Pirates Draft Jameson Taillon; Huntington Goes For The Exciting Drunken Unprotected Sex

I spent all week deciding that the Pirates had to take Florida prep high school shortstop Manny Machado in the first round of Monday’s MLB Draft, figuring that there’d be no way Neal Huntington would gamble on a high school pitcher with the second overall pick. Texas righthander Jameson Taillon was considered a near-consensus #2 talent this year, but based on Huntington’s past draft strategy — taking seasoned college position players in the first round two straight years — and his own admission that high school starting pitchers represent an enormous risk (with plenty of historical evidence), I assumed that no amount of upside would sway Huntington towards picking a starting pitcher over a 6’3″ shortstop with considerable upside of his own.

Huntington once again proved himself to be unpredictable, inasmuch as he literally did the opposite of the strategy he laid out in the ’09 draft (proven position player in round one, spread the remaining money on a quantity of high-upside arms in the hopes that some will survive to the bigs). One week ago, I would’ve bet the farm that the Bucs would’ve taken the shortstop, and it turns out, I would’ve been wrong, and now I’d be in big trouble trying to explain to my draft-gambling partner that I do not in fact own a farm.

My reaction to the pick? I’m excited.

The “Why”, after the jump:

Maybe I’m a Huntington apologist (probably true), and maybe I’m good at rationalizing the Pirates’ moves for the sake of my own sanity (definitely true), but I’m excited at the idea of the Pirates having a legitimate #1 starter, EVER. I realize Taillon has a long way to go before making an impact, and that any young pitcher is one elbow surgery or fatigued minor-league season away from dropping to fringe-prospect status, but after watching the past 17 years of Pirates rotations, I don’t care if the dude has to complete the Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade tasks while wearing a flaming blindfold to get to the big leagues, I WANT THE PIRATES TO HAVE A #1 STARTER.

Taillon is 6’6″, 225 pounds, with a fastball in the high 90s, an advanced curveball and slider, and a developing changeup. In March of this year, he threw a no-hitter with 1 walk and 19 strikeouts in 7 innings; I realize that’s in high school, but still, when was the last time a Pirate starter struck out 19 batters in three starts combined? And didn’t go insane six months later because he’s Oliver Perez?

Taillon is certainly going to be expensive (though Machado would’ve been too), and he has a commitment to Rice for next season, but if he doesn’t sign with the Pirates before the deadline this year, he won’t be eligible for the MLB Draft until after his junior year of college; he can’t reasonably expect to be drafted any higher than he just was, and if he goes to college without signing, he risks the possibility of injury, a decline in performance, or a new MLB collective bargaining agreement putting a cap on first-year-draftee signing bonuses. He is a #2 overall selection with enormous upside staring down an organization that can’t risk letting him slip away — which would also dump a vat of oily grenades on the “Pirates are cheap” fire — so he’s got his fair share of leverage, but with so much at stake for both sides, I cannot imagine he’ll ultimately turn down the opportunity to sign.

Was this the safest pick the Pirates could’ve made? Certainly not. In a worst-case scenario, Manny Machado will still more than likely reach the majors as at least a somewhat-useful infielder, while Taillon, like all pitchers, could spontaneously combust at any millisecond. But is it an exciting pick? You bet your “I think Todd Ritchie is kinda developing into a number one guy ” ass it’s an exciting pick.

Perhaps the Taillon selection doesn’t represent the model level-headedness you’d expect from a front-office stalwart like Huntington, but personally, I’m always glad when my cautious, cerebral nerd friend gets super hammered on a random night and goes home with some girl who seems way out of his league.

I just hope the organization doesn’t wake up in 2013 with herpes.

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