First Pitch: The Next Wave of Pirates Starters Making Their Way Through Altoona

The starting pitching has been a highlight for the Pittsburgh Pirates early in the season. As the season goes on, their depth will only get stronger, with guys like Nick Kingham and Adrian Sampson becoming available, along with the possibility of Jameson Taillon by the end of the season.

Beyond that, there is more pitching on the way. The obvious guy to watch is Tyler Glasnow, who was fantastic tonight. You can read my report on his start in the Prospect Watch, and I’ll have more on him tomorrow morning. But the rest of the Altoona rotation has been solid early in the season, with several guys who have a legit shot of making the majors.

Jason Creasy was the first guy I saw on this current trip. He didn’t have his best control, which means he walked more than two batters — something that has happened twice in his 63 pro starts. His curveball looked sharper in Thursday’s outing, leading to more strikeouts, which is something he will need in order to remain a starter. Creasy has back of the rotation potential in the majors, making him one of the next wave of depth options in the mold of Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler, or a really strong bullpen option.

Then there’s Chad Kuhl, who I will see tomorrow for the first time outside of Spring Training. There’s not much mystery here. He’s your typical pitch-to-contact sinkerball pitcher who gets a lot of weak contact and easy ground balls. Like Creasy, he needs to improve his breaking stuff in order to increase his strikeout total, but that’s less of a focus here, since Kuhl primarily works off the sinker.

I haven’t seen Angel Sanchez during the regular season, and won’t see him on this trip, but Wilbur Miller documented his start on Wednesday. He’s got a lot of upside with his arm, and the Pirates obviously like him enough to claim him off waivers, give him an invite to MLB camp, and then give him a rotation spot.

From there you’ve got Zack Dodson, who is the lone remaining member of the 2009 prep pitcher class. He’s shown some potential in the past, and got off to a nice start this year. I don’t have him ranked up there with Creasy and Kuhl, who fall just outside of the top 30 prospects, but he’s still got a chance to reach the majors in some capacity. John Kuchno was moved to the bullpen this year. He’s a sinkerball guy who hit 96 in his last outing in relief, and profiles as a Jared Hughes type of reliever. The other bullpen standout is Yhonathan Barrios, who works in the mid-90s and can hit upper 90s, with some promise on his slider and changeup.

Glasnow is going to make a big impact, and his arrival in the majors is expected. But as we’ve seen during the past few seasons, it’s important to have starting pitching depth. The Pirates project to have a strong enough rotation that guys like Creasy and Kuhl will have a difficult time cracking the Opening Day roster as a starter. But they could serve as the next in line for the Cumpton and Sadler roles, which is very important to keep the team contending when starters go down with injuries.

**Prospect Watch: Glasnow Impresses With Great Command, Sadler Pitches Well In Return To Indy. Live reports from Ryan in Indianapolis, and myself in Altoona.

**How The Pirates Will Split Playing Time Between Tony Sanchez And Elias Diaz. Ryan Palencer reports on that from Indianapolis, with quotes from Clint Hurdle and Dean Treanor on how each will be used.

**Site Updates: Minors Coverage, New MLB Writer, Gift Subscriptions, Free Articles. All of the latest updates on the site, including our new MLB writer.

**Francisco Cervelli Gives His Thoughts On The “New” A.J. Burnett. Burnett is no longer the power pitcher he was in New York the last time Cervelli caught him. Cervelli and Burnett discuss the difference, and how Cervelli has adjusted.

**Chris Stewart Reinstated From Disabled List, Tony Sanchez Sent To Indianapolis

  • Thanks tim, have a safe journey.

  • Glasnow to Indy soon??

  • The 0 in the walks column for Glasnow is very encouraging. Going to need to throw the change up a bit more as the season goes on though. He can get by with 2 plus pitches in AA, but he’ll need a third pitch to reach his ceiling in Pittsburgh.