Don’t Expect Tyler Glasnow in the Majors This Year

Tyler Glasnow had one of his most impressive starts of the year last night, striking out 12 batters in six innings of work. The right-hander continues to dominate the Double-A level, and has now struck out 22 batters over 12 innings in his last two starts. This is all encouraging, as he was dealing with an ankle injury earlier in the season that threw off his mechanics and his results.

“The last two starts are indicative that he is as healthy as he’s going to be,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday in his meeting with the media. “Guys are never 100% once the season starts. Tyler is back as confident and comfortable and you see that in the quality of his fastball in his last two outings in particular.”

Despite the recent success, and Glasnow’s overall 2.43 ERA in 63 innings, the Pirates still have some work to do. After his ten strikeout outing, Sean McCool wrote that a big focus going forward will be developing his changeup. Huntington noted on Sunday that they still need to see some improvements there and in other areas before Glasnow is considered for a promotion to Indianapolis.

“Our goal is to refine some things with the mechanics and refine some things with repeatability of the mechanics to allow the changeup and curveball to play better, and we’re still working through some things,” Huntington said. “Once he accomplishes the things we feel like he needs to accomplish to get to the next level, we’ll move him to the next level.”

If you’re holding out hope that the Pirates will get aggressive and promote Glasnow to the majors from Double-A, don’t count on it. The Pirates under Huntington haven’t made that type of promotion, and they won’t start with their top prospect.

“We do believe that there is value to every level,” Huntington said. “If a player has checked the boxes to make that jump, then we’d certainly be open to it, but I don’t think that is something that we would make a habit of because we think there are benefits to having exposure to playing at every level in the system. Double-A baseball is very different than Triple-A baseball, and as we said many times here before, the gap between Triple-A and the majors has never been larger. There will be things for each of our guys to learn at that next level as they begin to face some veteran guys that aren’t quite good enough to be in the big leagues but have better command than any pitcher they’ve ever faced before.”

It’s not a bad decision for the Pirates to keep Glasnow on a more conservative path. Aggressive promotions get a lot of credit because they’re aggressive, and they give the perception that the team isn’t holding back someone who deserves to be in the majors. But a lot of prospects struggle when they reach the majors, and some guys with aggressive promotions can be totally ruined because they missed out on key development in the upper levels.

You want to see strong minor league numbers, but those don’t always tell the story, and they don’t guarantee immediate MLB success. Glasnow projects as a future ace, but he won’t be anywhere close to that if he comes up this year. For proof of that, all you need to do is look at some of the prospects who have come up in recent years for the Pirates.

Gerrit Cole is looking like an ace this year, but that wasn’t the case the last two years. In his first five outings in the majors, he had a 3.94 ERA and a 4.9 K/9. He started improving as his career went on, but could never put up ace numbers as consistently as he’s doing this year. Even after posting good numbers at the end of his time with Indianapolis, he still took a season and a half in the majors before he reached his upside.

While Gregory Polanco is not a pitcher, he is another example of a top prospect who has struggled to realize his upside in the majors. Polanco absolutely destroyed Triple-A pitching, but has totaled a .239/.312/.351 line in a little over a full year in the majors. There might be some signs of hope, as he has a .274/.365/.429 line in 96 plate appearances this month. However, the overall point is that he dominated the minors, and after a year in the majors he still hasn’t come close to his upside.

Glasnow is now dominating the Double-A level, and has yet to throw a pitch in Triple-A. He’s probably going to need to refine his changeup a bit more before arriving in Triple-A. As for the majors, expecting him to be successful in the big leagues, even in a limited role, and all based off his Double-A numbers, is a pipe dream. Maybe it works out, but the upside here is that you get a good sixth or seventh inning reliever. The downside is that you throw off Glasnow’s development by sending him up to get shelled, and possibly adding some bad habits along the way. You can add a good middle reliever without taking that big of a risk.

As for when Glasnow does come up, don’t expect it to happen before the middle of the 2016 season.

Other Prospect Notes

**The Pirates added Steven Brault as one of two left-handed pitchers in the Travis Snider trade before the season. Brault doesn’t have over-powering stuff, but knows how to pitch, and commands his sinker very well. The pitch is only in the upper 80s, but comes in at the knees on a downward plane, then cuts at the plate, dropping off the table at the last second. It’s a nasty pitch that has led to Brault putting up a combined 3.29 ERA in 101.1 innings between Bradenton and Altoona this year.

Brault was an 11th round pick for the Orioles in 2013, prior to being added by the Pirates. Even back then, the Pirates liked what they saw from him.

“Our scouts loved the athleticism as a two-way player in college, so there was some athleticism there,” Huntington said. “They liked the feel and the upside given that he wasn’t a pitcher-only, and they felt like there was more there. Our pitching coach has done a nice job getting to know him and getting him to pound the zone. He has pitches for strikes and pitches for weapons, and he continues to be on a roll.”

