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.

Tim Williams

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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  • https://profiles.google.com/102804497270034978273 Marco Rincones

    I can’t wait to see more of Glasnow as he moves up the chain. What was his WHIP this past season?

    • stickyweb

      His WHIP was 1.03 this year after being 1.04 in 2012. Not bloody shabby!!!

  • deacs

    I feel like most pitchers throw a slider OR a curve. Cole seems to throw both? Is that right?

    The to do list for Glasnow is get the change up working and cut down the walks? I feel like the walks definitely cut down towards the end of the year. Is that due to repeating the same delivery to the plate?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      Usually the Pirates have younger guys focus on one breaking pitch. It’s mostly a curve, but sometimes it’s a slider. In a few cases, players started with a curve, then moved to a slider to get a better out pitch. Jason Creasy and Ryan Hafner added sliders prior to this year, and it worked well in both cases. Luis Heredia went from a slow, mid-70s curve to more of a slurve in the low-to-mid 80s.

      Glasnow’s control issues do involve repeating his delivery. Most of it is just getting used to his body.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    I am cautiously optimistic with Tyler G. A RH Randy Johnson? That’s be awesome if he even approached that level.

    As Deacs says above…harnessing his control (or at least being effectively wild) is the key.

  • deacs

    Even though prospects aren’t locks it’s great to think of a time where Cole, Taillon and Glasnow are holding down the fort making guys like Kingham and Heredia possible “back end” guys. Maybe another Glasnow type will pop up this year like a Blake Taylor. Why not.

    • deacs

      Also I have a size 13 shoe and it’s a pain to find them. I wonder what the hell Glasnow has to go through to get anything besides cleats.

  • blackmax

    Some columnists and coaches say that a sudden increase in velocity can lead to a serious arm injury. The theory seems to be that sometimes the body can’t fully handle the newfound strain on the shoulder and arm. I wonder if that’s a serious concern and whether there’s anything that the Pirates could do to prevent it from happening to a pitcher like Glasnow.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      I think that largely depends on the throwing style and the arm action. If a guy has clean arm action, then the extra velocity doesn’t come with a lot of strain.

      In the Pirates’ case, they have a program in place aimed at strengthening the arms of their pitchers. That involves lifting, long toss, and throwing everyday. There’s a reason why they have so many guys throwing mid-90s or higher right now. Their approach also hasn’t led to many serious injuries, which I believe is due to the focus on strengthening the arm.

      • michaelbro8

        Don’t forget the running through sand pits and spraying with hoses !

  • Kozy21

    I wonder what kind of progression Glasnow will have this year regarding promotions. One would think he will most assuredly finish the season in AA if not AAA. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he’s in the rotation come June, 2015. The Bucs will have had Cole in June, 2013; Taillon in June, 2014; Kingham most likely in September, 2014; and Glasnow in June, 2015. That’s pretty incredible.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      The Pirates have had two examples in recent years. Jameson Taillon moved to Double-A at the end of July during the 2012 season after some struggles initially at the level. Nick Kingham was promoted about a month earlier, right at mid-season 2013, although Kingham didn’t have any issues at the level.

      I think Glasnow moves to Double-A next year. The question is when? That question will probably be answered based on how quickly he adjusts to the level.

      I think your MLB timeline is correct.

      • deacs

        I know he doesn’t have the highest upside out of Taillon or Glasnow but is Kingham the most polished of the 3 or has the least to work on? Or is that Taillon at this point?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

          Kingham has a high floor. Not as much upside as the other two, but less risk. There’s not as much risk with Taillon right now, but Glasnow still comes with a lot of risk since he still has areas of his game that need to be polished.

  • leadoff

    Glasnow would have been up had been in the Cards organization, they don’t require 3 pitches, one good one and a couple of show me pitches, all of the their young pitchers seem to be that way, throwing hard being the main criteria.

    • SteveW

      No he wouldn’t. Not a chance. Glasnow just turned 20. All of the Cardinals’ young pitchers are 22 (Wacha and C. Martinez) or 23 (S. Miller or Rosenthal). If the Pirates follow the Cardinals’ model, you won’t see him in the majors until September of 2015 or, more likely 2016.

  • CalipariFan506

    I’d like to see Glasnow slowed down a bit. He only threw 110 innings this season and IMO he may need two more full seasons in the minors. At his age, that wouldn’t be a crazy idea.

  • deacs

    If he continues to dominate though and clears all hurdles (no pun intended) I would imagine he’ll be hard to keep down past the summer of 2015. The one hesitation I would think would be if he doesn’t build up his innings then would you really want to bring him up only to shut him down early?

    And my next question is how did they determine Cole was more than able to go past the whatever % increase in innings from 2012 to 2013? There was all that talk of shutting him down but then Cole just got better. My buddy always talks about “low stress innings”. Does management look at pitch count now vs. IP as the main criteria?

  • ChirpCity

    I’m almost surprised that this kind of breakout doesn’t happen more often with prep players. I was an athlete in high school (although I didn’t play baseball and I’m aware if the differences between throwing a baseball and playing other sports) and once I got to college and got on a ‘real’ training program with professionals, I saw huge improvements in practically all aspects of my physical performance. There’s just a huge amount of physical growth that occurs between 18 and 22, and most high school programs aren’t equipped the same way a division 1 college or a pro system are. The results seen with glasnow reflect very well on the pirates system in that they’re equipped to take a young athlete and help him reach/maximize his potential. Hats off to the pirates for this success and for sticking to their plan with prep players. I expect more of the same in the future.