Once a top prospect after being selected second overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, Jameson Taillon began to establish himself as a veritable No. 2 starter from 2016 to 2018. He spent most of 2019 on the shelf, however, eventually requiring his second Tommy John surgery to fix a torn UCL that caused him to miss the entire 2020 season.
Having decided on a “high-risk, high-reward” approach to building a starting rotation, the Yankees sent a group of prospects to Pittsburgh for Taillon’s services. He rewarded them with 29 starts, the second-most of his career.
2021 Stats: 144.1 innings, 4.30 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 23.2 K%, 7.3 BB%, 1.5 HR/9, 2.2 bWAR, 2.0 fWAR
2022 ZiPS Projections: 131.7 innings, 4.24 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 2.2 WAR
Taillon’s first season in pinstripes was, in many ways, a rollercoaster. He got off to a horrendous start, allowing opponents to post a .793 OPS against him (roughly a 110 OPS+). This culminated in a disastrous start against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 12th, in which he was only able to retire one hitter while surrendering four runs on five hits. Following that disaster, however, Taillon made adjustments to induce more weak contact, and from June 18th to August 9th, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball (2.11 ERA, .639 opponent OPS), en route to receiving AL Pitcher of the Month honors for July.
The second half of August, however, was much less kind to Taillon, as he posted a 7.01 ERA and allowed a .821 OPS in five starts from August 14th to September 6th. On September 9th, he hit the injured list with a torn tendon in his right ankle. Somehow, he gutted it out to make two final, albeit abbreviated, starts at the end of September as the Yankees battled for a Wild Card berth. Most significantly, he managed 3.1 scoreless innings against the Rays on the final day of the season to help the team finally punch their ticket for October with a 1-0 win.
On October 28th, Taillon had surgery to repair the torn ligament, a story which became one of the major narratives of the lockout as he was unable to rehab under the supervision of the team doctors. Fortunately, it turned out to be no big deal; in fact, Taillon ended up ahead of schedule, and it looks like he will be on track to be ready for Opening Day. The projections seem to have him maintaining similar overall production to 2021, and that would be sorely appreciated in a Yankees rotation that while full of promise, also has plenty of uncertainty after ace Gerrit Cole.
We got our first look at Taillon this spring yesterday afternoon, and in fact, as I write these words, Nestor Cortes Jr. has just come on in relief. Jamo looked sharp, throwing 28 pitches (20 strikes) in two scoreless innings. Most notably, he capped off an efficient, 1-2-3 first inning by striking out Phillies superstar Bryce Harper.
First K of the season for Jamo pic.twitter.com/3JQAFEai4c— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 21, 2022
According to the broadcast, Taillon’s ankle has been holding up well on the mound, although the team trainers have told him to “stay on the dirt” when fielding the position during spring training games; in other words, they want him to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the ankle during the spring as he works to build up for the second week of April.
His inability to play defense notwithstanding, there’s a lot to be encouraged about from Taillon’s first outing this spring. If the Yankees want to go anywhere this season, they will need for that to continue into the summer.