First Pitch: Why You Shouldn’t Expect Tyler Glasnow in the Majors in 2015

Early this morning, Jeff Passan had a comment about Tyler Glasnow which sparked a few conversations on Twitter.

It’s true that Glasnow needs to go on the 40-man roster at the end of the year. He was drafted out of high school in 2011, making him eligible for his fifth Rule 5 draft, which is the upcoming one in December. So just from a roster angle, that makes him no different than Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Elias Diaz, or Willy Garcia last year. And if we’re going to make a connection between Glasnow being added to the 40-man roster this off-season and the possibility that he could be added to the active roster in September, then the closest comparison would be Kingham. The Pirates didn’t make this move with Kingham last year, and I don’t see it happening with Glasnow this year.

There are many reasons why I don’t see this being a possibility for Glasnow. First of all, he’s currently in Double-A, and has just four starts under his belt. They have been excellent starts, but it’s still four starts. He’s going to likely spend the entire season with Altoona. That’s just what the Pirates do with their starting pitching prospects. Every starter that has come through the system has spent at least 150 innings in Double-A, with one exception. That exception was Gerrit Cole, and the only reason he was an exception was to get him in the majors by the middle of the 2013 season.

Glasnow is expected to arrive by the middle of the 2016 season, so there’s no need to rush him through Altoona. He’s got legitimate things to work on this year, such as improving his changeup, and learning how to actually pitch, rather than just focusing on improving individual pitches with no regard for a game plan. And while two of his last three starts have featured zero walks, I’m not ready to say that his fastball command issues are a thing of the past.

But this topic comes up every year, and it’s always the same flawed argument. The argument in theory is that a top prospect could provide a boost for his team in a limited role down the stretch, increasing their chances of making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs. Here is why this theory is flawed.

1. It imagines the top prospect at his upside, and ignores where he actually is with his development. In this case, Glasnow probably won’t have any time above Double-A by the time September rolls around. He will likely have around 150 innings, which will already be an increase over his 2014 totals. Glasnow is going to be a great pitcher in the majors one day, but he’s not going to be that pitcher this year.

2. It focuses on vague strengths, and ignores key individual details. In Glasnow’s case, the focus is on his fastball velocity and his minor league stats. If that’s all you’re looking for, then you can just find any reliever with good numbers and good velocity. Blake Wood, for example, has good velocity and good numbers in Triple-A. But no one dreams about the impact Wood could make over Glasnow, mostly due to the reasons mentioned in #1.

But to this point, the focus needs to be on Glasnow, and not on two parts of his game that can be replicated by other pitchers. I’ve talked a lot with Glasnow through his career, discussing the root of his control problems. The big thing he references? Nerves. He enters every start amped up due to his nerves. Eventually he settles in, although sometimes the nerves can lead to some poor control problems and can throw him off his game.

Now imagine a pitcher that just turned 22, making the jump from Double-A to the majors, and being called upon to provide a big boost in just one inning of work. Imagine the nerves that would be at play there. When you think about it that way, it doesn’t sound as optimistic and as guaranteed as focusing just on the fastball and the strikeout numbers.

This is an issue Glasnow has been working on, and he’s doing a better job in Altoona early in the season. But there’s a big divide between Double-A and the majors. Channeling his mental game in the minors is a lot different than being expected to do the same thing at the major league level as a rookie in key situations during a playoff race. This is similar to #1. Glasnow could get there, but he’s not there now.

3. Every time a prospect is close to the majors, the expectation is that he’ll make an immediate impact on his team. And yet so many examples tell us that a prospect coming up and having immediate success is the exception, and not the rule. Gregory Polanco is a recent example of someone who came up, struggled initially, and is now starting to find some success. Gerrit Cole was far from an ace when he made his debut in 2013. Starling Marte had his struggles when he arrived in 2012.

Even if you ignore the first two points, there’s little reason to expect Glasnow to come up and instantly have success at the MLB level. There will be an adjustment period, and that’s not something you want taking place in the final month of a playoff stretch, or during the playoffs.

4. David Price. Every time this argument comes up, the argument is made that David Price made a big impact for Tampa Bay. That was back in 2008, which should tell you something. If David Price is still the example seven years later, then maybe his situation shouldn’t be seen as a guide for every single team that has a top prospect they could promote for a playoff stretch.

Price was a year older than Glasnow, and had a lot more experience under his belt. He pitched for three years in a major college conference. He pitched in big tournaments, and pitched for the US National Team. He also didn’t have the historical control issues that Glasnow has shown.

