By John Perrotto
The Pirates are wavering in their decision on who to take with the second pick in tonight’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The Pirates are now giving strong consideration to selecting right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon from The Woodlands High School in suburban Houston.
For weeks, it appeared the Pirates were set on taking Manny Machado, a shortstop from Brito Private School in Hialeah, Fla., a suburb of Miami.
College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper is expected to go to the Washington Nationals with the first pick.
“They’re really torn on what they’re going to do,” said a source with close knowledge of the Pirates’ thinking on Monday afternoon. “It still might be Machado but it’s no longer a certainty. They’re really wrestling with the decision.”
Taillon stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 225 pounds. The 18-year-old has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 99 mph and been compared to Boston Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett, though with a more even temperament.
Taillon was 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 11 games this season. In 62 innings, he allowed 42 hits while walking 21 and striking out 114.
Taillon’s fastball usually sits in the 93-97 range and he also has a big-breaking curveball. He occasionally mixes in a hard slider and changeup, a pitch scouts feel needs the most improvement.
The Pirates have not selected a high school pitcher with their first-round pick since taking left-hander Sean Burnett from Wellington High School in suburban West Palm Beach in 2000. He now pitches in relief for the Washington Nationals.
The last time the Pirates took a high school right-hander in the first round was 1999 when they selected Bobby Bradley, who was also from Wellington. He never pitched in the major leagues before retiring because of a series of arm injuries.
The Pirates had also been considering taking University of Mississippi All-America left-hander Drew Pomeranz with the No. 2 pick but have now ruled him out, instead opting to go with a higher-upside high school talent in either Taillon or Machado.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates since 1988 and is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and baseball columnist at the Beaver County Times.