San Francisco Giants Off to a Hot Start; and Jamison Taillon’s Elbow
The Giants are now 5-1 after taking the first two games from the Dodgers in the latter’s home-opening series. This leaves the Giants tied with the Marlins for the best record in the National League so far. More significantly, the Giants’ strong start has occurred entirely on the road.
It’s obviously far too early to make much of the Giants’ hot start, but as a fan it’s exciting to see your team get a good jump out of the gate. Some people say that wins early in the season don’t mean as much as those after August 1st, but I don’t buy it. A win is a win in the standings whether you get it in April or September. If you can build up a lot of wins early in the season toward the 90 to 100 you need to make the post-season, that’s just peachy.
My concern now as a fan is whether writing about the Giants’ fine start will jinx the team and set them off into a tailspin. So be it, I guess.
Meanwhile, the Pirates’ top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon needs surgery to replace his elbow tendon. He was the second player selected in the 2010 Draft (immediately after Bryce Harper and immediately before Manny Machado) and the first pitcher selected. Taillon was draft out of high school, and he’s yet another cautionary tale about the risks of selecting high school pitchers high in the first round of the draft.
Needless to say, pitchers drafted out of college can blow their arms out too. Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey are the most notable recent examples. However, the odds that a top pitching prospect drafted out of high school will blow his arm out before helping a major league club are much greater than those for top pitching prospects drafted out of college.
By virtue of pitching three college seasons without major injury, college pitching prospects establish a greater likelihood of avoiding future injury, at least until they have actually done something at the major league level. Also, college pitching prospects are much closer to the major leagues, which gives them a better chance of reaching the majors before something goes wrong.
Even so, major league teams just can’t resist the promise of the best high school pitchers. Part of that, I suspect, is the fear that some other team will snap up these players if they don’t. I also suspect that the Giants’ recent success (two World Series titles) first round high school pitchers Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner has skewed perceptions about the risks associated with selecting high school pitchers in the first round.
Needless to say, Taillon is still young enough to make a complete recovery from Tommy John surgery and go on to become an effective major league pitcher. It’s just disheartening to see a prospect drafted this highly to suffer an injury of this severity.
As a final note, there may actually be an advantage to the team that Taillon blew his arm out now while still a minor leaguer compared to Strasburg and Harvey, who had established themselves as major league pitchers before their elbow tendons snapped. If Taillon makes a complete recovery, the Pirates still have six full seasons of major league control, while Strasburg and Harvey have spent or will spend a year on the major league disabled list which is counted as major league service time towards their eventual free agency.