Taylor Jordan was brought up by the Nationals (and added to the 40 man) on Saturday to make a starter against the New York Mets. Jordan was a 9th round pick in 2009 out of community college, and was working through the system pretty slowly, making 28 appearances (26 starts) in A-ball over 3 seasons. However, 2013 has been a spectacular year for him in the minors, as he posted 6 good starts in the Carolina League, with a fair amount of strikeouts, just one homer, and rarely any walks. The Nationals promoted him to AA, where he posted basically identical strikeout and walk rates and didn’t give up a homer in 8 starts. The 24 year old seemed to be the definition of a late blooming pop up prospect. So I watched his first start and took notes from what I saw along with what his Pitch F/X data said.
I don’t love his arm action. He brings the ball way behind him and sort of slings his arm forward. It reminds me a little bit of Tommy Hanson, who has had all kinds of arm problems. Despite the negatives of this, it seems that it does give him some deception and movement on his fastball. It moves arm side and seemed effective against lefties because it would move away after giving an appearance that it would stay in the middle of the plate. The fastball seemed to be of the 2-seam variety but he would throw it both high and low. It seemed that he was having some problems finishing his delivery and arm action, causing the ball to float wildly high and arm side at times. It seemed that he had a separate sinker as well and the movement got him an occasional whiff.
Jordan threw what was labelled as a changeup, and looked like a changeup, to right-handed hitters as well as lefties. To right-handers, it seemed that he liked to throw a more straight fastball low and away. He did start breaking out a slider through the 2nd time in the order against righties, but it wasn’t a real exceptional pitch. He went back to the changeup against righties when he was in trouble (the MLBAM tags counted just 5 sliders, I count just 4 by the spin and speed chart below).
It depends on how you separate the fastballs, but it looks like he has 3 pitches, which is how I broke them down. Here is how he located on average, along with his average release point for perspective:
Clearly, the anecdotal observation that he wasn’t finishing his delivery has some evidence to back it up. He located arm side at an extreme tendency, and wasn’t able to get his slider down or away.
Overall, Jordan wasn’t helped out by his defense at all, and there were also a few bloopers that he had no control over. But at the same time, he didn’t miss any bats either, recording just one strikeout. He has no curveball, and was basically a two pitch pitcher in the game. With decent, but not great, velocity, and a heavy usage of moving fastballs, this is not a formula that misses a lot of bats. With just two walks, obviously he wasn’t wild, but his control was clearly not very good. The average locations show that he was having problems getting the ball over the plate, and not finishing his delivery. The far out release point can work, as Jeff Weaver, Michael Pineda, and John Lackey all release the ball from similar distances from the center of the plate (Rick Vanderhurk is the closest comparison), but it isn’t working for him now. It may be a little easy to say after the fact, but it doesn’t look like he was ready for the Majors. He needs to work on a 3rd pitch and be able to locate more consistently if he is going to have any success in the big leagues as a starter. Thanks to a lack of curveball and the arm action, I think it is easy to argue that Jordan’s success in the Majors is much more likely to come out of the bullpen.