I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.
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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6’7”, 230 lbs?
Jameson Taillon: [laughs] I don’t really know where that number came from, actually. I’m more like 6’6” to 6’6 ½”, and anywhere from 215 to 220 lbs. In the summer I was like 225 lbs, but I got with a really good trainer this offseason, he works with Adam Dunn and Chad Qualls, and he put me in the best shape I’ve ever been in. My playing weight this spring is around 215-220 lbs.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I assume you did a lot of leg work. Have you seen any benefits in terms of your velocity or stamina?
Jameson Taillon: Oh yeah, yes. I’ve always been a hard thrower, but this summer and offseason was really the first time I’ve lifted weights, and it was really baseball specific, not just pumping iron all day. It’s not necessarily that I’m throwing a lot harder this spring, it’s that it’s so much easier. I’ve never been a guy that has had arm problems, I’ve been really lucky with that, but I have NO pain in my arm after I pitch now, so that’s a good sign that we’ve done something right.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Taillon sounds like it has French roots – what is your family background?
Jameson Taillon: My dad is French-Canadian, he grew up in a little town called Saint Andrews in the Montreal and Ottawa area, the closest town to it is called Cornwall. He actually grew up as a hockey goalie, so that’s his sport, but I think he’s taken to baseball now. My mom is from Toronto, and that’s where my parents met – at the University of Toronto.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So how did you end up in Texas?
Jameson Taillon: My Dad’s job. I was actually born in Winter Haven, Florida, where the Red Sox and Indians used to do spring training. Me and Yordy Cabrera, and the rest of the guys from there joke about it, because the place I was born was actually Lakeland, and that’s the high school Yordy goes to, so we could have been teammates if I would have stayed put.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You go to high school at The Woodlands, the alma mater of current Yankee prospect Taylor Grote. Did you guys play together at all?
Jameson Taillon: Yeah, my freshman year I made varsity and he was a senior, the starting centerfielder. Those guys were seriously just incredible with me. They were such great guys to be around, and I didn’t really get to pitch much that year, but I just soaked up everything I could. Grote had one of the hardest work ethics I have seriously ever seen, and he actually works out with the same trainer I do now. Brett Eibner who’s at Arkansas now played with me my freshman year and kind of took me under his wing, so it was pretty unreal to make varsity my freshman year and get to play with those guys.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you play any other sports? Being big and growing up in Texas I can only assume football…
Jameson Taillon: I’ve never been a football guy because I grew so fast that I was a little bit more prone to injuries. I used to play some basketball in junior high, and I wasn’t bad, but I made varsity baseball in my freshman year here, and we’re known to be a baseball powerhouse, so that’s when I kind of realized baseball was my sport and I needed to stick to it. Even a guy like Kyle Drabek, who came through The Woodlands, didn’t make varsity his freshman year, so it was pretty special.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you remember the first time you hit 90?
Jameson Taillon: Freshman year I was always flirting with it, I was in the 85-89 MPH range. I remember my sophomore year, the fall of 2007, I hit 90 MPH at a Baseball Factory event out in Arizona, then I went out and my first pitch of my sophomore year in the spring was 93 MPH. So I kind of added the velocity between my freshman and sophomore year.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Coach Graham is legendary - how much of your decision to attend Rice was based on him?
Jameson Taillon: Honestly, I’ve always wanted to go to Rice since I was a little kid, but I think Coach Graham being there made the decision that much easier. It made my parents feel comfortable, too to have a guy like that coaching me at the program. I can still remember a story from when I was little; my dad knew the pitching coach there at the time and I had a pitching lesson down there right when I started pitching – I was maybe 10 years old. I had to go to the bathroom really bad and Coach Graham was out there. He took me to the locker room, showed me Berkman’s locker and all of those guys, and since then I’ve wanted to play there, so going to Rice is kind of a dream come true. Outside of baseball they’ve got a great academic program, and that is very important to my family and me - I’ve got a sister in law school, a brother in his clinical rotations, and another brother getting his PhD, so the academic excellence was very attractive at Rice, too.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?
Jameson Taillon: In the summer I kind of thought about it because with all the showcases you go to, you know why you’re there. It’s to showcase yourself in front of those pro scouts, scouting directors, and GMs, but honestly, during high school season my mind hasn’t been on it at all so far. Granted every time I go out to pitch there are dozens of scouting directors and the stands are full of scouts and media, but our high school team this year is really, really stacked and it’s a great group of guys so we try to keep each other occupied and our minds off that stuff. I guess I eventually know what I’m working towards, though, and that’s Major League Baseball, so it’s in my mind a little bit, but stored way in the back.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When you dream about being a professional, what is the image you get?
