs a solid arm as well. The knock on Rojas is that he lacks power and only records about a 6 on the 1 to Juan Pierre speed scale. Rojas is a classic case of someone who does everything good but nothing great. There is plenty of potential here, and had Rojas smoothed some of his rough edges he could have gone in the first round–but how many times has that been said after a Pirates draft.
4th-round-pick Nick Kingham compiled an 8-3 record with a 2.01 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 59.1 innings his senior season. Ultimately the right-handed Nevadian projects to a middle rotation guy with a fastball that reaches 95 mph but usually sits right in the 90-92 mph range. The upside with All-State Kingham is that he offers a curveball and changeup along with his fastball. His curveball is reported to be average but his changeup is said to have serious potential with some more practice. A solid pick here for the Bucs.
A right-handed pitcher out of Oregon State, Tyler Waldron went 10-10 with an ERA of 4.84 in his two years at OSU. There are two sides to Waldron: the ace that started the season with OSU or the closer that ended the season. When he is at the top of his game he has potential to be a big league threat, but you never know when he is going to shut it down on the mound. Waldron’s troubles on the mound seem to be more mental than anything, and with a sinking fastball that reaches 94 mph he will be best served as a reliever in the MLB. Call this pick unreliable at best–exactly what you want with your fifth round pick right?
The 2010 MLB draft can produce some major players for the Pirates if they are able to sign Taillon and Allie. Pittsburgh has received high draft grades across the board and introduced serious potential into the organization. To a franchise that usually screws it up–nice job this time.