The 2011 draft made headlines for the Pittsburgh Pirates for two main reasons. They selected Gerrit Cole first overall, and gave him a record-setting bonus of $8 M. They also took Josh Bell in the second round, then gave him a $5 M bonus, which is a record for the biggest bonus outside of the first round. But the best story of that draft could end up being their fifth round pick — a projectable prep pitcher who was signed for $600,000.

You know that pitcher as Tyler Glasnow. He’s currently the top prospect in the organization, and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He rates higher than Josh Bell in terms of prospect status, and he could end up being better than Cole in the majors. Glasnow has opened a lot of eyes the last two years, posting ridiculous strikeout numbers with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, and his curveball, which can be a plus offering when he’s commanding the pitch.

Glasnow has soared up the prospect lists, and has gotten a lot of attention for his strikeouts. But he still has a little ways to go before he reaches the majors, and a few specific things to work on.

The first thing is the obvious — he needs to have success in the upper levels. That process started in the Arizona Fall League, where Glasnow had his first taste of upper level competition.

“It was pretty reassuring going in there,” Glasnow said about his time in the AFL. “You can tell it’s the same game, no matter where it is. It didn’t seem too different than where I was at. I know they swing a lot more in the fall league because it’s a showcase league, but I didn’t see much of a difference.”

During his time in the AFL, Glasnow focused on his off-speed pitches, specifically focusing on improving his changeup and throwing the curveball for first pitch strikes. The changeup has been a big focus for the last year, with Glasnow spending a lot of time working on the pitch in Bradenton. He worked in the AFL with pitching coach Justin Meccage and Minor League Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell to improve the pitch, and Glasnow said that “something just clicked” in the final week with his changeup.

“I think it was the repetition over time,” Glasnow said about how the changeup improved. “I used to just throw it like a fastball, and I used to probably just let up, and I wasn’t really confident in it. It used to be a speed thing. It was an alright changeup, but it was really fast, so I turned it over like you were supposed to do. I never even tried it.”

The pitch went from sitting in the upper 80s and touching 89, to sitting in the 80-84 MPH range. Meccage was encouraged by the progress of the pitch and where it is heading, saying that the pitch is also starting to show some life, with a late fade, which is always a good thing for a changeup. Glasnow worked with Meccage in Bradenton last year, and the two will make the jump to Altoona to work together again this year.

Glasnow has also made some adjustments to his delivery, going back to an approach he was more comfortable with during the season. That approach involves throwing across his body a little bit and being really loose, which allows him to finish out in front more and get extended to the plate. He was doing well when he used this approach during the season.

“Right now I feel the best I ever have with accuracy, consistency, delivery-wise,” Glasnow said of the approach.

Control and a changeup are going to be key for Glasnow, especially when he gets to the upper levels and faces hitters who have seen much better stuff in their careers. That’s not to say everyone has stuff like Glasnow. His long arms and long stride make it seem like he’s already at the plate when he delivers, and I’ve talked to hitters who have said his pitching is like watching the ball fall from the sky, due to his height and steep downhill plane. All of that, plus the ability to hit 100 MPH, makes it extremely difficult to deal with Glasnow’s fastball. Controlling that fastball, and throwing people off with an effective changeup, will allow him to reach his upside.

I conducted two interviews with Glasnow. The second one came the other day after his first live batting practice, talking about where his stuff is so far in camp, and talking about some of the adjustments he made. I also talked with Meccage about the changes made during the AFL. Both interviews can be seen below, along with clips of Glasnow throwing during his live BP on Tuesday.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. When Kingham, Tallion, Glasnow, Sampson, etc. are ready…who gets traded from the group of Locke, Morton and Worley?

