Morning Report: Multiple Looks at Six Top Pitchers in the System

With Tyler Glasnow’s third start coming up tonight, I thought I’d talk about the six pitchers that I have seen pitch twice already this season. The schedule has worked out well enough that I’ve seen two starts from Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Tyler Eppler and Clay Holmes. Yesterday alone I was able to watch both Kuhl and Eppler. All six are in our top 22 prospects. Here is a brief rundown for each player on what I have seen this year compared to what we already knew about them.

Glasnow – He has looked like the Glasnow we all know, except (and I know this could be considered jinxing him), he has better command. He also has better body language out on the mound and that’s almost as important as the improved command. Now if he could just use that change-up a little more often. He has ten starts left before the approximate Super 2 deadline passes, which means he has time to work on his third pitch, and time to prove the command is actually better.

Taillon – While his curve and fastball aren’t quite on par with Glasnow, they aren’t far behind either. The fact that Taillon uses his change-up as a weapon instead of a show-me pitch, probably gives him the slight advantage right now for that first call-up. Taillon is pitching like he hasn’t missed any time and remarkably, he actually looks better than before. That’s due to cleaner mechanics and being in better shape. The mentality is there to attack hitters.

Kuhl – While the other two Indy starters are clearly the higher rated prospects, Kuhl can be considered a sleeper at this point, even rated 16th in a deep farm system. He doesn’t have the put away pitches the other two have, which is the reason he ran up his pitch counts in both starts. The velocity and movement are there on the sinker for it to be a plus pitch. His slider has improved a lot as well. Kuhl has that bulldog attitude on the mound you like to see. He basically just needs time on the mound so he can continue to improve. He is clearly a future Major League starter, though he may end up at the back of a bullpen someday due to his stuff playing up in a shorter role.

Holmes – I saw Holmes pitch three times in 2013 and he improved every outing. That’s factoring in that he didn’t look bad the first time out. He was clearly a young pitcher with potential. Then the Tommy John surgery happened and 2014 was gone. Last year I saw video from bullpens and the back fields at Pirate City, plus I got scouting reports from Bradenton, but it’s good to see him live again. I like what I’ve seen in the two starts. He needs more consistency in his pitches, but we are talking about someone with 229.2 innings in his career, and he’s pitching in AA. You should expect some issues with him here and there, but what you look for is the pure “stuff” and it is there. His fastball usually sits 92-94 and has good downward action. The curve has nice action and his change-up is at least an average pitch now. There is a nice three-pitch mix there, to go along with his big frame, which is built for 200 innings.

Brault – Of the six players here, he is the only one who hasn’t met (or exceeded) expectations early. In both starts, he ran his pitch count up by not being able to put hitters away. His stuff is good enough to get weak contact and foul balls, but not get the swing and misses you want to see. He looked better the couple times I watched him last year, pitching inside more, throwing a few more strikes, and letting the other team put the ball in play for quick outs. Here’s a case where I am more patient because I have seen better from him, so I look forward to the next time I watch him to see if these two starts were just him trying to find his groove early on.

Eppler – I never got to see Eppler pitch because he skipped over Low-A. I saw some video from all different times, starting in the Instructional League in 2014 and up until this Spring Training, but never a full game. I like what I’ve seen from him, though I don’t see the upside of the first four players I mentioned here. He’s more like a strong back-end starter, who can give you a lot of innings. That might end up being better than some of the others, but that would be him reaching his ceiling and them not reaching their ceiling. One plus while watching him is that his slurve is still  relatively new pitch to him, so you assume that still has potential to improve.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 8-2 to the Padres on Wednesday night. Gerrit Cole gets the start today, his third of the season. In his last game, he allowed two earned runs over six innings in a loss to the Tigers. He faces James Shields, who has a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 20 innings over three starts. He has gone at least six innings each time out.