Even with all of that said, Price didn’t really make a big impact. If you look at his numbers, he had a 1.93 ERA, but a 3.90 xFIP. He benefitted from a .205 BABIP, a 79.4% strand rate, and a 6.7% HR/FB rate. The following year he struggled with a 4.42 ERA and a 4.43 xFIP after all of those numbers normalized. The Rays were very fortunate with Price. He wasn’t the David Price that we all know now. They could have very easily gotten the 2009 numbers, and I can’t imagine who the “David Price” argument would be in these cases if that happened. As for the impact, Price was worth 0.2 fWAR down the stretch, which was the same value John Holdzkom had last year. That goes to show that you don’t need a top prospect to get the David Price boost. Not to mention that boost isn’t really a big boost at all.

It sounds nice to dream about Tyler Glasnow coming up and posting his Altoona stats in the majors down the stretch, making him a key figure that will lead the Pirates to a World Series. But that’s just a dream. The reality is far less optimistic. And even if it works out like David Price, the impact isn’t going to be that great. Overall, this sounds great in theory, but doesn’t play out the same way in reality.

And honestly, the Pirates have shown they don’t take this approach. They didn’t do it with Taillon in 2013, or Kingham or Adrian Sampson last year. They also have plenty of good pitching lined up, with Kingham, Sampson, and even Jameson Taillon being in better position to provide a boost this year.

**I’ve been working on fixing a few site issues over the weekend, and would like some feedback to make sure these aren’t still issues. The first issue was that people were having problems receiving their password or changing their password. The “Forgot Password” feature wasn’t sending out e-mails, but only to some members. Others were getting the e-mails just fine. I haven’t had an e-mail with this problem since Friday, and usually I would get a few per day. So I’m hoping this has been fixed, but would appreciate it if anyone who had e-mail problems in the past could tell me if it’s working now.

There was also another issue where people weren’t staying logged in, and would have to go through the process daily, or multiple times per day. It has been difficult finding a source for this, but I applied a potential fix on Sunday. If you were having this issue, you might need to clear your cache and delete your site cookies to get the new fix.

Finally, on a minor note, for those of you who use RSS feeds, the feed should be working again after being down over the weekend.

**Prospect Watch: Barrett Barnes Returns, Cole Tucker Homers

**Gerrit Cole Named the National League Pitcher of the Month For April

**Amazing Performances From Glasnow, Bell, and Sampson This Week

**Morning Report: Updates on the 2014 Draft Picks

**Draft Prospect Watch: Duel Between Buehler and Cody Doesn’t Disappoint


  • Tim- One issue i’m having periodically is logging in, trying to post a comment, and it keeps looping me around, like i’m not logged in, but I am. Another problem i’m showing is on the “new part of the site”, the box on the lower right with the popular, latest, comments. Sometimes when i click on “latest” it just goes blank white, and other times, the articles in that section are loading too close to the bottom of the screen, being cut off by the “scroll for more” heading. I cannot scrool down as whatever option is supposed to be there, simply isn’t.

  • Tim, don’t forget this point : guys like Passan, or Olney, and others in that business can type anything they want to, and are never ever held accountable when they are wrong. Without any skin in the game so to speak, whats to lose when he makes that kind of comment ? Nothing ! He will still be called an ” expert analyst ” going forward.

  • Tim, I was going into MILB to get the box scores for the minor league teams. Now I see you have a link under each minor league affiliate. Thanks, makes me stay on PP longer. Great job.

  • Most of us at the PBC Asylum were in agreement with you, Tim.

  • playoffs, better start hitting or this whole glasnow point is mute. but if we need a starter in late july wouldn’t it be smart to bring up your number 1 prospect than to trade for a starter. tim baseball is changing, teams promote for need all the time, 97mph fastball and great slider plays in the majors .

  • I understand both sides of the argument. My biggest concern would be the innings aspect believe it or not. I don’t have a bunch of data to back it up but Cole was the only guy I can remember that really exceeded his prior year innings total (although someone will probably prove me wrong). Plus as much as I’d love to believe his control problems are gone, that’s probably not the case. But if he does continue to put up insane numbers can he get to AAA sooner than later? Tim I believe you said he would most likely get to AAA to get additional innings if Indy made the playoffs. If he somehow continues this course do you see an earlier promotion to AAA? Even if he’s locked into the June 2016 majors promotion, I’m more than curious to see if he can do this in AAA and get more innings there before he comes up. And by the way – whether he should or shouldn’t come up as a reliever in September I don’t see the Bucs doing it. Just my gut feel.

    • I’m so tired of hearing about innings. Innings innings innings. Enough. We expect a major league pitcher to pitch 200 innings, but never at any point have them pitch 200 innings in a more controlled, less pressure envrionment. What sense does it make for the first time a pitcher has that workload, for it to be in a major league rotation. Quit babying these guys, trust me if he’s going to tear his rotator cuff or his pitching elbow ligament, it’s going to happen anyways. Pitching 20 more innings is not going to be what does it. Pitching 20 less innings, but throwing more pitches in a high stress environment would definitely have a more negative effect

  • mymanwillie
    May 5, 2015 7:40 am

    Would like to see him come up. I like the wacha analogy.

