First Pitch: Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham Should Be Untouchable

The way it looks right now, the need for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline might be pitching. That need could be reduced if Jeff Locke continues pitching well (3.46 ERA / 3.54 xFIP after tonight, so no regression is expected this year), and/or if Vance Worley turns out to be back to his pre-2013 self. That said, the Pirates currently have a rotation made up of Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez, Locke, and Worley. That doesn’t scream “playoff rotation”, and things really won’t change much when the struggling Francisco Liriano returns.

The Pirates will hopefully have a lot of questions answered by the end of the month. Are Locke and Worley the real deal? Will Cole and Liriano start pitching like top of the rotation guys? These questions could determine how big of a need starting pitching will be.

Looking at the long-term, the Pirates have a bigger need for starting pitching. Their 2015 rotation currently includes Cole and Morton, plus Locke and Worley if they turn out to be legit. Basically it’s the same situation the Pirates will be in at the deadline this year, only the Pirates will need an upgrade for multiple years, rather than two months.

One solution would be to trade for someone with multiple years of control, like David Price. That could solve the rotation problems this year, and could fill a spot next year. The problem here is that this type of deal would cost a lot in prospects. And considering the type of prospects the Pirates have, they might be paying too much in the long-term, and not getting enough in the short-term.

Two of the biggest trade chips the Pirates would have are Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow. Kingham has been on fire in Triple-A, and might be a second half solution for the Pirates if they ignore the desire to get a name, and ignore the philosophy that you can only upgrade the team by making a trade. Glasnow has been tearing up the Florida State League, and could be on the move to Altoona by the end of the month. He’s looking like a potential top of the rotation guy.

I can’t see the Pirates landing someone like Price without dealing at least one of their top pitching prospects. This is where we get into the balance of short-term needs vs long-term needs. The Pirates have some need for pitching, although with their current five, plus guys like Brandon Cumpton, Kingham, Stolmy Pimentel, and Casey Sadler, the “need” would actually be a need for comfort. They don’t have any sure things in the rotation right now, and they don’t have three top of the rotation guys like they had last year.

A key difference this year could be the offense. The Pirates have been hitting well lately, finishing with one of the top five offenses in the majors during the month of June. They also had one of the top five pitching staffs, but I think people would be more confident in the offense continuing their success. Last year the Pirates needed three top of the rotation guys, because the offense was struggling. This year they might be able to get by with several reliable starters. That reduces the need for a starter at the deadline.

The way I see it, the Pirates would be much stronger in the long-term by keeping both Glasnow and Kingham. Add in Jameson Taillon next year, and then factor in what is already in the majors (Gerrit Cole, plus whoever else turns out to be legit), and the Pirates might not have to worry about starting pitching for a long time.

A starter like David Price would be nice right now, but a rotation full of young, top of the rotation guys in the future would be better. This is a similar situation to a few years ago, when the Pirates had Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco coming up, with the dream of a star outfield. That outfield has now arrived. The next step is adding these potential top of the rotation pitchers. The first one arrived last year. The second one should have arrived this year, and could arrive next summer. Kingham profiles as a strong number three, with the chance to be a number two due to his control. Glasnow has a lower floor, but a very high ceiling. Not all of these guys will work out, but there’s enough talent in this group that the Pirates should be set if they keep them all together.

Glasnow and Kingham should be untouchable. If the Pirates need pitching help, just turn to Kingham. If they can get a top pitcher without giving up a huge piece of the future, then go for it. But as much as I’d like to see someone like David Price added for the next year and a half, I think the better sight would be a future rotation that could challenge for the best in the game, just like the current outfield looks to be the best trio in the game in the not too distant future. That combination together could make the Pirates some serious contenders. And they can still contend in the short-term without dealing the future of their rotation.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: JaCoby Jones and Matt Hague Lead a Night of Home Runs

**July 2nd Preview: The Pirates’ Successful Approach in the International Market

**Nick Kingham is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month For June

**Josh Bell is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month For June

**Prospect Highlights: First AAA Homer For Rojas, Double From Stetson Allie

**Minor League Schedule: Casey Sadler Has Been Even Better Lately

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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  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    Good article. Here’s hoping they stay the course, making only a minor upgrade. Fortunately, I think NH understands the concept of “untouchables”, and keeping the window open for as many years as possible (aka the Rays model).