In Indianapolis, Tyler Glasnow makes his third start, and this game has a lot more going on than just the top prospect in the system. The opposing starting pitcher will be Homer Bailey, making a rehab appearance. Indianapolis will have Jung-ho Kang and Jared Hughes still there on rehab, with Hughes scheduled to pitch on the second day of back-to-back games. Then on Wednesday, the Pirates announced Cory Luebke would join Indianapolis on rehab for today’s game. Glasnow had no walks and nine strikeouts in his last appearance. He has given up one run over five innings in each start.

For West Virginia, Mitch Keller will make his third start. He has thrown five shutout innings in both starts this year, giving up five hits total (three on bunts) and no walks, with 13 strikeouts. He was named the Pitcher of the Week in the South Atlantic League last week.

MLB: Pittsburgh (7-8) @ Padres (6-9) 9:10 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (4.22 ERA, 4:9 BB/SO, 10.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (6-5) @ Louisville (5-6) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (1.80 ERA, 3:15 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (5-8) vs Richmond (5-9) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (3.24 ERA, 10:4 BB/SO, 8.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (6-8) @ Palm Beach (9-5) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (10.13 ERA, 5:7 BB/SO, 8.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (11-3) @ Lexington (7-6) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (0.00 ERA, 0:13 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)


Here is the home run from Reese McGuire that he hit on Tuesday. It was his first homer since August, 2014.


4/20: Jared Hughes assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/19: Julio Vivas added to West Virginia roster. Logan Ratledge assigned to Morgantown.

4/18: Jung-ho Kang assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/16: Trevor Williams placed on disabled list. Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

4/15: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis. Frank Duncan added to Altoona roster.

4/14: Cory Luebke placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Rob Scahill.

4/14: Pirates sign Justin Masterson.

4/14: Chad Kuhl assigned to Indianapolis.

4/13: Michael Morse designated for assignment. Pirates select contract of A.J. Schugel.

4/13: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.

4/13: West Virginia places Cesilio Pimentel on disabled list. Eric Karch added to roster.

4/11: Pirates release John Holdzkom.

4/6: Tampa Bay Rays claim Jake Goebbert off waivers from Pirates.


Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, with three of them playing during this century. Kip Wells, Ronnie Paulino and Jack Taschner all put in time during the down years between playoff appearances. The one player that didn’t play during this current era is shortstop Stan Rojek, who was a member of the Pirates from 1948 until 1951. Rojek didn’t have a career that stands out in the Majors, but he did serve during WWII, missing three years of his playing career in the process.

Speaking of Rojek, the first year he served in the military was 1943 and that year was the only time the Pirates opened up a season on April 21st. Like every other team in baseball, the Pirates has players leave to serve in the military. The club was still strong enough that season to finish with an 80-74 record. On Opening Day, Pittsburgh won 6-0 in Chicago with Rip Sewell on the mound. He pitched a complete game and Vince DiMaggio drove in two runs. You can see the boxscore here.

Exactly 100 years ago, the Pirates lost an appeal from a day earlier, but it brought about a change from the league. Runner Doc Johnston was called out at third base when he was touched by third base coach Jimmy Callahan, even though the ball wasn’t in play at the time. The league announced the next day that umpires will no longer call players out for making contact with the coach unless it directly helps them in anyway, such as a coach pushing them back/towards the next base.

  • I agree with John in that I was impressed with Holmes’ off speed stuff.

  • Awe, that’s such a Reese McGuire homerun. Liner just squeeking over the shortest part of the ballpark.

  • John, your thoughts…

    As a sinker/slider righty from a 3/4 slot, what is Kuhl going to use to keep lefties from jumping all over him at the highest level?

  • Wow, so Glasnow’s curve is better than Taillon’s?

    • Easily.

      • So what you’re saying is I need to move on from the 2013 WBC where he struck out Braun with his curve and open my mind to Glasnow having the better pitch? It’ll take time. But I can do it.

        • Ha, I remember that pitch well.

          Taillon’s curve is a plus pitch, I’d say, but Glasnow’s looks like it has a damn jet pack attached to it. Break is just as deep as Taillon’s but damn near looks like it picks up speed on the drop. So, so sharp.

          The folks who know better seem to give Giolito the nod for best two-pitch combo in the minors, but Glasnow’s fastball-curveball get my vote. Just ridiculous.

