As we noted in our Top Performers article earlier today, the Pirates are getting strong results early in the season from their top two pitching prospects — Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Last week, Taillon made his first official start since September 2013, giving up one run in six innings of work, with six strikeouts and no walks. Tyler Glasnow has made two starts, combining to give up two runs in ten innings, with a 15:3 K/BB ratio.
The Pirates haven’t been getting bad results from their rotation this year, with a 3.45 ERA and a 4.10 xFIP in 70.1 innings over 13 games. However, it’s hard to imagine that Taillon and Glasnow won’t be needed at some point this season, whether that’s due to injury, or just upgrading over the guys in the back of the rotation. Neal Huntington discussed what each player needs to work on in his meeting with the media yesterday.
In Jameson Taillon’s case, it’s about refining command and being more efficient against upper level guys, and ultimately building him up to a point where he can go deeper in games. Taillon did throw six innings and 85 pitches, but will need to eventually build up to the 100 pitch mark, which might not come right away due to the long layoff.
“For him to come out with the crispness, the sharpness of the stuff, the velocity, the comfort, was great,” Huntington said. “Just a tremendous first step. Now we’re looking for him to build on that.”
Huntington also said that Taillon needs to show that his stuff from the first outing is what they can expect in outings going forward.
In Glasnow’s case, the improvement of the stuff is a key, especially the consistency of his top two pitches, and the development of his third pitch.
“There’s some inefficiency there,” Huntington said. “Explosive fastball at times, inconsistent at others. Explosive breaking ball at times, inconsistent at others. And a nearly complete lack of use of the changeup. Second start out, want to get his feet on the ground. Great, great signs, but also some signs we’ve still got some work to do.”
The Pirates have forced players to use a certain pitch to develop the offering in the past. When asked whether Glasnow would be forced to use the changeup in the future to develop the pitch, Huntington said that they were “getting there.”
“The changeup development is still going to be absolutely crucial for him to be a good Major League starting pitcher,” Huntington said. “It’s awfully hard to develop a third pitch at the Major League level, and we’re going to push him to do that. He still does most of the Triple-A hitters a favor when he throws it.”
Huntington said that an increased use of the changeup might be mandated after a few more starts. It will be interesting to see how Glasnow’s results are impacted by that change.
Both pitchers have things to work on, but you can expect to see both in Pittsburgh this year. Taillon looks to be ahead of Glasnow, since his issues are more about getting built back up and adjusted to the upper level hitting, rather than improving specific pitches or consistency issues.
**Huntington said that Jung-ho Kang will only be playing third base this year:
“I would not anticipate us asking him to do anything other than playing third base for the majority of this year, if not this whole season. Again, a very traumatic injury. We feel that he can physically get back to where he was pre-injury, but it may not be May or June of this year. To ask him to go play any other positions at this point in time is not in his best interested and certainly not in our best interests. From a physical standpoint, he’s not hurt, but building up strength, explosiveness, and stamina will take some time. We just want to do everything we can to help the young man be successful.
Huntington said that David Freese will still get some time at third, as Kang won’t be ready for an everyday role when he returns.
“The David Freese signing was a part of that knowing that he’s not going to be able to come out here and give us seven straight days again, so there will be plenty of opportunities for David to still help us.”
**Last week I wrote about how the Pirates have been playing their outfielders shallow this year, looking into the strategy behind that. Huntington briefly discussed the change in approach this year.
“As a group, we did tend to be deeper last year than ideally we wanted to be in those situations. There is an across the board intent to move our guys in a little bit, but then there’s a much more nuanced approach with our outfield positioning, based on a number of factors, the two big ones being hitter and pitcher.”
**Pedro Florimon was outrighted to Indianapolis yesterday, and the Pirates ended up putting him in extended Spring Training, due to the time off.
“He’s been down for almost two weeks with the off day coming out of Spring Training. It wasn’t really fair to him to throw him back at the Triple-A level, so we’ll send him to extended to get him some innings and at-bats and some defensive work. We’ll send him up to Indianapolis once we feel he is ready.”
**Huntington also discussed the decision to DFA Michael Morse, and his future:
“That’s a ten-day window that we can move guys around. We still hope there is an opportunity for Mike. We anticipate that we’ll have to take back a significant amount of money, but there is still some thunder in the bat. We just got pinched and needed a 40-man spot and felt we were better served doing something else with that spot.”