    It’s true the Rays never won a ring, but they were close enough. If the Bucs are going to mortgage the future to win now, let it be in 2015, 2016 or 2017. No matter what they do, they won’t have as good of a chance at the ring this year as they will starting next year, when all of the young studs are up.

    The dynastic days are near, but not quite here. Steady as she goes.

  • RB

    Kingham is a guy whose stock seems to keep going up. Does his current domination of AAA, especially if he keeps it up, suggest that he may on a trajectory that will land him more firmly in the number two camp? Do we have any reports on any improvements in his game that might account for his astonishing performance in AAA so far, for instance, increase in velocity or more effective secondary pitches?

    • Lee Young

      I have lonnnnnnng been a Kingham supporter. Solid #3 or #2 is not out of the question in my mind.

    • Nick Rexilius

      RB, I think that he might be on a trajectory to be an average #2. However, I think he will fit in as a very good #3 if Taillon is as advertised. It would be Cole #1 Taillon #2 Kingham #3. That’s awesome, if we have a guy that would be a #2 with a bunch of other teams, as a middle rotation guy. It really helps, especially when it comes playoff time!

  • Jsdspud

    I don’t see Glasnow moving up to AA until his control improves. He still has one bad start out of four or five where he walks too many batters. He is still young, so there is no need to have him work on control issues in Altoona.

    • Lee Young

      Don’t say that!!! The Curve come to Harrisburg next weekend and I want to see him!!!

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Hitters Josh Bell and Austin Meadows should also be untouchable. The Pirates have always been able to come up with decent pitching from the market, but they have almost never been able to find good hitting from anywhere besides their own farm system, and only lately. The few they ever found on the market, they got lucky on (Giles, Bay) and they were wasted by never having any other decent hitters to protect them from being pitched around in the line-up.

    Since Jeff King & Orlando Merced (and even they weren’t much) in 1991 through 2009 (McCutchen), what hitters have they produced? Nothing of any value, that’s why they sucked for 20+ years. They finally are getting a few hitting prospects in the system now and that is why they are contending.

    I would not be in favor of giving up any of them for a mere season & the remaining months of this year of someone like David Price.

    They can be contenders for the next 7-8 years with the nucleus they have in their current outfield and these prospects. It would be terrible to give that away for merely 1 & 1/2 years (at the most) of something so chancy/volatile as the continued good health of one ace pitcher’s arm.

    • moose7195

      The problem with making Bell and Meadows untouchable is: where are you
      going to put them? Maybe Bell goes to 1B, but they have no available
      spots in the outfield for Meadows with Cutch, Marte, and Polanco already
      there long term. It’s not like you can hold Meadows back until 2020
      when Marte’s guaranteed years are done. So it may be necessary to trade one of them in the near future

      • Monsoon Harvard

        These situations always work themselves out. Injuries, bench, and hitters don’t produce forever…there is always a place on a team for more good hitting.

        Thinking they had enough hitting has been their downfall ever since 1980. It was all those good hitters in the 70’s that made them the powerhouse team they were and world champions twice… and even then they had no single ace pitchers.

        • SportOMania

          Blass, Ellis, Candelaria, Blyleven.

        • Spa City

          Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven’s WAR for his seasons with the Bucs were 5.3 in ’78, 3.3 in ’79 and 4.0 in ’80. If you don’t consider Blyleven an “ace” pitcher, you are defining that term very narrowly.

      • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

        Meadows, even he continues to develop, would replace McCutchen. Tough to say but that is the reality of baseball. The Pirates can’t afford him at the that point, having possible multiple MVPs.