  • Neil Walker has 6 home-runs, the Pirates have 7. Hey hey hey buccos go all the way!!!!

  • The Pirates org. clearly punted 2016 and it is criminal. People citing the Pirates record last year are off-base—can’t expect them to get white hot again during the dog days of summer.

    • I don’t think they “punted.” There is still a lot of talent on the team. No, they didn’t go out and get a high-profile free agent pitcher. They really didn’t need to. If they would have, it would have blocked either Taillon or Glasnow. If the Bucs can at least remain .500 or better until June, then things should be interesting after that. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing a rotation of Cole, Liriano, Niese, Taillon and Glasnow.

      • It all depends on your expectations.

        If you expected this team to contend for the Division, which they themselves stated, then yes, they absolutely punted.

        • Yeah, sorry, I just don’t see how you can say they “punted.” There’s still a lot of talent on the big league club and plenty more in the minors that will make an impact this season. I’m not counting them out when the season is only 15 games old.

  • Current Pirates MLB rankings in pitching:
    ERA= 25th
    WHIP= 29th
    BB= 1st…by a lot, 73 BB so far this year in 132.1 IP
    H= 13th…we are killing ourselves with BB

    In ALL of Major League Baseball the Pirates have the #1 and #3 pitchers in BB…Liriano with 14 and Locke with 13…although Locke has fewer innings so he would easily surpass Liriano in same number of innings. We ALSO boast the WORST pitcher in MLB in WHIP with at least 13 IP…Jeff Locke and his incredible 2.63 WHIP on the season….

    • I still think there is an overall pitching strategy/philosophy issue – you don’t get team stats this bad from one guy – Locke – it takes a team and coaches.

      Pitching down in the zone and trying to get batters to chase worked last year – but teams adjust and adapt.

      Refusing to give in to batters on 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1 counts sounds nice – but may no longer by a smart approach

  • The way the starters have looked so far, waiting for June for one of our top AAA starters might take too long. And it is not only over working our bullpen but it’s taking away from our bench strength. Options? Switch Locke and Vogelsong. Making a trade from our excess infielders? What is the best solution? A move needs to be made.

    • Best option: bring up Chad Kuhl and have Locke find that “phantom” injury bug that is laying around in the clubhouse somewhere and make him disappear.

      • Better option would be giving Vogelsong a chance before interrupting development of a SP unlikely to be greatly better than a guy like Locke.

        Vogelsong has the ability to better than what we’ve seen from Locke. Kuhl might, be he’s only got 2 useful pitches and wont be missing a ton of ML bats. I’d take development over him trying to force the issue and maybe be slightly better than Locke.

        • I think Kuhl would be quite a bit better than Locke, both the current version that we are seeing and the version we have seen previously.

          But, yes, Vogelsong would be an option. We have to get Locke out of the rotation.

          • And i think that comes mostly from a place of hating Locke and not being in any way fair to where Kuhl actually is right now.

            Its a “i know i hate this guy, so this other guy is surely better” argument.

            Right handers who pitch to contact and only have two average or better pitches dont survive often against ML hitters. Ignoring the large reality that you also are screwing with his development.

            If they want him to be a SP going forward, developing that change up is crucial. Because if it doesnt develop, he’s a reliever.

            • I dont know that I quite agree with all of that, Luke. Kuhl has a FB, a sinker, a slider that he has done well with and an improving changeup. Consider this…Michael Wacha has thrown 267 pitches this year…13% curve and 14% change. That still is 72-73% fastball/cutter? I do not intend to compare Kuhl to Wacha…I am just saying that there are pitchers who throw predominantly fastball/secondary fastball and are very successful.

              I could use other examples: how about Lance Lynn.

              • Until the slider becomes a true out pitch, he doesnt miss bats.

                So he’s chucking a sinker, 4 seamer, and show me slider. Yup, he’s Lance Lynn right now.

                He can be good, but not without development of his stuff. You dont survive without an out pitch and no real quality offspeed stuff. You cant survive on FB and sinker unless that slider gets better, because this isnt AAAA hitters anymore.

