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Taylor Jordan: First Look

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Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time.  Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time. Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

As Luke Erickson noted over on NationalsProspects.com, one of the Nats worst-kept secrets was finally let out of the bag when word broke that Nats 2013 minor-league sensation Taylor Jordan was in New York and was going to make his Major League debut on Saturday June 29th.  Starting in place of “injured” and ineffective starter Dan Haren, Jordan went up against one of the worst offensive teams in Baseball (the Mets are dead last in team batting average, hitting just .229 as a team as of 6/29′s game).  Lets review how Jordan did.

At the end of the day, (a 5-1 Loss for the Nats and a “Loss” for Jordan in his debut), Jordan’s line probably betrays how well he pitched on the day.  Jordan was pulled after 4 1/3 innings and was relatively unlucky to have given up the 3 runs (1 earned) that he did.  After a nervous first inning that included a walk and a HBP, Jordan induced one of many ground ball outs on the night to get out of the jam.  He cruised through the 2nd and 3rd innings relatively unscathed before some bad luck and a couple of bad pitches cost him a run in the third.  He got what looked to be a double-play ball to erase one runner who reached by error but the turn was slow (in fairness, a ball deep to the hole in 2nd and a fast runner conspired against the turn).  He then hung a slider against John Buck who hit it sharply to left to drive in the first of his charged runs in the 4th.

Ryan Zimmerman‘s questionable positioning against the Mets’ cleanup hitter Marlon Byrd led to two fielding errors on sharply hit balls that, despite their pace, should have been outs (why is he playing even with the bag there??  Does he really think Byrd is bunting batting out of the clean-up spot?)   Then a little-league sequence in the 5th led to the 2nd run being scored when Ian Desmond‘s attempt to get Daniel Murphy advancing to third led to a second run.  Jordan’s last charged run was on a sac fly/inherited runner allowed to score by his relief pitcher Craig Stammen.

Jordan featured a fastball that was regularly 91-92 but which peaked at 95.81.  He seemed to tire as the game went on; his peak fastballs were all in the first two innings (perhaps he was “amped up”).  His mechanics reminded you of Jered Weaver, with a sweeping cross-body motion that results in plenty of movement on his pitches.  He featured a very plus change-up, which he commanded well and was able to get key strikes on (he had no issues throwing it to lead-off a hitter, or at 2-0).  His slider didn’t move much, but it also featured as a plus pitch when he kept it down.  He was able to locate his fastball well, as best evidenced in David Wright‘s third at-bat against him, where Jordan fooled him badly with a slider, jammed him inside repeatedly and eventually forced a weak ground-ball to the shortstop to retire him in the 5th.  He gave up some sharply hit balls, but he also was very unlucky as a couple of flairs and bloops fell in just behind the infield.

On the day, he gave up 5 hits, two walks, and a HBP against just one strike-out (against his opposing number Dillon Gee, who he retired with another fantastic change-up).  He wasn’t very efficient on the mound, only throwing 48 of 84 pitches for strikes.  He wasn’t “nibbling” per se, but definitely works the corners and missed his spots.  In the 4th and 5th he was constantly falling behind hitters and (as Masn announcer J.P. Santangelo noted) it eventually caught up with him.  He got 9 ground outs to just 3 fly outs to go along with a handful of bloop singles, and to me its clear what his approach is.  Despite pretty decent K/9 numbers so far in the 2013 minor league season (72 Ks in 90 1/3 innings) he’s definitely a guy who is going to rely on location and a sinking fastball to induce grounders for outs.

All in all, in an oft-repeated mantra for 2013 you can’t win if you don’t score.  He probably was pulled when he should have been and isn’t really at fault for the loss (not when your offense only scores one run against a middling pitcher like Gee).  I think Jordan clearly has earned another start and probably sticks around for a while.

One last note: I can’t help but comment on a cynical but possibly true comment I read in one of the other Nats blogs (my apologies, I cannot remember who said it).  Is Jordan’s call-up a precursor to his being included in a possible trade, much as Mike Rizzo featured both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock at the end of 2011 prior to shipping them off?  I ask this because Jordan doesn’t seem to be the typical Rizzo guy; he’s not going to overpower you, he doesn’t throw mid 90s.  Then again, neither does Haren and that didn’t stop Rizzo from signing him for $13M.

Either way, I look forward to his next outing.  I’m always excited to watch new guys on the mound.

15 Responses to 'Taylor Jordan: First Look'

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  1. “He then hung a slider against John Buck who hit it sharply to left to drive in the first of his charged runs in the 4th.”

    That was actually a 83MPH changeup in the middle of the zone that Buck was sitting on.

    Steve M.

    29 Jun 13 at 8:04 pm

  2. I agree with you, I thought that he looked like he can pitch in the majors, assuming his command gets better once he gets past the nervousness. I thought he had a better chance to stay a starter than what I saw from Karns. He probably isn’t ready now, but with the way their season is going, better to see what he has than keep running Haren out there.

    I doubt that he was being showcased for a trade. With the technology available today, it is unnecessary and probably has more downside than upside. But I do agree that he isn’t a typical Rizzo guy.

