During his media session today, Neal Huntington said that the Pirates had serious discussions about calling up Tyler Glasnow last year, but ultimately decided to keep him down.
“We had legitimate conversations about Tyler last year,” Huntington said. “Felt like it was in his best interest and our best interest to continue the development, the command of the fastball, the consistency of the breaking ball, the ability to throw it for a strike and for a chase, and the changeup. The changeup is going to continue to be a key pitch for him to develop.”
Glasnow did stay down, and while he posted a 2.20 ERA in 41 innings with Indianapolis, he struggled with his control, posting a 4.8 BB/9 ratio. He legitimately had things to work on, and will continue to work on those areas in 2016. This time around, he will be called up to the majors. But there is one big question about that eventual call.
Glasnow only threw 109.1 innings last year during the season, plus 11.2 innings in the playoffs. His previous high was 124.1 innings in 2014, which was followed by a playoff start and 19.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League. If he’s going to pitch a full season, he will need to see a big innings increase in 2016, well beyond his previous highs.
Fortunately, Glasnow padded his innings totals during instructs. He made four starts, and went full games in each appearance, ending up with over 140 innings for the 2015 season.
“I felt really good in instructs,” Glasnow said of his progress and of the total workload.
I asked Huntington today if they were concerned about an innings spike next year, and if they needed to reduce his workload in any way.
“The best answer I can give is we’re cognizant of how we need to build him up appropriately,” Huntington said. “At the same time, heaven forbid, you don’t want to leave too many innings in the barn. So there’s that delicate balance between not over-exposing and not under-exposing where he is in an innings count this year. We’ll be aware of it early in the season, and we want to make sure we give him enough innings to be ready to go restriction free next year, but be in a position to help us, if he’s in a position to help us, this October.”
Not to make this sound like your normal clichéd pre-season story about a player being in the best shape of his life, but Glasnow could be helped by a specific workout plan he’s been developing the last few years, which has finally reached a point where it is starting to work for him.
“Every year when I end, I feel really good,” Glasnow said. “My biggest focus during the season is taking care of myself. Just eating healthy and running. I think health-wise, I’m always in a really good place at the end of the year. I always feel really good. That’s going to be definitely attainable at the end of the year.”
Glasnow has a program that he does each week, involving lifting six days a week. Three of those days are focused on upper body work, and three days on lower body work. He also has a daily throwing program where he takes a few days off during the off-season, but gets back to throwing every day during the year. He eats a lot of “healthy calories” to put weight on, then does high intensity cardio during the year to take the weight off.
“I like to put on a lot of weight in the beginning, and I do a really hard cardio program,” Glasnow said, while noting he’s currently 230 pounds, but is usually 220-225 during the season. “I lose a lot of weight doing that.”
The workout program is something Glasnow has been working on for several years, and something that he thinks will help him with his jump to the majors and throwing a complete season.
“I need to keep on doing my routine that I have. I’ve been doing this for about five years or so, and I’ve come up with a program that I really, really like,” Glasnow said about the recent adjustments to his routine that have been working for him. “I know what it takes for me to feel good every fifth day, and not veer away with it. I think a lot of it too, being in the minor leagues, a lot of it is experimenting and trying to see what’s good for me. So I made a couple of changes, and now I know what I need to do each week.”
Beyond the workload, the routine has also helped Glasnow to become stronger, which has helped him with some issues he’s had with his pitching mechanics. Glasnow said that adding strength helped his lower half become more stable, which has helped with his control. Last year in Altoona he had some of his best walk numbers, thanks to finding a way to get extended and not falling over himself during his delivery. Glasnow showed an example of this, and it looked like an extreme version of the picture below from 2014, where his upper body would collapse over while he was throwing. By staying over his body and staying back, he was able to improve his control numbers in Altoona.
Glasnow credited the new approach to his athleticism, and also to his arm speed, which is a focus in his workouts.
“My biggest thing is staying athletic and keeping my arm moving fast,” Glasnow said. “A lot of times last year I got into the mode where if things go wrong, I try to fix things and I kind of get too analytical and think about it a lot. As long as I’m moving athletically and I’m thinking about my arm speed, and really thinking about getting extended — not thinking about trying to get down on everything, just getting extended –that’s been my biggest adjustment.”
The control improvements didn’t carry over to Indianapolis, which came due to a change in the way Glasnow approached his workload at the end of the year.
“The biggest thing, I needed to stay on my routine,” Glasnow said. “There’s a lot of things that come with changing levels. There’s a lot of stuff. It’s not like I changed everything dramatically, but I think my workload decreased because it was towards the end of the season.”
Glasnow credited his lifting and throwing programs to his consistency in Altoona. When he lightened that workload in Triple-A at the end of the year, it lowered his velocity a bit, and impacted his performance.
“When I went to instructs, I went back and did everything full like I did it [in Altoona], and my velo came back up,” Glasnow said. “I’m really glad I learned that lesson, just keeping up with what I had, and now I have a routine that works for me and I know how to maintain velocity and control all year.”
Whether he can maintain the control in Triple-A and throughout the season is something he’ll have to show in 2016. He’ll also have to show improvements on his secondary pitches. Glasnow was encouraged by the progress he made with both during the fall league.
“Towards the end of instructs, I felt like I was throwing [the curve] for strikes most of the time,” Glasnow said. “I got really comfortable with that, and now my changeup feels by far better than it ever has. I have a really good feel for it right now. I can throw it where I want it. Just keeping up with bullpen routines and everything, I’m really looking forward to this year.”
Glasnow is going to need to show that his control problems are behind him, and he believes that his workout routine will help him in that area by generating arm speed and adding stability to his lower half. He’s also going to need to show that he can throw the curve for strikes, and that his changeup is ready for the majors. He’s probably going to be called up by mid-season, and that’s going to be in part due to Super Two. However, it’s likely that he will still need to show improvements in the majors after his call-up, as it would be too optimistic to assume he’ll be rid of all of his issues by late April.
While Super Two will be mentioned constantly from now until mid-June, the reality is that Glasnow still has some things to work on and things to prove in the upper levels. After that, he still won’t be at his upside, but the Super Two window will give the Pirates the right time to call him up and give the rotation an upgrade over the current back of the rotation options. The hope is that he’s as good as Gerrit Cole was in 2013, and if his control, curve, and changeup show the improvements he saw during instructs, then that could be a strong possibility.