    • Dave

      Kevin Young, Jason Kendal and Al Martin are the only ones I can think of. I am betting that was more of a rhetorical question, but it was fun/sad to try to answer your question.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        You can throw in Aramis Ramirez even though they pissed him down their legs by letting him go. They never recovered from that one.
        Kevin Young got released but then got on steroids and came back as a free agent. Al Martin was an Atlanta Braves farmhand originally. Kendall is valid, but never really had any power.
        Jeff King took years to finally start hitting and once he did they traded him. Merced actually wasn’t really that good.
        That was about it in 20 years. Lots of wasted draft picks in that time. Moises Alou would have helped if they’d kept him.

    • csnumber23

      You are forgetting Jose Guillen. He was a pretty good ballplayer but yeah there wasn’t a lot from the early 90’s thru 2008

    • Simon Weaver

      Totally agree. True .300 MLB hitters. They might end up being untouchable. Invested 5M in Bell and he is killin it tough to trade that and Meadows is the guy you get when you took Appel fiasco so it would be nice to say yeah we chose… wisely

  • Scott Kliesen

    I believe your opinion is shared by the vast majority including Pirates FO, Tim. If Pirates were going to gut the farm system for a Star player, they would’ve done it last year w Stanton.

    Considering Pirates have best record in MLB for last two months, a risky move like making a deal for Price is even more remote.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    Stay the course!

  • ElGaupo77

    While I don’t disagree with Kingham…

    Pirate pitching prospects that were “untouchable” at some point: Kris Benson, Ian Snell, Zack Duke, Paul Maholm, Kyle McPhearson, Oliver Perez, Phil Irwin, Justin Wilson, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, etc.

    Realize what each of those players could have obtained if they were traded at peak value.

    You could trade pitching prospects and sign Volquez’s each year and conceivably be much future ahead in the long run.

    • piraddict

      Peak Value is usually around age 30 after 4 to 5 years MLB experience when you can project another 4 to 5 years of productive years ahead. The only pitchers that fit that criteria are Liriano, Volquez and in a year or two, Morton. Cole, Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow, Wilson etc. aren’t even close to peak value. Talking about trading them now is like trying to pick apples in early July. They are not in season yet.

      • Spa City

        Peak value is usually between ages 26 to 29. Most pitchers begin to decline by age 30.

        • piraddict

          Peak performance may occur in the late twenties, but there are exceptions. But great pitchers are usually locked up and are not available for acquisition when they are in their late twenties.. A players Peak Value in terms of the size of a contract he commands is usually after his extension which takes out his arbitration years ends. Which is usually when the player is about 30. Peak performance and peak value are two different things.

          • Spa City

            Ok.

      • ElGaupo77

        Maybe 10 years ago but not now. You can probably trade David Price for Nick Kingham straight up. Kingham has 6.5 years control and price has 1.5. Price is owed $25M for the next 1.5 years while Kingham will cost less than $2M for the next 3.5.

        Contracts make instantaneous peak value probably where Cole is right now.

        • piraddict

          The Pirates shouldn’t take such a trade. The cumulative WAR of Kingham over his six years of control will likely greatly outweigh the WAR of Price in a year and a half. If you look at it from a dollars per WAR perspective the trade would look even worse. In the financial world, if you are only talking money, you can perform a net present value analysis discounting future cash flows and determine the value today of returns tomorrow given an assumed discount rate. How do you determine the appropriate discount rate on the enjoyment of baseball? I could argue that the appropriate discount rate should be zero, rejecting lonely and others perspective that only today’s season matters (or at least decisions should be skewed towards the present (gotta win today)). I am more interested in maximizing the total number of wins over the decades, in which case the best approach is to have a net gain of cumulative WAR in every trade that you make.

  • BlueBomber72

    It would be hard for me not to part with Glasnow or Kingham to get Price. The Pirates are contenders. They are in the hunt this year, and there is no reason they shouldn’t be better next year. If I have a team that I expect to be in the playoffs, then I would start thinking about how we are going to win in the playoffs. Right now the Pirates do not have a #1 starter who can match up with the Wainwrights and Kershaws of the world. We saw that last year against the Cardinals when Wainwright dominated us twice. If we want to win, then we need someone who can match-up with other #1’s and give us a chance to win those games. I wouldn’t be content to just make the playoffs.

