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Jameson Taillon to the Yankees - Fantasy Impact

After bolstering their rotation with the signing of Corey Kluber last week, the New York Yankees acquired another starter over the weekend as they shipped off four prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jameson Taillon. Here's how that deal broke down:

Yankees receive: RHP Jameson Taillon
Pirates receive: RHP Roansy Contreras, RHP Miguel Yajure, INF Maikol Escotto, OF Canaan Smith

The trade brings another starter coming off injury to New York, as Taillon will return to the mound after missing most of 2019 and all of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, the Pirates continue to rebuild their farm system as they've now turned Taillon, Joe Musgrove and Josh Bell into 11 prospects — eight of which are already ranked in MLBPipeline's Top-30 list for Pittsburgh including two Top-10 prospects. Managers in dynasty leagues will want to take a look at the Pirates' haul in this deal, but for everyone else the main focus will be on how Taillon will do wearing pinstripes in 2021.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Taillon to the Bronx

After pitching his first full season in 2018, Taillon made just seven starts in 2019 before being shut down and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. Over those seven starts, Taillon saw some of his numbers trending downward, including career-worsts in strikeout rate (19%) and hard-hit rate (39.8%), while his 12.9 percent home run per fly ball rate was the second-worst of his career.

But even in the midst of all that, there were some promising signs as well, and those positive trends could be in part due to an increased usage of his slider. With the jump from 18.1 percent usage in 2018 to 31.6 percent in 2019, Taillon posted career-bests with an 11.8 percent swinging-strike rate and a 76.6 percent contact rate. And when batters were making contact against him it was mostly turning into groundballs, as Taillon's 7.7 degree launch angle and 3.4 percent barrel rate were career-bests and his 49.6 percent groundball rate was his best mark since 2016.

The biggest challenge that Taillon will face in 2021 though is moving from the weaker NL Central to the tougher AL East. Pittsburgh's divisional opponents in 2020 combined for a 25.3 percent strikeout rate, .222 batting average and .388 slugging percentage, while Yankees' divisional opponents posted a 24 percent strikeout rate, a .254 average and .435 slugging percentage. While Taillon will be facing tougher competition in the AL East, he will get a slight boost in his potential value as he goes from having one of the worst offenses in MLB backing him to a Yankees offense that has ranked in the top-five in the league in scoring for four years straight. But the competition from within the division may end up canceling out some of that benefit from the Yankees lineup.

There is one more aspect of this trade that managers might want to consider. It's anecdotal and there are no statistics that can guarantee he will have success, but there has been somewhat of a trend in recent years of Pittsburgh starters benefitting from a change in scenery. Just take a look at Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow's post-Pirates careers. Now in no way, shape or form does that mean managers should expect Taillon to turn into Cole 2.0, but in the later rounds in drafts it might be something to consider if you find yourself debating between picking Taillon or someone else.


Pittsburgh Investing in the Future

Once again we find ourselves looking at the newest infusion of young talent into the Pittsburgh organization. Yajure is the headlining player in this trade for the Pirates, as he now slots in at No. 14 in MLBPipeline's Top-30 prospect list for Pittsburgh after making his MLB debut in 2020. Over three appearances out of the bullpen with New York, Yajure posted a 27.6 percent strikeout rate and 1.29 ERA, but his 17.2 percent walk rate, 5.33 FIP, 5.41 xFIP and 4.87 SIERA weren't exactly great numbers to see. Granted, this comes in a small sample size of just seven innings, and he looked far better pitching between High-A and Double-A in 2019 where he posted a 23.9 percent strikeout rate and 5.4 percent walk rate with a 2.14 ERA and 2.56 FIP over 138.2 innings.

Yajure should be looked at primarily in dynasty leagues for right now, but according to a report from MLB.com writer Jake Crouse, Yajure could be potentially competing for a spot in the Pirates rotation early in the season. In that case, managers playing in 12-team and deeper leagues might want to consider Yajure as a potential late-round sleeper.

Contreras is a 21-year-old pitcher who has been used almost exclusively as a starter over his three-year career in the minors. He sports a career 3.25 ERA, 20.1 percent strikeout rate and 7.2 percent walk rate over 249.1 innings pitched, and there is some debate among scouts as to whether or not he'll remain a starter or end up in the bullpen. According to the story by Crouse, Contreras could also potentially see some time in Pittsburgh late in the season but that is not as likely to happen as it is with Yajure.

Escotto is a 19-year-old infielder with one season of pro-ball under his belt. Playing primarily second base in 2019, he slashed .315/.429/.552 with eight home runs and 13 steals over 45 games in the Dominican Summer League. That power/speed combo could make him an interesting player in fantasy if he continues to develop, but he is the furthest away from making any kind of impact.

Smith was a fourth-round pick out of high school for the Yankees in the 2017 draft, and he seemed to have made a step forward in his development in 2019. After struggling in 2018 to the tune of a .191 average and .596 OPS in Low-A, Smith slashed .307/.408/.465 over 124 games in the South Atlantic League in 2019, hitting 11 home runs with 16 steals while posting a 20.5 percent strikeout rate and 14 percent walk rate. The Pirates have several higher-ranked outfield prospects in their system — including the newly acquired Hudson Head — but a big season by Smith in 2021 could have him vying for playing time in the near future.


Fantasy Bottom Line

Taillon will be the only player in this deal that managers can feel certain will make an impact in fantasy this season. Assuming he stays healthy and a full season is played, managers should expect around 10 to 13 wins from Taillon with about 140 strikeouts and an ERA somewhere between 3.50 and 4.00. He's currently being drafted in the later rounds with an ADP of 237, which seems to be a fair place for him to go. However his new teammate Kluber currently has an ADP of 244, and some managers might want to go with Kluber over Taillon based on his track record and better potential value.

Out of the prospects Pittsburgh acquired Yajure is the most likely to make an impact in 2021, but managers should only look at him as a late-round pick in 12-team and deeper leagues. The other three players in this trade should only be looked at in dynasty leagues, with Contreras being the player closest to reaching the majors while Escotto is the furthest out from making his debut.

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