Tyler Glasnow was the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Tyler Glasnow Saw a Change in 2013

Tyler Glasnow was the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Tyler Glasnow was the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

By the middle of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates could have two pitchers in the majors with top of the rotation upside. Gerrit Cole joined the Pirates in 2013, and started looking like an ace by the end of the season. Jameson Taillon could make the same jump this year, and also has the potential to be a top of the rotation guy. The Pirates could also have a third future ace on the way not long into the future.

Everyone knew about Cole and Taillon heading into the 2013 season. Tyler Glasnow, on the other hand, was just one of many tall, projectable right-handed pitchers the Pirates had drafted and signed with an over-slot bonus. He showed flashes of his potential at the end of the 2012 season, and had a high ceiling with the potential to be an ace, but he was still more on the raw side. Then came his big breakout year.

Glasnow went to West Virginia in 2013 and absolutely dominated. He put up a 2.18 ERA in 111.1 innings, with an incredible 36.3% strikeout rate. The right-hander featured a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 99 MPH at times, along with a plus curveball. He had the fastball velocity by the end of the 2012 season. He always had the curveball. A big difference in 2013 was the progression of his changeup.

“[The Pirates] put a big stress on that, so once I started throwing that and getting a feel for that pitch, it sort of made my other pitches open up and it made my fastball better,” Glasnow said about his changeup. “Throwing a fastball all the time at the beginning of the season wasn’t working. Once I incorporated two pitches, everything started to fall into place.”

Glasnow didn’t have much trust in the pitch at the beginning of the year. That might be due to the fact that he didn’t have much of a need for a changeup in high school, and wasn’t familiar with the pitch coming into pro ball. As he got more comfortable with the pitch in 2013, it gave him more options, allowing him to remain dominant throughout the year, even if his fastball wasn’t working.

“As I started throwing it, I just slowly fell in love with it,” Glasnow said. “The thing is too, when my fastball wasn’t working and my changeup was, it was always something I could go to. If my changeup wasn’t working and my fastball was, it was always something I could go to. As opposed to last year, if one pitch fell, I pretty much had nothing. It kind of gave me more of an arsenal, and I really enjoyed throwing it.”

The big concern with Glasnow is his control. He had a ton of strikeouts last year, but also had a lot of walks, with a 13.5% walk rate, and a 4.9 BB/9. He started the year with some major control problems, walking over six batters per nine innings in his first ten starts. As the season went on, his walks started to decrease.

Tall pitchers like Glasnow normally have control problems early in their career due to the fact that they’re getting adjusted to their bodies. Glasnow in particular went from being 5′ 7″ – 5′ 10″ as a freshman/sophomore in high school, to shooting up ten inches and sitting 6′ 7″ his junior year. That drastic change in height led to his accuracy being everywhere. He might have started to get comfortable with his body in 2013.

“I think just the consistency of finding a form that was for me, and not tweaking things and working on something else,” Glasnow said of his improving control throughout the year. “I found a good form that stuck. Now that I have a solid foundation, [it’s going to be] just maintaining that and not really any more changes.”

Glasnow could eventually be an ace, but needs to improve his control to get there. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Glasnow could eventually be an ace, but needs to improve his control to get there. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Control is going to be the big thing that Glasnow needs to become an ace. He’s got the potential for two plus pitches, and if he can add good control to that combo, and continue the improvements with his changeup, he could be on his way to being an ace. He’s already getting national attention. Glasnow should end up in most top 100 lists this off-season, and could very well find himself in a lot of top 50 lists. He said that he tried to ignore the attention during the season, but that his parents would call him up and let him know about it. As to whether he can be as good of a pitcher as Cole or Taillon, Glasnow does think he is capable of having a big upside.

“I’m going to try and I’m going to work hard as I can. If it works out, I’m going to be extremely excited,” Glasnow said. “I do feel that if I work hard enough, I will have a good upside and just maintain and everything. The accuracy is a problem now, but if I just focus on that and maintain that focus, I think everything will work out.”

Glasnow started throwing a week and a half ago. Over the off-season he was given a lifting program, which the Pirates give to all players to take home. He will continue that lifting program, and his throwing after he goes home from mini-camp. Glasnow is expected to make the jump to High-A Bradenton to start the 2014 season. Depending on his success at the level, he could find himself in Altoona by the end of the year. Nick Kingham dominated in his time in Bradenton last year, and was in Altoona by the end of June. Jameson Taillon had some early season struggles in Bradenton in 2012, but was in Altoona by the end of July.

For Glasnow to make the same jump, he’s going to need to continue to show the improvements that he saw throughout the year with his control. If the control comes quickly, he could split the 2014 season between High-A and Double-A, then start the 2015 season in Triple-A. That could put him on track to be in the majors by the middle of the 2015 season, which would be the third year in a row that the Pirates could add a top prospect to their rotation mid-season. It all starts in 2014 with Glasnow’s big followup to his big breakout year.

“Staying with my form the entire year, and more of a feel, accuracy,” Glasnow said on his goals for 2014. “Just really starting to know myself, and make adjustments better. I started doing that pretty well at the end of the season, but really just maintaining knowing myself as a pitcher.”