    Also, the same team that scouted and developed Glasnow and Kingham is still in place. There is no reason to think that the Pirates could not duplicate the success that they had with these two. Trust the system.

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

    Winning in the playoffs is about Pitching. No need to move any one of them. You have two in the majors that are filling the 1-3 with Cole or the 3-5 with Morton. You have a stable of pitchers coming up or with little Major league experience: Tallion, Kingham, Pimentel, and Glasnow who look like they could be 1-3 starters and you have Cumpton, Sadler, Worley and Locke who look to fill the 4-5. That is ten pitchers to fill 5 spots plus 1. With Glasnow being the only one below AAA. By this time next year it will be clearer. The fact is you need 6 starters due to injuries and innings control. So that leaves you with 4 on the outside.

    2016 as the year to maximize your talent. That is the year you make a move if needed. Everything is pointed to that year. Morton, Davis, Walker and Alvarez are in their last year of control. McCutchen a year later. You have a year and half for Cole to develop into a possible ace. You could have a year and half of Kingham in the MLB along with a year of Tallion. The fifth spot filled by your pick from that list.
    Offensively, Polanco and Marte have had more time learning the game at the Major League Level. SS is Mercers or Hason and Bell could be contributing in some small parts. That is the year you make a trade for the superstar, whether it is in the rotation or a bat. It maybe the time to leverage a top prospect for a Price or whoever.

    or if they play bad that becomes the year of the fire sell!!

    • smurph

      I agree, myson. Right now they are not under any pressure to move someone. Assuming none of their top prospects gets an injury (huge assumption), by this time next year or after the 2015 season, they will likely be in a position to move one or two of those guys for a dominant pitcher or hitter. Right now I don’t move top prospects for a guy you only get for 1 1/2 seasons. Maybe next year at this point I do.

  • leadoff

    This team can go a long way this year with a dominant closer, something they do not have, yes they can try this guy or that guy, but they should not be in experimental mode with this team, get a Huston Street and give something good up to get him, they will not have to give up the farm to get him but they would have to give up one top 10 and a throw-in at the very least to get him. Since everyone is asking about Street I am sure his value is starting to skyrocket.

  • John Lease

    No pitcher in A ball should be untouchable. It all depends what you get. Frankly no player anywhere should be untouchable, if you think you have an accurate scouting system. I haven’t seen any evidence of that, but that would be the goal. Cumpton is more than adequate as a ML starter, the days of having to force feed guys are over. I don’t see any reason why Volquez couldn’t be extended either. He’s seen a turnaround, and might want to remain a Pirate. You should always listen to what another GM says, the right deal might be too good to pass up.

  • SportOMania

    I agree they should be untouchable for any pitcher with just 1.5 years of control left. If the opportunity presented itself for a top of the rotation pitcher with 3.5 or more years of control I would listen.

    Also, I would trade any 2 pitchers in the system for a young high quality shortstop or catcher who has already signed an extension or has a substantial amount of team controlled years.

    • Cecil.

      The reason the Bucs were contenders last year and are able to contend this year is because of the pitching depth they’ve developed.
      No reason to pay the cost for 1 1/2 years of admittedly an excellent pitcher. You’ll be sorry for years to come.
      Now if he can shore up the bullpen, that’s a different story.

  • Ecbucs

    I agree about Glasnow and Kingham being untouchable. It isn’t a guarantee but it is possible that Kingham is on a roll and he might be able to perform close to what Cole or Michael Wacha did last year. That is the kind of boost you would expect from someone like Price.

    It all depends upon whether the Bucs think Kingham is making progress to that level.

  • @BuccoSharkTank

    I believe the Pirates should make a trade for David Price. I have outlined the whos, whys, facts, and figures here: http://buzzntheburgh.com/pirates-trade-david-price/

    • B Thomas

      If you don’t want to give up Glasnow or Kingham which I wouldn’t I would try to package Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Harold Ramirez, Luis Heredia and Adrian Sampson. Yea 5 prospects for 1 guy seems ridiculous but these prospects are coming from depth. Bell and Hanson are both top 50 hitting prospect per their positions and Ramirez, Heredia are all very nice young prospects with very high upsides.Sampson has performed this year and could be cracking the Rays rotation in a year and half.

