What Should We Expect From Jameson Taillon in His Debut With the Pirates Tonight?

It's been a long time coming, but now that Taillon has arrived, what should we expect?

Due to a necessary but unfortunate Tommy John surgery, it's probably a year later than projected, but it's finally here.

It's time for Jameson Taillon's Major League pitching career to take flight.

At age 24, the highly-regarded prospect will make his first big league start at PNC Park. We know that much.

But what should we expect tonight? Or, for that matter, his career as a starting pitcher?

Let's take a look.

The Pitcher

The first thing you should know about Taillon is that he's thrown just 61.2 innings in the past two-plus years. After injuring his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in April of 2014, he missed all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons either in recovery or rehab.

Healthy coming into the 2016 campaign, Taillon immediately showed out with the Indianapolis Indians in AAA, dominating in his 10 starts on the way to a 4-2 record.

FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
1.93 8.90 0.88 0.29 25.90% 2.50%

These numbers definitely scream a level of dominance far beyond his 4-2 record.

So, how's he do it?

Taillon has a very impressive repertoire of pitches that includes a consistent mid-90s fastball, a big overhand curve, and an improving changeup. The combination of his fastball -- one that can reach high into the 90s -- and a curve that generates swings and misses is a lethal 1-2 punch.

See for yourself.

And when he adds in what is an at least league-average changeup, Taillon makes for a very intriguing power pitcher.

But it's not just Taillon's power or his set of pitches that make him so effective. His command is above and beyond where it was prior to his injury, which has eliminated unnecessary walks.

That ability to control his pitches, meshed with his ability to generate strikeouts, is what tells me Taillon's ready for the big time.

The Debut

Tonight, the former second-overall pick will make his much-anticipated debut against the New York Mets and this guy they call Thor (Noah Syndergaard). This won't the easiest stage to start by any stretch of the imagination, but as a rookie, you take what you can get it, right?

And what Taillon's going to get is a struggling yet potentially dangerous Mets lineup.

Mets Offense wOBA wRC+ K%
Value 0.308 96 24.80%
MLB Rank 22nd 15th 4th

With names like David Wright, Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, you might think that the Mets have an above average offense, but they've been pretty average, if not below average, this season.

When it comes to right-handed pitching, though, they're a little more dangerous.

Against righties, the Mets have a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .311, a weighted runs created Plus (WRC+) of 98 and a strikeout percentage of 24.30%. What should worry Taillon the most is that three Mets hitters -- Walker, Cespedes and (righty killer) Michael Conforto -- have a hard-hit percentage of 33% or higher against right-handed pitching. And those same three players have combined for 27 homers over the course of the season thus far.

Taillon's proven ability to keep the ball in the ballpark should help to mitigate the Mets' long-ball game, though.

Meanwhile, opposing pitcher Noah Syndergaard's FIP of 1.81 is second only to Clayton Kershaw this year, while his 11.37 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks third among starters with at least 10 starts on the season.

That's a big reason why Vegas has Thor and the Mets pegged as 1.5-run favorites over Taillon and the Pirates. Taillon's more than likely to lose his first ever MLB start, but either way, this matchup will be must-see TV for all baseball fanatics.

The Future

If we're looking beyond tonight's matchup, Taillon appears poised for a nice big league career. Just take a look at how Taillon's AAA numbers match up against those of the Pirates most recent star pitching prospect to make the bigs, Gerrit Cole.

AAA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
Taillon 1.93 8.90 0.88 0.29 25.90% 2.50%
Cole 3.31 6.45 2.01 0.40 17.60% 5.50%

With two straight seasons of 11-plus wins, most notably 19 wins a year ago, Cole hasn't turned out so bad. He's the ace of the Pirates pitching staff -- at least for now.

We'll have to wait and see if Taillon will challenge him for that spot in due time. But, for now, expect Taillon to be a very solid Major League pitcher with the potential of becoming the elite pitcher many -- maybe unfairly -- expect him to be.