Comparing prospects Jesse Biddle and Jameson Taillon

Recent addition Jesse Biddle was acquired by Neal Huntington for his potential in the future. One comparison for the new Pirates’ prospect? Current Pirates’ prospect Jameson Taillon.


On Wednesday, the Pirates made what some would consider a minor trade, and one that won’t impact the team in 2016, at least positively. The team traded reliever Yoervis Medina for former Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle. The Pirates won’t miss Medina much, as Huntington has always managed to build a strong bullpen no matter who’s been a part of it, even though Medina has the upside of a very good ground ball reliever. Biddle, a former top starting pitching prospect in the Phillies system, has fallen off tremendously from that top prospect status, and is now looked at as a reclamation project. He’s also set to miss all of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

After doing some initial read-up on Biddle, I noticed that his history as a pitching prospect resembled that of Jameson Taillon, at least on the surface. I don’t profess to be a minor league prospect expert, but after doing some digging, I confirmed my suspicions; there are definitely some noticeable similarities between the two, which gave me hope for Biddle returning at least close to the form that made him a top draft pick in 2010, and hope for his potential as a quality starting pitcher at the major league level in the future.

Let’s start with the basics. Both Biddle and Taillon were taken in the first round of the 2010 MLB draft, the same draft that saw Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, and Chris Sale also drafted. Both players were taken out of high school when they were 18. Taillon came out with tremendous expectations; Biddle less so, but he still certainly had a first round pedigree. Both have similar builds; Taillon is 6’5″, 240 lbs, while Biddle is 6’5″, 235 lbs, and we all know how the Pirates value taller pitchers. Biddle is a lefty, however, while Taillon is a righty.

After being drafted, Taillon immediately vaulted to top prospect status within the Pirates organization. In most outlets, he was a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. But year by year, Taillon slowly dropped, to where he’s outside the top 25 in the most recent prospect lists. Biddle started out at the back-end of the top 100 right out of the gate, but after a slow start to his minor league career, he quickly fell out of that top 100. Obviously both prospects have lost the hype they each carried when they were drafted (Biddle to a greater extent).

But Biddle hasn’t performed much worse than Taillon during his minor league career. It seems like experts and scouts remain high on Taillon despite his average minor league stats, even though similar stats for Biddle turned him into a bust, at least to many. Let’s take a look at their career stats, as we notice many similarities but a few noticeable differences as well.

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Their ERAs are almost identical. So are their strikeout numbers and the number of hits and home runs they allow per nine innings. The two noticeable differences? Obviously Biddle has spent much more time in the minors than Taillon, largely because Tailllon missed each of the past two seasons in their entirety due to injury, or else they’d have a similar number of innings pitched. The other difference? Biddle has an issue walking batters. His BB/9 of 4.4 is almost double Taillon’s, and it’s the main issue the minor league pitching coaches, and eventually Ray Searage, will have to work on. Fortunately for Biddle, fixing walk issues is the primary issue Searage deals with, as evidenced by the Pirates bringing in high-walk pitchers A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, as well as a bevy of high-walk relievers.

According to Brooks Baseball, both pitchers also rely on the same pitch selection: a fourseam fastball, a curve, and a changeup. However, Taillon tops out at 98 mph while Biddle tops out at 92, and Taillon has been more effective with his pitches. Biddle will certainly need help in getting his pitches across the strike zone, but that’s something that can be worked on.

Injuries have clearly set Biddle back. Him, like Taillon, had Tommy John surgey, which sets him back even further than where he’s at right now. But it was certainly worth it for the Pirates to take a flier on him. Medina, while he could have been a quality reliever, is easily replaceable by Huntington, and a team can never have enough starting pitching depth in the minors.

But I have hope for Jesse Biddle, mostly because his minor league career has taken a similar trajectory to Jameson Taillon’s, and many are still high on Taillon’s potential. Both have a similar build and pedigree, both have an injury history, both have put up similar stat lines and rely on the same pitches, and both have the ability to strike out batters at an above-average rate. The main difference is Biddle’s inability to limit his walks. And although Biddle has pitched more minor league innings, Taillon would have the same number of total innings between the minors and majors had he not missed each of the past two seasons.

It’s unfortunate that Biddle won’t be able to contribute to the Pirates major league team until at least the middle of the 2018 season. But it’s good to know that there’s hope of him eventually becoming a major league contributor, and an outside shot of him being even better than that.

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