Last week, Jim Callis and I went toe-to-toe on the top hitter-pitcher prospect combinations in baseball. This time around, we're keeping our focus solely on the mound by debating which organization has the top tandem of up-and-coming pitchers.
It's not easy to argue against Jim's selection of the Rockies' Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. They're pretty darn good. But I'm looking at a pair of right-handers that match up pretty well.
Combine Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow and the Pirates have more than 13 feet of right-handed pitcher. They also have the Nos. 16 and 27 ranked prospects in the Top 100. Gray and Butler are Nos. 14 and 41, respectively. Using our handy-dandy Prospect Points system (100 for the No.1 prospect, 99 for No. 2, etc.), that means the Rockies duo has 147 points. The Pirates tandem? 159. Winner!
Scoring systems aside, it's difficult not to be excited about the future of the Pirates' pitching staff. Gerrit Cole established himself in the big leagues last year and he should lead the rotation in the near future. Now he's just waiting on reinforcements.
Taillon was drafted the year before Cole and he's more than a year younger. He's been moving slowly yet steadily through the Pirates system. Some have felt his progress hasn't been fast enough, given that he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, but keep in mind he's going to pitch all year at age 22 in 2014.
And this is the season he should reach Pittsburgh, joining the other two top three picks from the 2010 Draft, Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Manny Machado of the Orioles, in the big leagues. Taillon's stuff may not be quite as big as Gray's (whose is?), but we're not talking about a soft-tossing finesse guy here.
Taillon can crank it up and touch the mid-90s with his fastball, and it has plenty of sink when he keeps it down in the strike zone. He combines it with a very good power curve and a changeup that, while it's his third pitch, has a chance to be above-average. That's three above-average offerings coming from a durable 6-foot-6 frame, all thrown with confidence and plenty of poise on the mound. Sounds like a front-line starter to me.
While Taillon has been on prospect lists for a while, the 6-foot-7 Glasnow is more of a new kid on the block. He wasn't on our Top 100 list a year ago, but now is on the cusp of being considered one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the game. He's No. 11 among right-handers on the Top 100.
The Pirates aggressively pursued high school pitching, and the high-risk/high-reward qualities that come with it, in previous year's Drafts. Glasnow, taken in the fifth round, was part of the 2011 effort and Pittsburgh gave him an above-slot deal of $600,000 to sign. His first taste of full-season ball showed just what can happen when a team takes the time to let a young pitcher develop.
Glasnow now hits the mid-90s with his fastball with ease and can touch higher -- and he's still developing. His big curveball continues to improve and his changeup will be at least average. Like Taillon, he could very well have three above-average or better pitches when all is said and done.
In many ways, Glasnow is the key to this argument. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being better than any of the other three pitchers mentioned in this debate (OK, Gray might be a tough hurdle to clear), even if he is the furthest away. For right now, it might be a close call in this debate, but if Glasnow hits his very high ceiling, the Pirates might be the winner in this argument going away.