                He’s Hughes out there right now, throwing a good sinker and throwing to contact. I dont pin any hopes on that profile as a savior of the rotation. Major league hitters dont get fooled by that pitch combination.

                Ryan Vogelsong is a better option right now.

  • any chance one or maybe two of those pitchers get a call before mid june.

    • Well, maybe Kuhl could, since he’s ahead of Brault at this point, but I wouldn’t say he is ready right now. We talk a lot about the Super 2 deadline, but they save that type of decision for the bigger prospects, meaning Glasnow, Taillon and Bell. If they felt Kuhl was ready, or Hanson/Moroff/Frazier, then they would call them up now. With the lesser players, you just try to get an extra year of service time out of them by slightly delaying their arrival, but that deadline has passed already.

      I personally don’t think any of the Indy prospects look MLB ready yet. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t play in the majors now, it just means they still have work to do.

      • I completely agree with you as to readiness. I think Glasnow looks the least ready and, quite frankly, I am sort of disappointed in a way with Glasnow because he does not seem like he wants to get himself ready. He has been told repeatedly that he needs to improve and use his change and he still refuses to do so. I get it…its “cooler” and flashier to put up gaudy stats against under-matched talent with your fastball-curve grouping but that wont work in the Majors.

        I will say, though, John that after watching Kuhl’s start I think he could come into this MLB rotation right now and be a BIG help. He keeps the ball on the ground and has a true bulldog, fighter mentality on the mound that would be a welcome addition to this team.

        • Kuhl just needs more experience before he is ready, because he has taken a huge leap since this time last year and even bigger since the end of 2014. His pitch count has been high both games and it won’t get better against better hitters.

          At this point, Super 2 aside, I’d definitely go Taillon or Kuhl then Glasnow for who I would call up. I still think Glasnow has the bigger upside because he has the best two pitches out of the group, and batters have a real tough time squaring him up, which has been true since 2012. He just isn’t there yet. Because we have covered him for so long, it’s easy to forget he is 22

          • Oh I agree that Glasnow is the better prospect. And I am not down on him. I just am disappointed that he is putting results before development and, in the process, setting himself back. I also agree that he is by far the least ready of the 3 options.

            The Super 2 deadline has, likely, already passed–as you indicated–and I think either Taillon or Kuhl would be a benefit to this rotation. I understand where you are coming from with Kuhl…just watching him, though, I think he’s going to be really, really good. I see a really good 3rd starter in there who is also an innings eater and a guy who might be a post-season warrior because of that bulldog in him. I do not care which, or both, Taillon or Kuhl come up…but this team needs some options in the starting rotation because it is killing the pen, which is already not so good.

            I would, actually, consider bringing up BOTH…move Nicasio back to the pen send Locke to the DL.

            • The Super 2 deadline is in early June. What might have passed is the ability to control the final year, albeit at a Super Two arb salary. I’m not sure about that but right about now is when the Cubs brought up Bryant.

              • Yes, that deadline passed about a week ago, so any player the Pirates called up now, they would have for this year and six additional years. Super 2 is usually late May, so teams wait about an extra ten days just to be sure. I usually just go with June 10th because it’s always right around there when the big prospects start coming up.

                • John,
                  I don’t know if you were maxed out on the eyes but do you think Kuhl would give the MLB club a better chance to win right now than Locke?
                  The umpires are not giving Locke the corners and many weakly hit balls found there way through but Locke doesn’t look competitive or confident.

                  • I didn’t watch the Pirates last night, I was actually working on this article at the time and just following along on Twitter. When I was done, there was no point turning it on. I also didn’t see his last start because I was watching one of the pitchers listed above. So honestly, I don’t have any opinion of what he is doing wrong.

                    I think you can get similar or better results from any of Indy’s starters, but the Pirates probably don’t want to sacrifice development just to get similar results from someone else. I think Vogelsong would replace him before anyone else.

