Jameson Taillon's Resiliency & Underrated Arsenal
The Pittsburgh Pirates recently traded Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for a few prospects. We know the story of Taillon, who suffered injuries with two Tommy John surgeries and battled testicular cancer. It's hard not to love the grind and journey of Taillon, and even fellow Fighting Chance Fantasy analyst Kevin Tompkins speaks highly of him.
Before the injury-shortened 2019 season, Taillon dominated with a 3.20 ERA in 191 innings in 2018. As expected, Taillon's NFBC ADP jumped since the trade. He also made some adjustments to his delivery, and hopefully, that helps him thrive in 2021. We'll look at the surface stats and advanced metrics as an early 2021 outlook for Jameson Taillon.
Jameson Taillon's Resiliency & Underrated Arsenal
Jameson Taillon, SP, New York Yankees
As mentioned earlier, the Pirates traded Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for four prospects in late January 2021. Let's dig into his 2018 season and then touch on his short 2019 season. In 2018, Taillon finished with a 3.20 ERA, 22.8% strikeout rate, 5.9% walk rate, and 1.18 WHIP in 191 innings pitched.
However, in 2019, Taillon totaled 37.1 innings with a 4.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 19% strikeout rate, and 5.1% walk rate. It's hard to take too much away from his 2019 season, but Taillon regressed in the LOB% department. In 2019, Taillon had a .263 BABIP down from a .298 BABIP in 2018. Meanwhile, he finished with a 79.8% LOB% in 2018 but a 52.1% LOB% in 2019. The LOB% looks like an outlier in 2019, even if it's with a smaller sample. That said, let's analyze Jameson Taillon a bit deeper.
In 2018, Jameson Taillon primarily used a four-pitch mix with his four-seamer, sinker, curveball, and slider that accounted for over 95% of his pitch mix. During the 2018 season, Taillon mostly used his four-seamer and sinker and sprinkled in the breaking balls around 18-19%. Here's the 2018 pitch mix breakdown.
- Four-Seamer - 35.5%
- Sinker - 21.9%
- Curveball - 19.7%
- Slider - 18.4%
Then in 2019, Taillon drastically increased his slider usage to 31.9% and lowered his fastball usage. Below shows us the 2019 pitch mix.
- Slider - 31.9%
- Four-Seamer - 27.2%
- Sinker - 19.8%
- Curveball - 15.7%
Taillon locates his sinker inside and low into right-handed hitters and his four-seamer up higher in the zone. He also pinpoints his slider down and away to righties and inside to lefties. We'll note that given the pitch mix usage changes, 2019 provided a small sample of 37.1 innings compared to 191 innings in 2018. Regardless, it's a positive note anytime a pitcher uses their best pitch more often. Next, let's analyze the pitch results with the pitch mix change in 2018 and 2019.
Although Jameson Taillon's four-seamer doesn't elicit a high chase rate evidenced by his 29.2% O-Swing%, it resulted in double-digit swinging-strike rates in 2018-2019. His slider excites me with a chase rate above 40%, zone rate of 57% plus, and a high swinging-strike ranging from 13-14%. The zone percentage on his four-seamer dropped from 60.8% in 2018 to 52% in 2019. However, we'll note it's a small 2019 sample, yet it's something to monitor heading into 2021.
Against the slider, the whiff rate increased from a 24% whiff rate in 2018 to 27.8% in 2019. Meanwhile, the spin rate on the slider increased, and the xwOBA allowed remained about the same - .324 (2019) and .323 (2018).
According to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, she mentions that Jameson Taillon made changes to his mechanics and delivery. Taillon noted that it was time to analyze his mechanics since his elbow kept bothering him. The notable changes include incorporating his lower body more while using a short arm path similar to Lucas Giolito. In theory, the goal is to help take the pressure off his elbow with these adjustments.
In a Pitching Ninja video, Giolito notes an interesting comment on how he used a weighted ball with his long arm action, and it hurt. Then he tried it with shorter arm action, and it felt good. I wonder if we see similar processes and results with Taillon.
It intrigues me anytime an athlete shows resiliency after multiple injuries on top of testicular cancer. Add in a player who adjusts their mechanics with an improved team context, and I'm buying back into Jameson Taillon. Sure, this adjustment doesn't mean automatic success, but it's a positive note that he's improving and adjusting.
Let's look at Jameson Taillon's NFBC ADP over the past month. From 1/3/2021 up until 1/24/2021, when news broke of the trade, Taillon had an ADP of 231. From 1/25/2021 until 2/4/2021, Taillon's jumped almost 30 picks to 206 in seven total drafts. Expect his ADP to hover around or creep into the top 200 picks as we move closer to the heart of fantasy baseball draft season.
The BAT projects Jameson Taillon for a 4.33 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, a 7.95 K/9, and 2.36 K/9 in 134 innings pitched. His ATC projections look similar outside of a slight bump with 150 innings pitched. A couple of reasons for concern include the potential for throwing fewer innings than other starters given the injury history and a hitter-friendly home ballpark. On the flip side, reasons for optimism include his reconstructed delivery, underrated arsenal, and the upside for decent ratios (around a 3.80 ERA and under a 1.20 WHIP).
I expect him to outperform his projections in 2021. Although the adjustment to his delivery doesn't immediately mean success, it should benefit him moving forward. I'm buying back in and considering Jameson Taillon around pick 200.
Featured Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Data Sources: FanGraphs and Baseball Savant
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