Prospect Rewind: Looking at Tyler Glasnow’s Rapid Progression

2014FrontCoverLast week we started a new feature on the site called “Prospect Rewind”. Each week the feature will look back at some of the prospect reports in previous editions of the Prospect Guide, all leading up to the release of the Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide. The 2014 book is currently available for pre-sales, and will be released shortly after the Winter Meetings in December. The cover this year features Tyler Glasnow, who was our 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. So it’s fitting that we take a look back at the rapid progression that saw Glasnow go from a total unknown to a potential ace.

The Pirates drafted Glasnow in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, giving him an over-slot $600,000 bonus. That was a bit of a surprise at the time, since Glasnow didn’t show up on any of the pre-draft national rankings. I saw him pitch briefly during instructs that year, but most of our original report on him was based on the brief bit of information that was known at the time of the draft. Here is the report from the 2012 Prospect Guide, where Glasnow was the #38 prospect in the system.

Glasnow is a very tall pitcher, giving him the projectability that the Pirates seem to love with their over-slot prep pitchers. He shot up eight inches after his freshman year, even growing in to a size 17 shoe. His velocity also increased during this time, going to the upper 80s, then the lower 90s, and topping out at 93.

He had a commitment to the University of Portland, which the Pirates bought out with second round money. He grew so quickly that he experienced growing pains in high school. Eventually he could catch up to his height by filling out his frame, which could add more velocity to his fastball.

Outside of his fastball, Glasnow also throws a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The Pirates have a tendency to take the slider away from young pitchers, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Glasnow work with three pitches next year, with most of the work being focused on the fastball.

Glasnow signed in August, which didn’t leave him with any time to pitch in the GCL. In his senior year of high school he put up strong numbers, with a 13.3 K/9 ratio and a 1.25 ERA in 67 innings. He did deal with some control issues, leading to a 5.4 BB/9 ratio.

The Pirates will likely send Glasnow to State College in 2012 where he will work on his fastball command. There is a lot of promise with Glasnow’s height and projectability. Add in that he can currently touch 93 MPH, and that he knows three other pitches and Glasnow becomes a guy to watch for the next few years.

Glasnow came as advertised. The Pirates did take the slider away, with the curveball looking like a potential plus offering the following year. He also carried his control problems over to pro ball. The lack of a changeup and the control issues kept him in the GCL during the 2012 season, although he made it to State College for one start at the end of the year. The impressive thing was how quickly he added velocity. That can be seen in the report from the 2013 Prospect Guide, where Glasnow shot up to #8 in our rankings.

The Pirates have drafted a lot of tall, projectable pitchers who have the chance to add velocity. Some of those pitchers added velocity, but none to the extent that Glasnow saw. The right-hander is a very tall pitcher, shooting up eight inches after his freshman year, even growing in to a size 17 shoe. His velocity also increased during this time, going to the upper 80s, then the lower 90s, and topping out at 93. His velocity was never consistently in the 90s until this season.

In his first year as a pro, Glasnow was consistently sitting 90-94, and touching 96. He dominated the Gulf Coast League, then moved up to State College for a start at the end of the year where he was hitting 96 early in the outing.

Glasnow throws a four seam and a two seam fastball. His two-seam sits in the 91-92 MPH range, and has late tailing run away from right-handed batters. He locates the pitch well, throwing it to the outside corner against right-handers. He throws both inside and outside with his four seam fastball, and throws it on a steep downward plane, getting a lot of ground balls.

He throws a curveball which can be inconsistent, but has the potential to be a plus offering. The pitch sits in the upper 70s with good tilt and a late break, and can be used as a strikeout pitch. He needs to work on his changeup, which is not uncommon for a pitcher out of high school. Another thing Glasnow needs to work on is his control, as he dealt with some command issues in the GCL.

One pitching coach in Spring Training jokingly commented that Glasnow was eventually going to throw 200 MPH due to his size. The early velocity increase is great to see, and he might not be finished since he’s only 18 and still filling out his frame. He’s got two plus pitches with his fastball and curveball, along with a nice two-seam fastball and a developing changeup. The biggest issue will be his control. He could be a candidate to move up to West Virginia next year, but a lot of that will depend on how his changeup develops before the season.

The Pirates have gone heavy with over-slot prep pitchers in hopes of finding one or two guys who could develop into top of the rotation starters. Glasnow is so far off that he doesn’t really have a ceiling or an accurate projection. What he does have is a good frame and some dominating stuff, which is the starting point to eventually becoming a top of the rotation guy. He’ll be a guy to watch.

Tyler Glasnow posted a 13.3 K/9 ratio in 2013. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Tyler Glasnow posted a 13.3 K/9 ratio in 2013. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Glasnow did go to West Virginia, and he had a huge breakout season. His fastball velocity remained high, and even jumped up a bit, touching as high as 99 MPH. He put up a 13.3 K/9 ratio, which was the same ratio he had in high school, only this came against pro hitters that were mostly 2-3 years older than him. His control improved throughout the year, and he showed some promise with the changeup.

There are several examples of players who went low in the draft out of high school, or even went undrafted, then became a potential ace by their junior year of college. If a team ever figured out how to identify these players, that team would win a lot of championships. For now the best bet is to draft prep pitchers with high upsides, and hope that you get someone who eventually figures it all out. That’s what is happening right now with Glasnow. If he hadn’t signed, he would be going into his junior year of college in 2014, and probably would be a high first rounder in the 2014 draft.

Glasnow is the exception. If you look at the reports above, he made almost instant improvements. It doesn’t usually work like that with any prospect. You don’t talk about how a pitcher can add velocity, then see that velocity increase come the very next season. Usually it’s a gradual increase, with the pitcher getting stronger each year. You don’t talk about the need for improvements to the changeup or to the control numbers, then see both areas show steady improvement the very next season.

In each of the last two years, I wrote that Glasnow was a guy to watch. I’ve written that for a few players, and usually it’s for the players who I feel could eventually have a breakout season. I didn’t expect that to come so soon for Glasnow. Even before the season when I was saying that Glasnow could be a prospect on par with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, I wasn’t thinking it would happen in 2013-14. The 2014 report on Glasnow is going to detail some things that he still needs to work on to become that top of the rotation pitcher. But if we’ve learned anything from the last two reports and the results that followed, it’s that Glasnow is an incredibly quick learner, with the ability to make rapid improvements to his game.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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