The Pittsburgh Pirates have placed a large focus on pitching in recent years, either through the draft, international markets, or in the free agent bargain bin. For that reason, you’d expect a lot of competition each year for the top performing pitcher in the system. There were a lot of strong candidates this year. Kris Johnson put up a 2.39 ERA in 135.2 innings of work, and was the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month in both June and July. Nick Kingham combined for a 2.89 ERA in 143.1 innings between High-A and Double-A, with a 144:44 K/BB ratio. Joely Rodriguez posted a 2.70 ERA in 140 innings between two levels of A-ball, with a 101:39 K/BB ratio.
In previous years, any of those guys would have been the top pitching option. This year there was another pitcher who went above and beyond everyone else.
Tyler Glasnow dominated the competition in West Virginia, posting a 2.18 ERA in 111.1 innings of work. Even more impressive was the fact that he put up 164 strikeouts in that time. Glasnow’s ERA was the best in the system among all pitchers with 80+ innings. He also had the most strikeouts in the system. For his overall dominance this year, Tyler Glasnow is the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Glasnow didn’t just dominate the Pirates system. His numbers were some of the best in baseball. He ranked first overall in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts. Second place had 20 fewer strikeouts and 31 more innings, while also being two years older than Glasnow. His 13.3 K/9 ratio ranked second in the league to Rafael De Paula, who had a 13.4 K/9 in 64.1 innings as a 22-year-old. Glasnow also ranked high in the SAL in hits per nine (3rd place, 4.4), ERA (13th place, 2.18), and WHIP (17th, 1.033). On the flip side, he had control issues, and his 61 walks were tied for sixth most in the league. In all of minor league baseball, Glasnow ranked 4th in strikeouts. His 13.3 K/9 was the best among qualified pitchers in all of minor league baseball.
Glasnow had a banner year in the Pirates system with his strikeout totals. His 164 strikeouts were the most in the system since Tom Gorzelanny struck out 167 in 148.2 innings in 2004. Gorzelanny did that between low-A and high-A at the age of 21, which is two years older than Glasnow. No Pirates starter has put up a 13.3 K/9 ratio since 1969. Prior to that, strikeout numbers weren’t available in the lower levels on Baseball Reference. From 1969-2013, only three other pitchers with 40+ innings have posted a 13.3 K/9 ratio or better:
2003 – Henry Owens: 13.5 K/9, 48.2 IP
2010 – Diego Moreno: 13.5 K/9, 46 IP
2013: Jhondaniel Medina: 13.3 K/9, 46 IP
The only close competition for Glasnow this year was Kris Johnson. However, Glasnow had a lower ERA, WHIP, and many more strikeouts. Johnson’s advantage was that the had more innings at a higher level. However, he is also old for his level and has been there before, while Glasnow is young for his level, and in his first time in A-ball. Glasnow should move to Bradenton to start the 2014 season, and could make it to Double-A by the end of the season, similar to the path that guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham have taken in the last few years.
Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Pitchers of the Year
2012 – Jeff Locke
2011 – Kyle McPherson