Jameson Taillon: A lot of kids say to be out there in the 9th inning and stuff, but my dream, my goal, is to be an ace of a Major League staff. Seeing a guy like Josh Beckett who came out of Spring High School, whom we scrimmage first every year, makes it seem like a pretty realistic shot. He was in the World Series at 21 leading that staff, so that’s my goal – to be a workhorse in MLB and be an ace to the staff, that go-to guy. I love getting the ball in the grease, so that’s my goal.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?
Jameson Taillon: I’ve heard at least through questionnaires from all thirty, and then I’d say I’ve had visits with twenty-seven or twenty-eight of them.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any contact from the Yankees?
Jameson Taillon: Yeah, I actually played with the Texas scout team Yankees in Jupiter a few years back, so I got to know our area scout pretty well, his name is Steve Boros. We actually had a double header a few days ago, I threw the first game and then worked the gun for the second, and I was actually chatting with him a bit back there. He’s a really cool guy.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Has your family retained an advisor at this point?
Jameson Taillon: Yeah, the Hendricks brothers here in Houston. They’ve got some of my favorite guys, Roger Clemens, Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees, and then Clayton Kershaw, Homer Bailey, and Rick Porcello now is with them.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Give draft fans a detailed description of your arsenal.
Jameson Taillon: My go-to pitch is just a good old four-seam fastball, and this spring so far it’s been 94-97 MPH. [Kevin's Note: After this interview I spoke with Jameson again and he informed me that at a scrimmage he threw four innings and sat 96-97 MPH, touching 99 MPH twice]. It used to be really flat and since I’ve had this kind of velocity spike its got some really hard, boring action to it now. I can locate that four-seam pretty well, and I’ve been working on a two-seam which has been coming in anywhere from 89-93 MPH. It’s got some big-time run, which was really big in the summer because it can break those wood bats. I’d say my second best pitch is my spike curve which comes in 82-84 MPH, and it’s one of my favorite pitches to throw. That’s kind of a new pitch actually, I just learned it last year with my pitching coach, and I really took to it. I don’t really throw a changeup too much, but when I do it’s mid to upper 80s circle change that runs pretty good. I definitely consider myself the typical Texas power pitcher.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Wow, you just learned that breaking ball last year? The majority vote amongst other pitchers in your class for the pitch they would want to be able to throw is your curve, with Stetson Allie’s fastball second.
Jameson Taillon: Yeah, Stetson’s got a special arm. I used to throw kind of a slurve-type curveball when I was younger and then I got with a pitching coach here in Houston who’s kind of a legend in this area, David Evans. He used to pitch in the minors and played for Wayne Graham at San Jac. He told me that he could see me throwing a slider down the road, so he wanted me to differentiate between the curve and the slider, and I learned the 12-to-6 spike curve I throw now. It’s a really fun pitch to throw, I love throwing it to start an at-bat, even 2-0, just buckling hitters with it – that’s one of the most fun things to do.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your personality on the field?
Jameson Taillon: I’m one of those even-keeled guys. My dad has always preached to me that if someone were to walk in and see you pitching, they shouldn’t be able to tell if you’re winning or losing, and I’ve really taken to that. Once that adrenaline gets going I’ll let out a few yells or fist-pumps when I’m really into it – I’m not afraid to slap the glove or congratulate my teammates – but I’m pretty even-keeled and a fierce competitor under that.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What team were you a fan of growing up?
Jameson Taillon: Honestly, it’s kind of weird, but I really haven’t taken to one team. I’m not just saying that, but I guess I follow the Astros, and I follow Beckett a lot. My dad’s actually a big Yankees fan, so I’m sure you’d like to hear that! [laughs]
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Ha! It doesn’t hurt to hear that, but there’s no chance in hell you make it down to them.
Jameson Taillon: You never know!
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You’ve mentioned Beckett, but who are the other players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they conduct themselves?
Jameson Taillon: Off the field I really used to look up to Curt Schilling and the way he carried himself, he was kind of in the limelight in the media and he spoke out about his opinions. Of course Beckett, and a lot of people bash me for saying this, but I’m still a Clemens guy. Whether he did steroids or not, just the way he competed and his work ethic were so unbelievable.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Back to a question we discussed earlier - If you could steal any pitch from any other pitcher in your draft class, whose would it be and why?