      The loss of Bell and Ramirez would hurt the depth in the OF but we already have the big 3, plus Meadows, Garcia, Joe, Barnes, Luplow, De La Cruz, etc. At SS you lose Hanson which would be the biggest loss in this trade in my opinion, but you have Mercer under control, then the prospects JaCoby Jones, Cole Tucker and Adrian Valerio. All I’m saying is the Pirates can afford to trade these guys for Price or a pitcher like Price. I love keeping my prospects but when you have depth you can cash in these types of situations. NH would be wise to do so this season.

      • @BuccoSharkTank

        I could see your idea working and I’d hate to lose Hanson, but I think Price makes us a legitimate contender for 2014 and 2015. He’s an impact talent that we can afford now and next year. And we have the chips to make a move without moving Glasnow or Kingham.

  • Spa City

    Nonsense. If the Rays would accept an offer of Nick Kingham and (for example) Josh Bell, Tony Sanchez and JaCoby Jones for David Price, the Bucs should jump on it and never look back. 1.5 years of Price followed by extra draft picks when he inevitable declines a QO is worth it. The Bucs are finally relevant, and the fan base deserves to see high-level baseball.
    Remember – there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

  • Spa City

    I understand why Glasnow is an exciting prospect. He is very difficult to hit and gets a ton of strikeouts. But he has serious control problems and walks a LOT of hitters. Remember Rocket Ron Necciai, the Pirate pitching phenom who once struck out 27 batters in a 9 inning game? He had terrible control problems. Todd VanPoppel had a great fastball but never figured out how to pitch.
    I don’t mean Glasnow is worthless. I just mean he is a bit of a lottery ticket. If we could get present-day value for him in a David Price trade, we should be happy. There is a significant chance Glasnow never harnesses his pitches and winds up as a short reliever. There is a nearly 100% chance that David Price pitches like a Cy Young candidate.

    • st1300b

      So did Nolan Ryan. Glasnow goes nowhere.

      • Spa City

        Sure he does. Consider him gone the minute the Rays or Cubs agree. Hammel, Sanardijza or Price.

        • B Thomas

          Glasnow for Hammel huh? Good God.

        • csnumber23

          Ahhhhh Nooooo! Not in a million years! Jason Hammel LOL

          • Spa City

            Yep. It is a near certainty. Glasnow and Josh Bell for Hammel.

            • csnumber23

              And Josh Bell??? If they trade either for Jason Hammel I would vomit, let alone both.

  • st1300b

    I agree that these two should be off limits. If according to the Houston report Bud Norris was close to being worth many very good players, what then is a Brandon Cumpton, Charlie Morton, or Volquez worth?
    I would argue that Kingham’s upside is better than all three – so move them for Norris type prospects (and accept when a good offer is presented) and put Kingham in. No different really than Cole last year for those who dislike young starters. If you need another example I submit Mr. Wacha last year too.
    Youth is only a problem if they aren’t ready. Kingham is proving, and may continue to prove that he’s not only ready – but better than the other arm’s on the team. Still like Tyler better though.

  • leadoff

    Apparently you don’t see the Pirates playing high level baseball! They
    are only one of the best teams in baseball and playing like it,
    sometimes too much is expected. Baseball teams do not have a candy
    store, you don’t just go out and get what you want or need and giving
    away the farm is never a good enough reason to make a trade, if you have
    to do that you are not built good enough to win anyway.
    There is no way the Pirates should take on Prices’s salary and give away more than one top 10 prospect.

    • csnumber23

      Agrees! Well said!

  • Simon Weaver

    I’d go after Beckett in FA to be the ace. He would cost less than Price. As much as I’d love a lefty like Price they won’t pay him his 20M over 6 years so why not go with the standard 500K move high-upside 22 year old that you control for some time. The only trade moves I like is to make the OF a little more dreamier and get Buxton (very frivolous); a SS like Addy Russell, Correa, or Tulowitzki; or use Alvarez and prospects to get Longoria