**As we reported early this week, Alen Hanson is starting to get a look at third base. He has yet to play in a game, but continues taking ground balls and getting re-acclimated to the position for the first time since 2010. The need for Hanson in the majors this year might have been eliminated with the trade for Aramis Ramirez. Hanson would need a Neil Walker injury to play a significant role in the big leagues. Outside of that, he would be blocked at third base by Ramirez, Jung-ho Kang, and eventually Josh Harrison.

The Pirates will still give Hanson looks at other positions, including potentially giving him a shot in the outfield. That wouldn’t be a bad plan to bring him into the majors eventually as a Super Utility player.

“The original plan was to allow Alen to settle into second this year and allow the bat to play. Let him play one position in games and bounce him from second to short in pre-game work, which he’s done pretty much all year,” Huntington said. “There was going to be a point in time where we bounced him to third and introduced it to him. We talked long-term about the outfield, but we’re just trying to give the young man some options to break onto a major league club if possible. With Jordy and Josh going down, we sped that time frame up a little bit. He’s obviously swung the bat and has done a nice job down there offensively. We continue to work at short and introduce third base to him – a little bit earlier than we initially planned on. We’ll see where it goes. We’ll see how the work plays out, and see if he can play there and see if he can be major league caliber there. If we don’t, we’ll short change it and allow him to work at second base and shortstop. We’re getting some good work done, and we’ll see how it progresses.”

I think Hanson’s best shot at reaching the majors as a starter in Pittsburgh would be at second base, as the eventual replacement for Neil Walker. You could argue that the Pirates should do this heading into the 2016 season. But until Hanson is in the majors with a starting spot locked down, it’s wise to give him work all over the field.

  • buccotime57
    July 27, 2015 8:50 pm

    Sunday I made the trip to akron and was really impressed with glasnow. Two of those strike outs were against nick swisher who looked totally overmatched

  • Than don’t expect the pirates to go very far in the playoffs, teams like the pirates need all hands on deck. but as long as you draw 151,000 for 4 game weekend series, is there any real need to have the best 25 on the roster? Also Tim can you ask kyle stark for “the list of boxes that need to be checked” before a player can add value to the major league club. Also say a player comes up and flops and then goes back to minors, the time in the majors is the only time that counts for his service time right. but hey were in great shape with a 38 yr old third baseman and a 38 yr old sp who both look to be fading and are both wrapping up there careers.

  • Let’s make an assumption that the Pirates extend Walker and that’s a big assumption. Do they keep him at second and use Hanson as a utility player or do they move Walker to first and have Kang, Mercer, Harrison and Hanson play the infield spots?

    • I cannot imagine any scenario where Walker would be extended beyond his walk year short of Bell having some catastrophic injury. And I have to think Walker is in the plans for 1b next year. It wouldn’t make sense to do otherwise with Hanson and Harrison around.

  • As long as we’re talking prospects moving around… refresh my memory, why haven’t Bucs had Tony Sanchez at 1b in Indy? They were heading down that path but pulled the plug in late April. Indy doesn’t absolutely need him as catching depth with Diaz around and if Tony had accumulated some innings at 1b, that would come in handy right now. I don’t recall reading that he was a butcher in the field. So what gives?

    • Because he didn’t want to, and he hasn’t hit well either way.

    • I hold this absurd idea that there is a non-zero chance Sanchez can pull a Josh Donaldson, but that would require the starting 3B going into the season to go down to injury.

      • I think Tony’s bat could play as well. However, Donaldson was shifted to 3b in ST the year Inge was injured, so he was already getting more reps there than at C. Bucs, for whatever reason, ended the 1b experiment, and I don’t recall seeing a solid explanation as to why. Maybe I just missed it.

  • Michael Wacha had about 90 innings total in the minors and Mike Leake had none.
    Glasnow may or may not have trouble but there is potential for him to impact the team in a positive way… and get playoff experience like Wacha.

    If he continues to dominate as he is now, then see if he can dominate AAA for a few starts and if he does then the question has been answered.

    • Wacha and Leake were both college pitchers with 1st round pedigrees more suited to making that kind of jump.

    • That’s not how baseball works.

    • Even dominating in AAA doesnt get him fully prepared for ML hitting, and thats the goal of the minors. Not compile as many good stats as possible, but become the best all around pitcher possible in a relatively reasonable amount of time.

      Anyone can name outliers, just as there are a handful of examples of guys that rushed through the minors and struggled for multiple seasons. As much as i hate “its how things work” arguments, there is a reason even smart teams dont operate that way with most of their prospects.