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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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  • glassers

    I assume that we will get a chance to see Glasnow at Pirate City . I have not seen him pitch yet but everything I have read is positive . I was surprise that he was listed as 6’8″ in the Prospects book , I was not aware that he was that tall . That tall and can throw in the mid nineties , who doesn’t like that !

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

    John Manuel on Tyler:

    “People in the office very bullish on Glasnow. Not a lot of 6-foot-7 starters in the major leagues. He’s the most likely to be a reliever in the top 10 because of his size and command issues. You don’t see a lot of big league starters who are 6-7.”

    Translation: His FLOOR is a reliever. His ceiling an ace?

    • Bucco in St. Louis

      I checked Randy Johnson’s stats. Randy’s first four full seasons in the majors, the Big Unit walked 5-6 batters per nine innings. Then the next year that ratio dropped to 3.5 batters per nine innings. He continued to get better from there. Having multiple seasons exhibiting outstanding control.

      Randy was listed as 6’10”. Yes I know Randy is a future HOF and I am not intending to compare Tyler to Randy. I was curious about Randy’s control as he is the most obvious example of a really tall MLB pitcher.

  • skliesen

    Cole, Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow & Morton is going to be a helluva a rotation in 2016!

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

    From another draftnik:

    “Glasnow can flat out bring it with his fastball, consistently touching the high 90′s and sitting 93-95, with projection to sit in the high 90′s as his frame builds.

    His curveball is extremely inconsistent and rarely thrown for a strike, but at times it’s a swing and miss pitch with big break and depth.

    Glasnow’s change is a work in progress, but has seen improvement and should at least be an average offering with time.”

    So……….which is it?

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

      Which part?

  • dr dng

    “Glasnow went to West Virginia in 2013 and absolutely dominated. He put up a 2.18 ERA in 111.1 innings, with an incredible 36.3% strikeout rate.”

    Wow! With that strikeout rate, there had to be nights when “the toastman” ran out of bread!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    I think Glasnow and Kingham will both end up being better MLB pitchers than Taillon, based on performances to date and potential. Not that Taillon will not also be very good, but I think Kingham and Glasnow will be dominant.

    • Kevin_Young

      Taillon has hands down the best secondary pitch of any of our young pitchers. That alone gives him an edge currently in potential.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        Maybe Taillon does, but it does not translate to actual performance on the field.

        • SteveW

          Not sure why you would think Kingham has outperformed Taillon based on “performances to date” or potential.

          Taillon is actually slightly younger than Kingham – but has consistently pitched at a higher minor league level every season. When adjusted for age, Taillon has had the better stats without question.

  • buster09

    BFSD : I am not what you are basing your comparison on when you are talking about Taillon vs Cole andMinor League performance. Having watched both in Altoona numerous times I along with many others watching felt more than once that Taillon’s secondary pitches just might make him the better MLB pitcher than Cole. Though a huge believer in Cole’s potential I never saw him dominate in AA either.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    wondering if the lack of good “results” for Cole & Taillon in AA and up is more from the way the staff instructs the kids.
    like taking away their slider/curve to work on their change ups etc.
    Cole surely disappointed in AAA, as have Taillon, but Cole was more than fine once they let go of his “leash” in the bigs.
    basically I’m not too worried about Taillon yet

    • buster09

      Mike C : you are correct to a certain extent about orginizational game plans,but in the case of Taillon,along with Pimental and Kingham, when they were in Altoona,they also had some very weak defensive support at both the corner outfield and infield positions for several months with Curry in LF and Dickerson in RF, Lambo at 1st and Adalberto Santos at 3d base. Once Polanco came up and Curry was injured,they put Rojas Jr. at a corner OF spot and Lambo mainly in RF with Howard at 1st base,and the OF defense stabilized. But to be honest,the 3d baseman hurt them all.

    • SteveW

      Taillon’s AAA stats may have disappointed some – depending on how inflated their expectations were – but he certainly did not pitch badly. In a very small sample size (6 games), he struck out 37 in 37 innings while walking 16. Held opponents to a .223 batting average. And he was 21 years-old – facing much older hitters.

  • CalipariFan506

    Cole’s last 19 innings in AAA were scoreless. He had one bad outing in the 2011 playoffs then a bad one against Pawtucket in May of 2012. Other than that he wasn’t disappointing in AAA in the least bit.

    What it comes down to for all these guys is that they throw hard enough to where if they can have good fastball command they’ll all be 1 or 2 starters and other than Glasnow, all have proven that they probably will be able to do that. And Glasnow is the youngest so I’m not worried with him in the least.

  • jon6er

    For many years we just had to wonder if our top pitcher pick could even compete at the major league level let alone be a top of a rotation guy. And practically all of them didn’t get there for one reason or another. So its great to see people arguing about all these guys and the potential for a rotation of #1 and 2 starters in a couple of years. Add to it the outfield potential of having 3 center fielders patrolling the PNC outfield and the future looks bright.

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