        • Perhaps John can confirm or deny – but I don’t think Glasnow – or any minor league pitcher calls his pitches – if Glasnow does not use his change it isn’t his choice. I also don’t think pitchers can magically decide “I will now throw a great change up” or any pitch – or that they can get great by hard work alone – some guys can throw 5 pitches well – others one. The difference is not “want to”

          • This was said elsewhere, but while it is the catcher calling the game there is a clear plan in place that the pitcher is aware of.

            So you go from

            “okay, lets try to involve the change as best as the flow of the game allows” to

            “okay, we want you using the change more. Even if its not when you normally would use it” (which i think is where they are now)

            And lastly, to the team literally forcing him to throw X number of change ups per game and demanding it. No team wants to get to that last scenario, and only does if the pitcher and catcher dont execute the strategies prior.

            Tyler Glasnow knows really well the team wants him throwing more change ups.

            • Not trying to be argumentative, but I don’t recall hearing/seeing anything from the Pirates on this – did I miss something?

              • the Pirates on what? Wanting him to work on his change up?

                “Explosive breaking ball at times, inconsistent at others. Nearly a complete lack of use of the changeup.” Huntington went on to add that the organization may mandate a certain number of changeups to be thrown in each outing. “I don’t want to say force just yet, but in a few more starts, it might be mandated, absolutely,” he said.

                And you dont get to mandating it until after failing to do it on your own. The Pirates have said they want him, like any young arm, to develop his change up. And now they are saying “he isnt using it, we are close to mandating it.”

                Tyler doesnt seem to be doing this enough on his own, to the point the GM actually specifically said he was unhappy with the lack of usage.

          • They are told certain things, but they can also shake off pitches. I know he may not have a choice soon about throwing the change-up, but they aren’t forcing him to throw it yet. I’ll be watching tonight to see if that changes, no pun intended

  • Our pitching with the big club could sure use some help

    • Just put Locke on an extended vacation. I can’t watch him pitch.

      • We do not really want to win major league games this year it does not seem. There was ALL this talk about pitchers only having to go 5 innings and that there would be this depth in the bullpen with guys who can go multiple innings…yet our management team did not actually provide us with much talent in middle/long relief. This would be fine if Blanton were here…instead we have Lobstein and had Luebke. I’m sorry…I know we are a “small market team” but give me JA Happ, Joe Blanton, and Antonio Bastardo back.

        Yes, those three players would not have stopped Locke from sucking or Liriano from forgetting how to throw strikes or kept Caminero from being god awful…but they would have actually given us TALENT that is not currently on the roster. We should have traded Morse if we were going to cut him anyways…got a turd in return and used the money to bring back a pitcher who can actually get major league hitters out.

        • It’s a valid point. If they weren’t going to get a legitimate number 3 starter they could have spent another 4-6 million on bullpen at least. And yes I realize they are already spending way more than their historical norm but they need to be with this shit rotation.

          • The point is that the offseason did not make a ton of sense and, now, the results are showing that. Why was Morse even on this team after the Rogers trade? He had no spot when they clearly were going after Jaso. Even if that saves you enough to bring back Bastardo that is a huge improvement to the ‘pen right now.

        • The chorus has been, “Locke has historically been a good first half pitcher.” Well, that no longer looks to be the case. The new mechanics were supposed to mean more strikes, but he’s still nibbling and not attacking.

          I give him 2-3 more starts and chalk up last night’s disaster to the BABIP gods looking favorably on the Pads. But if he doesn’t turn it around in the next couple weeks, I don’t think there’s any option but a DFA.

          • Instead of DFA, just option him down to AAA. I think he has some options left. If I am wrong, someone here who knows MLB service time can correct this.

          • BABIP or not…Locke has a 8.56 BB/9…and his K/9 is a full 2 lower than last year. He’s not throwing more strikes…or if he is then he is throwing more hittable strikes. Want to know how bad Locke has been? If he still was not able to get lucky and maintain a ridiculously low strand rate he would give up even MORE runs.

        • Remember the Bucs were 18-22 through 40 games last year.

          • And then when on a historically crazy run against every team not in the NL Central. I would not bank on that being repeatable.

