Top 50 Prospects: #16 - Jack Taschner

Jack Taschner's been ignored by prospect prognosticators for a while. Sure, he's older than the usual prospect. Sure, he's *only* a reliever. But anyone who thinks those are good reasons to discount him should look at his Giant-best ERA and how he and a couple of other rookie relievers turned the Giants bullpen around.

Date of Birth: 04/21/1978 Position: P Height: 6'3" Weight: 205 Bats: L Throws: L
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round (#75 Overall) of the 1999 Draft
2005 Stats
Fresno - AAA 3 0 1.64 44 0 10 49.1 30 9 9 3 24 62 .173 1.05
San Francisco - MLB 2 0 1.59 24 0 0 22.2 15 5 4 0 13 19 .185 0.59

There are several conventional wisdoms that you see in a lot of prospect rankings. One is that anyone over the age of 25 in the minors is more or less worthless. Another is that minor league relievers are rarely worthy of being mentioned. Jack Taschner busted both of those so-called wisdoms with his 2005 season.

Sure, Taschner finally made his major league debut at 27, which is a long time to wait, especially for a one-time 2nd round pick. His name has been more or less ignored by the majority of prospect hounds, and when he was called up, no one knew who he was. His mere presence was even used rudely by the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, who wrote in June “If the presence of Jack Taschner….doesn’t smack of rebuilding, nothing does.”

Well, if that doesn’t smack of being short-sighted, nothing does.

Ignoring Taschner’s major league performance, one only had to look at his AAA performance before his first callup to get an idea of the level Taschner was at. In Fresno, he got a chance to work with teammate and major league veteran Stephen Randolph, and he picked up a few new tricks. Taschner didn’t give up a run until May 14th, his 15th appearance of the season. Out of 26 appearances before his initial callup, 24 of them went scoreless. He allowed only 3 runs before reaching the majors, and his ERA never went above 1.00. That’s not rebuilding, that’s calling up someone who’s banging on the door to the majors.

Of course, Taschner’s career has not been quite so solid. A high school outfielder, Taschner converted to pitching at Division III Wisconsin-Oshkosh. After being drafted in 1999, Taschner only managed to appear in 31 total games over the next 4 seasons as the early part of his career was cut short by three surgeries, including one to move an displaced ulnar nerve and the ever-present Tommy John surgery. Taschner told the Chronicle before his callup that his surgeries were “Like the Midas deal. Any part they’ve got to replace now is free.” Although, predictably, Taschner had a rough first season back from the TJ surgery in 2003, he put up a good performance in Norwich and earned a promotion to Fresno in 2004. But at 26, the age bias prevented few outside the most hardcore of prospect followers to notice.

After Taschner posted the team-best ERA over 24 games for the Giants in 2005, he’s been noticed. And after watching the size and length of the contract lefty reliever Scott Eyre got in the offseason to leave the Giants, it’s tough to say that middle relievers, particularly left handers, aren’t valuable.

There are a few things that’s kept Taschner, who fell just short of the standards that would’ve kept him off the ‘prospect’ list, this low on our Top 50. His major league success has been on a relatively small sample size, and he does have a considerable injury history that is in the back of our minds, although Taschner has been healthy since the 2002 Tommy John surgery. He also has unusual splits for a lefty reliever, allowing a surprising .265 average against left handed hitters while keeping right handers down at .128. That’s probably the most pressing thing he should need to address in 2006.

The upcoming season should feature Taschner on the major league roster, although he could continue to be a victim of a numbers game, being the #3 lefty in the bullpen behind Steve Kline and Jeff Fassero and competition from the other young relievers who debuted on the Giants, and possibly also those players who don’t win the competition for the #5 starter role in the rotation. But Taschner’s made his statement, and as a valuable southpaw out of the bullpen, he’ll play a big role for the Giants beyond 2006 as the ‘rebuilding’ word becomes much more accurate.

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