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.

Other Notes

**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.”

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50 COMMENTS

  1. If you have a top of the line fastball and overhand curve combo, and you can command them, a third pitch is over-rated. All you need to do is throw 5 change ups in the dirt each game….just showing the pitch will be enough. Who has three devastating pitches in the majors? Two will be enough to start out for these kids.

      • And I said nothing about the consistency of Tailllon and Glasnow offerings, so what’s the point??? I just made a comment about what a ML pitcher needs to be successful.

        • You said “can command them” and Glasnow doesnt have ML command too often.

          So yes, with top level command about a handful of SPs have been able to survive with 2 pitches. The rest of baseball history is full of examples of how you need to have 3 pitches or you arent going to be an above average ML arm.

    • Not looking to throw any change up in the dirt. If you do, its really easy to ignore.

      Gotta throw it for strikes or its largely a slow fastball you throw for show and a ball.

      • You think if a pitcher is commanding a 95mph fastball, it is easy to ignore a changeup which comes out of,his hand looking like the fastball, starting at the knees but diving into the dirt??? Not

        • A change up doesnt dive that much, most fans know this.

          A change up isnt going to take a sharp dive at all, its going to slightly drop due to less velo than a FB.

          So if its hitting the dirt, it started out of the zone once it left your hand. You throw the change low in the zone, but you have to prove to major league hitters that it can be a strike.

          I do think ML hitters will ignore a change up that is in the dirt a ton, because it means the pitcher cant throw a quality change. They’ll sit on that 95 fastball.

          • Maybe the problem is that I am just not a fan, but I played baseball for 35 years, and faced quite a bit of changeups in my time. You give major league hitters way too much credit….guess you have missed our guys willingness to chase pitches in the dirt

            • I give ML hitters enough credit that they can see a change up in the dirt and laugh it off.

              If you faced a change up that dropped from the knees to the dirt, you were calling a pitch that wasnt a change up a change up. No change up starts off as near the plate and finishes in the dirt, so im sure you know that with the 35 years on playing baseball.

              I did miss our guys chasing a ton this year, since that OBP is sky high.

    • A.) his command is still inconsistent. B.) you can’t just throw it in the dirt. The hitters have to know that it could be a strike with good placement. C.) the Pirates management isn’t holding out that he’ll have 3 plus pitches, but the change up needs to be “good enough,” and the command needs to be at least reletively consistent. On that aspect, he’s just not ready.

    • Top of the line fastball and curve combo would mean pitch, location, and consistency. And you’re right, he could start in the majors with that for a while. Problem is he doesn’t have the location and consistency part yet.

  2. J.A. Happ improved to 1-0 as a Blue Jay today and currently has a 2.25 ERA. I know it seems like I blame Nutting for everything, but it was a joke not to re-sign him after he was our best pitcher the last quarter of the 2015 season.

    Instead, the Bucs have to roll with Locke and Vogelsong. Would Locke have ever made the majors if he wasn’t a lefty?

    • About half the lefties in major league baseball wouldnt be in baseball if they werent lefties.

      Locke aint great, but the narrative of him being awful overdoes his actual talent level at times. Fungible back end arm.

    • I wouldn’t go overboard just yet after 3 starts with Happ. Blue Jays had to make a 3 year commitment to a pitcher who hadn’t been below 4.00 ERA in a season since 2010 until his mad tear with the Pirates last year where his 11 starts balanced out his previous 20 in Seattle where he got shelled for the most part.

      Looking at career stats, Jeff Locke and Haap have similar numbers, with Haap with around 1 more SO per 9 innings pitched.

      Also this year Locke has a 2.53 ERA in his two starts so far, but I wouldn’t go singing his praises either.

      All that being said, I would have taken Haap over Vogelsong for sure. Luckily the Pirates decided against Vogelsong starting as well and went with Nicasio.

    • Right on. I’m sure folks will rationalize by talking about Happ’s career numbers being similar to Locke’s but anyone with eyeballs who watched the last half of 2015 could tell you they’re considerably different pitchers.

      And the money simply shouldn’t have been a factor. If you’re comfortable giving Jon Niese 3/$30 and Neil Walker, you should be comfortable with Happ’s contract.

      • Eh… if Happ had done that for another team and the Pirates signed him for that contract, nobody would’ve been Happy (bad pun intended). I feel like 11 starts is way too small a sample size when the rest of his veteran career says otherwise to commit that sizeable of a contract. Now, granted, I like Happ better than Locke. Come July/August, Locke and Nicasio will both most likely be in the bullpen anyways. Also, technically, Jon Niese’s contract is 3 one-year contracts worth $10MM each so there’s some flexibility there if he doesn’t work out. Not mention, Niese has pretty much been our best starter through 13 games. Again, small sample size, but he might turn out to be a pretty crafty acquisition.