  • “If David Price is still the example seven years later, then maybe his situation shouldn’t be seen as a guide for every single team that has a top prospect they could promote for a playoff stretch.”

    Those of us who watch Major League Baseball saw Brandon Finnegan, a lesser prospect than Glasnow, called up last summer just three months after being drafted and contribute to the Royals dominant bullpen down the stretch before returning to the minor leagues this year to finish off his development. David Price is far from the only example of this strategy working.

    Keeping Glasnow on a traditional track through the minors is certainly defensible, but making blanket statements calling the the opposite argument “flawed” is simply wrong.

    • Finnegan was seen as a guy who could make the majors quickly when he was drafted out of college. It was the same for Carlos Rodon, although there was no need for him to come up last year. These are different situations than Glasnow, since they didn’t have key issues holding them back from the majors.

      Also, the Royals sent Finnegan down not so much to finish off his development, but to get him stretched out and developing as a starter. They felt he was ready as a bullpen arm right away, which is why he’s currently up as bullpen depth.

      • Tim, you can rationalize your way out of bringing any prospect up depending on the reason. Glasnow won’t be a finished product even when he comes up.

        Fact is that clubs have been doing this in select situations for years, with success. Glasnow may not be one of those select situations where it makes sense, but marginalizing the idea in general is wrong.

        • On the opposite side of that coin, this argument seems to come up with every top prospect. I agree that the idea in general isn’t wrong, but applying that idea to every top prospect without considering their individual situation is wrong. And that seems to be happening every year.

    • NMR: From the time of your post and mine, we were on the same wavelength. I cannot remember a another pitcher coming through the Pirate system with as much as this kid has already exhibited.

      Right now, Kingham is struggling, Taillon may or may not get there this year, and who knows about Charlie Morton.

      • I certainly wouldn’t bring up Glasnow as a starter. Simply won’t have enough left at that point in the season.

        But he absolutely could get Major League hitters out in a relief role tomorrow if he was called upon, and I’m probably the low man on him. The reasons Glasnow won’t be called upon in the role this September have more to do with The Pirate Way than actual facts and precedence; not that either thought is inherently incorrect.

    • I probably disagree with Tim more than the vast majority of people that read the site. However, he’s correct if you take the simple form of his argument. You two actually aren’t talking about the same things.

      You’re saying it’s been done with success in the past, and you’re right; it has. He’s saying it’s not going to happen and shouldn’t because (among other reasons) you could replicate what Glasnow would do with a slew of other guys, which you probably could.

      If you accept that argument, you’d really only be bringing up Glasnow over another option because you thought the time against these hitters would be beneficial in some way.

      • There’s certainly some truth here, and I absolutely agree with Tim that it *won’t* happen.

        But I do think a call up for Glasnow could, *could*, be mutually beneficial.

        I sincerely hope Tim was being facetious with his Blake Wood comparison. That’s just laughable. Wood doesn’t have anywhere near the same plane and life on his fastball, let alone a secondary as good as Glasnow’s curve. I absolutely think there’s a strong chance that Tyler Glasnow, in a one inning role where he doesn’t have to worry about turning a lineup over, could be better than the Rob Scahill’s, Antonio Bastardo’s, and Radhames Liz’s of the world.

        And as for Glasnow, getting him big league experience in a non-leverage role allows him to get over those nerve issues Tim referenced while also learning from veteran pitchers and oh yeah, Ray Searage. I promise you that would be more beneficial to his development than sitting at home, after the minor league season has ended.

  • Tim: Decent arguments and I agree with some, but Glasnow is clearly better than anything we have seen in a long time. In his 20 and 21 year old seasons he is a combined 21-8, 1.98 ERA in 47 Starts, 235 IP, 321K’s/117W’s. In AA he has shown no reason to question his ability to pitch in big games, and has been just as impressive as he was in Lo A and Hi A. Based on the results of the last 2 full years and his dominant start in AA, is he ready for AAA? I think so. Obviously nobody told him that he is supposed to struggle when he moves up a level, and that he is not “scheduled” to be coming up to the Pirates until June of 2016.

    I compare him to Michael Wacha who was drafted by St Louis out of college in 2012 and pitched only 8 innings in Hi A and 8 innings in AA that year. He was promoted to AAA to start 2013, in his age 22 season, where he pitched in 15 games, 85 IP before the Cards brought him up for the stretch run where he went 4-1, 2.78 before winning the MVP of the NL Championship Series. He also beat the Pirates in the Division Series pitching a one hitter into the 8th. Give them wings.

  • Spot on Tim about Glasnow’s chances of being on the team this season. And you didn’t even mention anything about starting his service clock, either. If he were to come up in September, it means he would need to be held down in Indy the following season until July. Unless of course you don’t believe Pirates care about Super Two anymore.

  • taylor26554
    May 5, 2015 5:52 am

    Love the new look of the site. Have not had any trouble at all. Great articles. Easy to maneuver though. Well done!