      • yes ,you are right again. Also the trend is to promote quickly. Maybe the sabr heads can run that trend through their computers.

        • Luke sutton
          July 27, 2015 4:27 pm

          What constitutes a trend? I see no clear league wide trend of teams promoting the majority of their prospects quickly. If anything, TJ surgery has made teams a bit careful with pitch counts, innings totals, and the ilk.

    • yes, you are right.

  • Really enjoy the ‘Prospect Notes” columns, Tim.

    Steven Brault might be my favorite “sleeper” prospect in the entire system. Certainly on the pitching side. Seeing his last start in Altoona, it looks like he’s tweaked his deliver for even more deception since moving into the Pirates organization. I’d love to hear more about this from a hitter’s perspective.

    Alen Hanson has a left field-only arm, but I don’t think anyone is talking about outfield as a permanent home. Smart move getting him comfortable in all three positions.

  • Michael Mera
    July 27, 2015 12:01 pm

    Agreed that calling Glasnow up to the majors isn’t the right thing to do right now, but when do you see him moving up to Indy?

  • Tim….Can Glasnow be counted on for 2016 at any time? And, while we’re on THAT subject, is it a pipe dream to hope Taillon starts 2016 with us (or even after Super 2 status)? I know JT’s been gone essentially two years, but…..

    Thx

    • If he comes back firing like he was this year before bus hernia I would think hed get his shot.

      • very little AAA experience tho.

        • Starts, as in on the Opening Day roster? That’ll never happen, and we all know why.

          But I think an argument can be made that some of what he’d be working on in AAA, specifically relating to the delivery, has more than been accomplished through rehab. Tim’s done a great job highlighting how Taillon appeared to be a changed pitcher after TJ rehab.

          A month or two worth of starts in Indy and he should have plenty under his belt.

          • I agree with this. The way Tim was saying he was throwing the ball is exactly what the Pirates want from him and whether he developed that in Extended Spring Training or AAA is beyond the point. He has 37 AAA innings in 6 starts and before the Super Two deadline he would certainly get another 10-12 starts probably…that is plenty.

            Also, I hope they send him to the AFL to get some more innings in.

  • In a semi-related note, do you think Hanson gets a cup of coffee this year when the rosters expand?

    • I’d love to see it. PR/PH, etc. Why not?

      • I, for one, am not opposed at all to trading NW in the offseason and handing Hanson the starting 2B job in spring training. I also think Kang should have a full time starting job going into next season.

  • Technically Tim you may be right that the Pirates under NH have never promoted a player from AA who hadn’t seen time in AAA but that is only in the strictest sense. Evan Meek began 2008 with the Pirates having never pitched in AAA and Yoslan Herrera was promoted from AA to the MLB with only one spot start at AAA on his resume.

  • come on NH, he can work on those things in Indy….let’s do “that” promotion

    • meatygettingsaucy
      July 27, 2015 5:46 pm

      what’s the difference between having him work on them in Indianapolis or in Altoona? He’s no closer to the majors regardless of which location he is at.

      • Had a talk with Neal Huntington a couple of years ago and he said that once pitchers got to AAA it was very difficult to get them to work on developing or refining a pitch since they were 1 step away from the majors. That’s not the case in AA, and is why they leave them at AA. I say all this knowing Glasnow has been promoted to AAA a few days ago.

  • Hanson’s bat and base running also need work. He could be a more consistent hitter and more selective. His tools suggest a top of the order hitter, but he could help himself by increasing his OBA.

    All in all, 2015 has been a productive year for Hanson as well as a season in which he has not been sent to the dog house!

  • I think we all kinda know we won’t see a top prospect at the end of the year, gotta love super 2 status.

    • Technically they could bring up someone at the end of the year and avoid Super 2, as long as they keep that prospect up for good. If they send him back down, then they’d have to consider Super 2 next year, and at a later date than normal, due to the 2015 service time.

      • Perhaps I’m stupid, but I believe there’s a small chance this could happen. Add Glasnow to the bullpen in Sept. He prob won’t have hit an innings limit. Then send him to AAA next year. And call him up in the 2nd half if things go well.

        Unlikely, but I believe there’s an outside chc.

    • The only thing Glasnow has proven lately was he could handle AA hitters. That is a long way from the majors. The Nationals rushed Stasburg to the majors and look at his arm problems compared to Cole who was not rushed and has a healthy arm. Besides if they did what you want would mean either Locke or Morton [the fair haired duo] ends up in the pen. Super [what ever you called it] at this point has nothing to do with Glasnow. I am more interested in when he is promoted to AAA.

      • Joel, even though I agree with most of your thoughts, there is no proof that Strasburghs arm problems was the results of the Nationals rushing him. Most of the arguments are about the college coaches, Little leagues and AAU coaches over using these young arms.

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