    • Probably the biggest reason they didn’t resign Happ is because he could get multiple years elsewhere. If they could have signed him for one year, decent chance they would have done that.

    • Happ’s ERA was 2.98 on May 15 last year.

      By the time we got him, it was 4.64.

      Wayyyyyyyy too early to deem it a good signing by Toronto.

  3. It’s a bit annoying to read that Glasnow needs to work on his changeup. He has had years to do this work. He should be at a place beyond the acquisition of a there pitch.

    • Well, he’s still just 22. He had years to develop a change and refine his command and be ML ready, but he’s pretty young and was always raw in need of time to refine stuff.

        • Well first off, the player absolutely has part of the responsibility for his development. How utterly silly would it be to assume a player gets no blame for lack of development. In the case of Tyler Glasnow, he’s a developmental success at this point. Totally raw talent made into what he is at age 22 isnt poor at all.

          Plenty of 22 year olds are still working to develop their entire arsenal. If he’s 24 and still got a crap change up, both sides failed to continue working to get better. But to say at 22 “well, they had years to get him better and failed” is silly since it took those years to get him to a serious pitching prospect.

          He needs a change up, but that in no way makes what he and the team have done poor. We’d be acting like a spoiled child to lament the status of Tyler Glasnow right now or act like the team is lacking because he isnt basically Noah Syndergaard.

          • Could be the Pirates told him to just work with his strong suit early in the season to get him off to a good start with the plan of working in the change ad the season progresses. Was the catcher calling for change ups that he was shaking off?

            • Maybe they did, but that does sound like what PGH preaches to many kids. They are always talking about being a complete player when you hit the majors, and right now that means working a lot on his change up. Ignoring that until late in the year just delays work that is needed, void of caring about stats.

          • The responsibility of the player is minor. His job is to learn what he is taught. The Pirates emphasize fastball command. They should also emphasize third-pitch development

            • They do….and thats where we are right now.

              What you seem to be asking for is them to ask a kid “hey, we want you to focus on fastball command. oh and then throwing the curve for strikes. and last thing, start throwing the change more.”

              They dont do these things all at once. He worked on his fastball and delivery, then worked on commanding both that and the CB, and the last few months of last year and early this year are focusing far more on a change.

              And i find it silly to say its mostly not on the kid. Thats an excuse, because he has to not only listen to what the team tells him buy fully buy into it and take it seriously. Nothing against Tyler, but it does not sound like he’s fully committed to focusing on his change up and is worried about his stats more than id like.

    • Agreed.

      I understand it’s a matter of being young and dumb and competitive and that’s fine, but I still don’t like it. Glad there aren’t weird people on the internet I don’t know critiquing 22 yo NMR.

    • Eh, I understand what you are saying, but the changeup is usually the last thing pitchers work on in their development. Developing a windup that is consistent and repeatable is first, followed by some combination of fastball command and developing your breaking ball. If you can’t clear those 3 hurdles, then you are likely locked in as a reliever anyway, so the changeup doesn’t come into play.

      That obviously isn’t the case for everyone, but especially for a raw, Highschool pitcher like Glasnow, who had to develop his frame and work on his delivery, the changeup takes a back seat.

    • Well considering that 4 years ago, he threw 10mph slower and still has consistency issues that’s he’s developing with his mechanics…no, he isn’t past the point of acquiring a serviceable change up.

      You don’t just throw every single lesson in the world on a person and expect it to stick at once. Especially a change up, probably the pitch that requires the most nuance in the game, aside from a knuckleball.

      Seriously, the guy is barely allowed to buy a beer and is as tall as an NBA small forward….maybe acknowledge the adversity and set realistic expectations.

      • Nobody is expecting Felix Hernandez. We’re talking about effort, no more and no less.

        The organization has begged him to just try for two years and he’s refused.

  4. what amazing is both tallion and and glasnow will have things “figured out ” in let say, the second week in june. hmmm

    • I doubt that and neither one will last long (or fulfill their potential) with only two pitches and even worse, lack of command and consistency.

    • Or they’ll simple be modest upgrade over the back of the rotation.

      People really quickly equate “promotion” with “figured it out” and then get confused as to why a guy like Polanco struggled to be consistent until awhile after a promotion.

      Money is a factor in the decision, but the idea that its all almost always money driven ignores other valid points. Tyler Glasnow may be promoted come June, but he’d still have questions (like Polanco) that need to be ironed out and surely could use more time in the minors even if we had no cares about money.

      • Change up could use some fine tuning from early reports. More of a serviceable complimentary option than quality offering.

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