    Wally

    29 Jun 13 at 8:28 pm

  3. Could have sworn it was a slider hung. Either way, bad pitch. :-)

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 13 at 9:40 pm

  4. Karns has way better stuff and karns also faced to of the offensive teams in baseball not horrible mets!!

    Anonymous

    29 Jun 13 at 10:08 pm

  5. Anon – I agree that Karns stuff looked better but I didn’t think his command will translate as a starter. I thought Jordan’s had a better chance. Plus, Karns seemed to give up more hard hit balls than Jordan did, so I think that there may be something to all this talk about deceptive delivery. There were very small sample sizes for each, and I am projecting a bit based in their minor league records, so time will tell. But I’d guess Karns winds up a reliever.

    Wally

    30 Jun 13 at 9:28 am

  6. I liked what I saw more so than others. A lot of the feedback seemed to be negative but I saw a guy who has plus off-speed stuff who got a ton of ground balls.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 13 at 9:49 am

  7. For what its worth, check out pitch f/x for the Buck at bat; it says that he threw no sliders in that at-bat so you were right; it was a change-up.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 13 at 9:52 am

  8. Karns had three starts. Baltimore, Atlanta and Minnesota. So one great hitting team in a tough ball park, one slightly above average team (Atl) and one slightly below average (Min). We know Karns’ velocity is better … but is his “stuff” really that much better? You can throw the ball 99 but if its straight its going to be hit (see Gausman, Kevin). There’s a reason why softer-throwing guys have success in this league; their ball has movement, they command the corners more and they “pitch” better. In the short sample sizes for both Karns and Jordan I saw a guy in Karns who has good velocity but which got hit hard, while in Jordan I saw a guy with less velocity but better command of the plate.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 13 at 9:56 am

  9. Like Karns, what I saw was a decent but very raw pitching prospect thrown to the lions way before he was ready by a desperate franchise that left itself short of starting pitching options going into the season apparently because it arrogantly believed starting pitching injuries never happen. It was the same arrogance that caused them to initially go with only one crappy lefty in the pen. Abad and Krol saved Rizzo’s behind on that latter brain fart, but they have no such MLB ready equivalents in Karns and Jordan.

    bdrube

    30 Jun 13 at 10:57 am

  10. Todd – I agree with what you say. but while Karns has more velocity, Jordan isn’t a soft tosser. He was consistently 91-92 and hit 95 several times, and I think that kind of velocity can really make his off speed stuff play up even more. If he was maxing out at 90-91, I wouldn’t be as positive. But he needs to show the superior command that he apparently had in the minors, and he needs to get that slider to at least be serviceable.

    Bdrube – agree that they did a bad job of having back up starters, but I don’t think either Karns or Jordan were quite thrown to the wolves. Granted, they are fast movers, but they are mid 20′s with excellent success at AA, and the big club needed a starter. They weren’t asked to come in and save the season: in both cases the club said it was maybe a few starts and then back down when the starter was healthy. Seemed kind of a low pressure way to see how they handle it, and it probably gets many prospects pumped up that the org rewarded guys who were performing with a shot, rather than trot out a Chris Young type. If they were 20 and pitching in High A and they were brought up for a must win game on the road, well that would be a little different.

    Wally

    30 Jun 13 at 8:28 pm

  11. It does make a statement about the state of the Nats AAA team that both minor league spot starters have come from AA this year. AAA is supposed to be the realm of MLFAs and vets on the comeback for this sort of thing. Our such guys have faltered badly this year. Hey, at least we finally got Maya off the 40-man roster (and Perry too; that’s kind of a shame what’s happened with him).

    If the news reports on Haren are accurate this morning … that he’s throwing a ton better post cortisone shot … then maybe this is just a short term issue.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 7:02 am

  12. On Jordan’s velocity: i was shocked when I saw the Pitch F/X data honestly, to see how hard he *can* throw. But, notice how he never broached 94 after the 2nd inning? Is his peak of nearly 96 because of adreniline or is that part of his game? Either way, yes I was probably wrong to classify him as a soft tosser. Lets say he’s a “softer tosser” than our fireballers Strasburg and Zimmermann.

    I was kind of surprised by the velocity he was getting on his 2-seamer (classified as a “sinker” in pitch f/x) as compared to the movement. He’s getting nearly as much horizontal movement on his 2-seamer as he gets on his changeup, but with an average of 4 inches of vertical drop. That’s MORE horizontal break and more vertical break than Strasburg gets out of his changeup (which, to be fair, is faster). But still; that’s a heck of a changeup.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 8:53 am

  13. Well Karns definitely was thrown to wolves having to face the orioles and braves right out of the gate where Jordan faces the to worst offenses and teams in baseball.

    Anonymous

    1 Jul 13 at 10:35 am

  14. That is pretty interesting data, although I have never taken the time to familiarize myself with the movement part of things. To me, at the major league level, it is almost all about command, (admittedly, you need to have a certain level of stuff first). I think that it is hard for a pitcher to have sustained success averaging below 90mph on their FB, not impossible but rare. But once you get that plus a certain amount of differential in pitch speeds, then it is all about command. So that is why I think Jordan has a chance to stick as a starter.

    Wally

    1 Jul 13 at 10:44 am

  15. Anonymous: agreed. Karns had to face one very good, one slightly above average and one slightly below average offense. He did uniformly poorly against all three. Lets see how Jordan looks 3 starts in (he should get the Brewers and then away to Philadelphia … a decent test in that band box despite the Phillies’ troubles this season). But, if Haren looks good he’ll be eligible to come off the D/L and make that Philly start if my arithmetic is correct. He was 15 day D/L’d retroactive to 6/23, meaning the 15th day will be exactly 7/9 … or what would be Jordan’s 3rd start.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 12:35 pm

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