            • The Pirates have started slow the last 3 years and struggled against San Diego. We’re less than 1/10th into the season. I’m not concerned yet.

            • Even if its not, we are 4 out of the division and 1 of the WC.

              Its crazy early and if we can say we’ve played poorly and are still around in the standings, a total freak out needs to wait another month.

              • I agree. There are actions that need to be taken to get things right though.

                • And most are simple, not the major freak out “call up any random AAA arm” stuff.

                  If Locke has another game where he’s lost, Vogelsong to the rotation.

                  Bullpen gets better once Hughes returns and we dont then have to use Caminero as often in the 6th. Find modest middle relief help as the season progresses, per the usual in season moves.

                  Problems, but not ones that prohibit winning.

                  • Jesus, Ryan Vogelsong is the solution?!

                    • Short term solution, yes.

                      At least in terms of “who he the best fit to replace Locke is he is this guy going forward.”

                      Ryan Vogelsong can throw more quality innings than a Kuhl, at least for me.

                    • Fair enough, my friend.

                      This team wasn’t really expected to be more than a few wins over .500, so I’m not really sure what the freakout is about. Well, I know what the freakout is about, and there’s no getting around the fact that the Pirates are getting beat by some really terrible baseball teams right now, but I do find it somewhat ironic that the folks who seem to be making the biggest deal out of the start to the season were the ones who seemed to be predicting it all winter.

                      If this is what you expected, it is what it is. I thought it would be the guys who expected this team to actually contend with the Cubs who would be getting nervous.

                    • Sign me up for being nervous if we are still under .500 a full month from now.

          • Yes, and these slow starts are the reason the Bucs find themselves in one-and-done situations in October.

            • No doubt. I’m just saying there’s no reason to be in panic mode. Not to mention, I’m more emotionally invested in the Penguins at the moment.

            • Unless we assume we were a true talent 103 win team, the torrid pace after the slow start was just as unlikely as starting out so slow.

              The reason we faced one and done last year was STL was just plain better. They punted a few games in the final series.

              If we dont win the division, seems likely its because CHC is a really good team and has division winning talent top to bottom.

        • It’s funny, I sure don’t remember everyone falling over themselves to praise the pickups of Happ and Blanton when they happened last year. You can’t expect management to bat 1.000 on every reclamation project. And I really doubt they could have gotten anything from a trade of Morse.

          • They wouldn’t have to rely of reclamation projects if Nutting would just spend a little bit. This rotation should have happ and volquez at a very reasonable cost. Nutting is a clown.

            • This is a really good point, im surprised we havent heard this before and had longer discussion about this topic.

              Seems like something you’d discuss a gagillion times on sports sites.

              • I know you are being sarcastic, but we are relying way too much on Searage to turn turds around annually. You can’t deny Locke’s ineffectiveness.

            • Happ and Volquez are prime examples of reclamation projects. As for Nutting, he has revitalized an historically bad franchise into one of the very best in the sport. Yet all you and your ilk can focus on is his wallet. Stop worrying about how others choose to spend their money and you may actually enjoy being a fan.

              • Right, but re-sign those guys after they have been “reclamated.” I am pretty sure that taxpayer money built nutting PNC Park and he receives tons of revenue-sharing money. This whole “Nutting should be able to spend his money as he sees fit” or ” I shouldn’t be able to tell him how he runs his business is ludicrous.” What other business do you know where other people build your factory and your biggest competitors pay you money.

                Get out of here with that BS. Nutting’s cheap ass is why we are where we are, a 98 win-team with a quad A rotation.

          • Really? They managed to get rid of Morton and he had less value than Morse.

            Could have got enough salary relief to bring back both Bastardo and Blanton.

            • LAD is paying Morse’s salary, we are paying Tabata’s. So we are effectively paying 4.5 million for Morse.

              Bastardo is making 5-6 million over 2 years.

              While I was fine with trading Morse, all of his salary gone doesnt bring us Bastardo alone.

              We also got basically nothing for Morton, who had better value than Morse due purely to being a SP.

            • Not sure what makes you think Morse has more value than Morton…I certainly would not have ever thought that.