To Keep or Not to Keep: Jameson Taillon
by Ethan Semendinger
June 21, 2021
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll be discussing Jameson Taillon.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Jameson Taillon Background:
Jameson Taillon has had a similar MLB career to Jordan Montgomery who we discussed last week, though with a little more injuries in his development.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Taillon with the 2nd overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft out of The Woodlands High School (The Woodlands, TX). He was immediately tossed into the fire and performed and within 3 seasons he was already pitching in Triple-A. But, in 2014 Taillon would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the whole season. Then in 2015 he would miss the whole season with a sports hernia. He would return in 2016 and stay in Triple-A before earning an MLB start and cementing himself into the long-term Pirates rotation. But the pain wasn’t over.
After becoming a hopeful rotation mainstay, in 2017 Taillon would miss a little over a month while getting treated for testicular cancer. And after coming back and pitching well he had a fantastic- and completely healthy- 2018 before…you guessed it…more injuries in 2019 as he went out in August for a UCL revision and surgery to fix a flexor tendon. This would cause Taillon to miss 2020 and in this past offseason the Yankees traded for him.
In his time in the MLB, Taillon has been an above average pitcher (career 106 ERA+) with flashes of brilliance in 2016 (123 ERA+) and 2018 (122 ERA+), however he hasn’t been able to activate this with the Yankees so far in 2021 as he has pitched to a:
1-4 Record (.200 WP; 13 Starts), 58.0 Innings, 5.59 ERA (74 ERA+; 4.55 FIP), 1.345 WHIP, 63 Strikeouts (9.8 K/9), and 18 Walks (2.8 BB/9)
So far this experiment hasn’t worked out well for the Yankees, though he’s making just $2.25 Million this year and has another year of arbitration for 2022 before he can become a free agent.
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
Jameson Taillon presents an interesting case for the Yankees. So far in 2021, he hasn’t been able to put it together and according to the metrics he is just barely not hurting the team (0.0 bWAR/0.7 fWAR). He also has another year under contract which should allow the Yankees to have a longer leash with him, but after their recent stretch of good luck and wins they may not want to continue to risk throwing him out there every 5th (or so) game.
Me personally, I’d continue to give Taillon a shot in the rotation until the All-Star break. His underlying numbers (xERA of 4.20) indicate that his numbers should improve back to a normal which is likely around league-average. If he cannot get his ERA below 5.00 by then it may be time to use his final MiLB option and give him some easier starts to work on his tools. Of note, Taillon’s BB% (7.1%) is his highest since 2017 where he recorded his worst full-season bWAR. If he is able to bring his BB% down and his BABIP (.312) comes back down to around .280- both of which are possible- then he’ll see a good improvement to his numbers.
But if he can’t, Taillon should only be a rotation piece if the Yankees decide to sell at the deadline.
However, I don’t see the Yankees being this drastic with Taillon. Understandably, my idea’s are harsh but the reality is that the Yankees don’t really have the luxury of dropping guys out of the rotation currently, nor by the All-Star break. They still have two rotation arms (Kluber and Severino) likely not back much before the trade deadline and their top prospects (Garcia) isn’t playing his way out of Triple-A or (Schmidt) is also hurt. For the time being, the Yankees will have to hope Taillon can reclaim his 2016 and 2018 magic and have to wait for other injured starters to come back/prospects to play to their ability before the ideas of a move with Taillon (long relief/Triple-A/etc.) would really start to happen.