Jameson Taillon: Oh man, well I’m pretty content with what I have, but I guess I’m working on a slider right now, and it’s pretty good where it is, but I’d say when Karsten Whitson throws his slider right that’s a pretty filthy pitch when he gets it up to 85-86 MPH, so I’d have to steal that from him, but I don’t know if he’d like that. We became best friends over this summer because we roomed together for the Under Armour game and then again for Team USA trials, and then in Venezuela me, him, and Tony Wolters shared a room.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest hitter you've faced?
Jameson Taillon: Lets see…I’d say the hitter I was most careful pitching to at events was Yordy Cabrera. If you watch the Under Armour game, I threw him two curveballs and a fastball. I got him out at Aflac, but watching him hit BP and stuff, he’s just got the biggest raw power I’ve ever seen so I was kind of careful pitching to him. I faced Harper and actually struck him out, so I’ve got the bragging rights there, but that was another careful at-bat – fastballs low and away, curveball in the dirt, and he really is an incredible hitter.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you ever heard a scout say that you remind him of another player?
Jameson Taillon: I guess I get the Josh Beckett/Roger Clemens comparison being from the Houston area and with the stuff and body I have. I’ve also heard some Roy Halladay comparisons because he can throw 94-95 MPH when he needs to, but he can also throws those cutters and changeups and pitch with his stuff. I’ve heard Josh Johnson of the Marlins, too – I got that from the Orioles scouting director, Joe Jordan.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was going to a foreign country to play baseball like?
Jameson Taillon: Oh my gosh, it was crazy. I can remember laying in bed the first night, I was on the top bunk, Karsten was on the bottom, Tony was in a separate bed in the same room, and the beds were like five feet long – my feet were hanging off. We each got one clumpy pillow, the sheets would be all tangled up all over you when you woke up, no clean water, no really hot running water, and the food was pretty awful, too [laughs]. I remember laying in bed that first night with the worst headache I’ve ever had, dehydrated to the max, and asking “dude, who signed us up for this? This is crazy.” Later, it was about 2 AM and I said “Karsten, what time is it? He was like, “dude, you’re awake?!” I said, “yeah, I can’t sleep in this place!” [laughs]. The end result of all that was that we really bonded as a team, it was seriously the most incredible experience I ever had. That was probably the closest-knit group of guys I’ve ever been around, and we only knew each other for about three weeks, so it was pretty incredible to accomplish all that we did.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any superstitions?
Jameson Taillon: I don’t have any crazy ones, but I listen to the same playlist before every game on my iPod, and I do the same pregame warmup before ever game. I also always drink a Powerade and have beef jerky before games, but nothing too crazy.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking with Matt Graham last year he said you guys loved to fish. What else do you like to do off the field? Do you hunt like many of the other Texas boys?
Jameson Taillon: I fish for fun at the local golf courses and whatnot, but I’ve never actually been hunting. I recently picked up acoustic guitar so I’m learning that, and I’ve got a really cool group of friends and we have a lot of fun doing random things. We’ll go kayaking one weekend on Lake Woodlands, then go camping the next, or maybe go to downtown Houston for a zoo outing or a Galleria outing. I stay pretty occupied.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Jameson Taillon: Honestly, going down to Venezuela was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because I don’t think I’d have trouble next year being away from my family, but when you go to a foreign country with guys you just met a few weeks ago, it’s kind of a thing where you have no clue what to expect or what’s going to happen, especially when there was no communication with people back home really. But it ended up being the most special moment, dog-piling on that field in front of all those Cuban haters! [laughs]
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what’s this whole process like for you? You’ve got even more attention than the other guys in your class, save for maybe Bryce Harper. How do you deal with it?
Jameson Taillon: It’s really great knowing I have two opportunities. I know a lot of the guys that I talk to that were on the summer showcase circuit say they get pretty stressed over all this, but the way I look at it is worst case scenario I’m going to Rice University, downtown Houston, incredible academics and baseball program. Best case scenario I’ll be working my way up in a Major League system, so I have no troubles sleeping at night knowing that. I’m kind of just living in the moment right now, this whole past year or two has been a lot of fun getting to do all these events, and I’m just soaking it all up. I’m just taking it day by day, and whatever happens, happens.