  2. That 2011 draft is looking pretty good. Cole, Bell, Glasnow, Holmes, and Creasy. Who knows if anyone other than Cole will pan out but Bell and Glasnow are looking like good bets to be 1st Division starters, Creasy is knocking on the door, and Holmes was looking like a Kingham lite. I think a successful draft is when you are able to draft to MLB regulars and this draft includes 3 potential stars. Other than the 2009 draft, which got us more in trades than anything else, Huntington’s drafts have been excellent. The first 6 picks of the 2008 draft were Pedro, Tanner Scheppers (who didn’t sign), Mercer, d’Arnaud, Justin Wilson, and Robbie Grossman. That’s some solid drafting.

  3. Hard not to get excited about a rotation with Glasnow, Cole, Taillon and Liriano as early as next season. Lots of God given talent on display on a daily basis.

    It’s good to be a Pirates fan.

    • I can hardly wait for the EL season to start so as to get a good look at Glasnow SK. That is if it ever stops snowing or the temp gets over 20 degrees.

      • Unless the earth stops tilting your direction, you got nothing to worry about.

        But I will say whatever was done to counteract Global Warming has worked! May need to fire up some of those old Steel Mills again to hasten the return of Spring.

        • Wish you were right Scott. The Arctic is averaging 10 degrees above normal this year. We get their super cold air, the Arctic gets Europe’s warmer air, and the West Coast completely skips out on winter.

            • Weather and climate arent the same thing. Also, that isnt an accurate definition of weather to begin with. Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere at a specific time, such as the weather is 10 degrees today.

              Climate is weather traced over a long period of time, such as the global average temperature over a year. So it can be a harsh winter in the Northeast US and still be the warmest year on record overall.

              Most importantly, its a baseball blog.

      • What about all those poor bastards on other teams that have to face Glasnow’s fastball when it is 40 degrees early in the season.

  4. “Glasnow worked with Meccage in Bradenton last year, and the two will make the jump to Altoona to work together again this year.”

    Tim – I noticed a number of these kinds of moves (coaches moving up a level) when the Pirates’ minor league staffs were announced. Is this kind of thing common across professional baseball, or is it a new angle on player development that the Pirates are trying?

    • I don’t know how other teams have done it, but the Pirates have been doing this for a few years. Back in 2009 when I first started this site they had P.J. Forbes as the manager in Lynchburg. He moved up with almost the entire team to Altoona the next year.

    • In this case, I think there are some big benefits. Meccage worked with Glasnow, Creasy, Kuhl, Kuchno, and a lot of other guys last year who will be in Bradenton this year. Every pitching coach is on the same page, so a new coach wouldn’t throw off the development. But it’s probably best to keep a familiar coach with that many players.

      Also, I think this is a sign that Meccage is rising as a coach in the system. He seems to be more involved in overall stuff now than a few years ago.

      • Tim, I remember there were quite a few complaints in Altoona early in this FO’s organization of the Minor league system with their moving coaches in and out. Most of that was, quite obviously now, due to misunderstanding their motives in doing so. The best example was the way the organization got pounded when they let Matt Wahlbach go after the Curve won the EL championship in 2010. You would have thought they had fired Jim Leyland.

        • He knew how to win, but I think his approach was more different than the Pirates were willing to put up with. I knew and liked Jeff Andrews from his time in Tennessee around the Knoxville/Oak Ridge area. He barely got unpacked in Pittsburgh before he was on his way out the door.

          • I knew Andrews a little myself emjay. He was a great guy, we used to talk about, and listen to, ’70’s country/rock more than a little. The last time I talked to him face to face was in Sarasota, and he knew he really had his hands full with the staff they had given him to work with. They were awful. One guy was fat and out of shape, one was a head case, and then there was Matt Morris !

          • By the way, it was Walbeck, not the spelling I used ! He didn’t think he had to follow their instructions on how to use the pitcher’s. Then he got fired from his next job during the season.

    • Really if his changeup does turn the corner and the control continues to improve he could be the most dominant pitcher in the rotation by June 2016. Still, I think Cole has plenty more upside so they will just have to deal with having two aces…unless Taillon is one too. I’d settle for 3 #2’s but it is exciting to dream about.

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