INDIANAPOLIS – Tyler Glasnow has a tremendous amount of upside. He’s one of the top prospects in all of baseball, consistently rated around the top ten, and even being named Keith Law’s number four prospect in the game in today’s mid-season update. He’s got the look of a guy who can be a top of the rotation starter, with a fastball that sits 94-96 MPH and touches as high as 100, along with a plus curveball that can be a devastating strikeout pitch.
Before Glasnow gets to that point, he is going to need to develop his changeup, with the third offering falling well behind the other two pitches. Prior to this year, Glasnow worked on the changeup, but spent a lot of his time focused on command of his fastball, and repeating his delivery, in order to cut down on his control problems. Because of this, the changeup hasn’t had a chance to develop as much. So the Pirates recently mandated that Glasnow throw the changeup more often, in order to try and improve the pitch.
“He used it a lot and doubled-up on it a lot,” Indianapolis Manager Dean Treanor said. “I think it’s good for him to do that. When you throw it twice in a row you’re going to have confidence doing that. That’s what we’re trying to build with him, that confidence with that pitch.”
Glasnow used the pitch a lot last Tuesday when I saw him live, and the pitch didn’t look good. Granted, all of his stuff was off that day, and Glasnow himself said that it was the worst he’s thrown the pitch. But the reports we’ve received haven’t been good for his other outings.
“Today was by far the worst day throwing the changeup,” Glasnow said after last Tuesday’s start. “I’ve throwing it a good amount of times my last four or five starts, and I’ve been feeling good with it. I think I know the adjustment I need to make for next time. I think coming off my last start to this start things got a little better.”
Glasnow said that the key to developing the pitch is to continue to throw it more often. The speed of the pitch lately has been closer to the 88-90 MPH range, which isn’t as effective, especially if his velocity is down a few ticks. That essentially makes the changeup a much slower fastball, giving hitters an advantage against Glasnow.
“I think if there’s anything I need to do it’s to take the velocity off it a little bit,” Glasnow said. “If it’s 88 or 90, that’s a little too high. But I’m going to keep throwing it and I’ve been getting really good swings on it like I’m supposed to. If I keep getting feedback like that, I’ll keep throwing it.”
Treanor said that Glasnow was doing Triple-A hitters a favor by throwing the pitch in the upper-80s, and that he couldn’t get away with that in the big leagues like he could at the current level. However, this is all part of the development process with the pitch.
“It actually helps him get better with that because he realizes he has to throw it better — better command, better action,” Treanor said. “You would like for him to had developed that pitch already before he gets here. So this is a work in progress, but again it’s only going to help him down the road to develop that pitch.”
The changeup looks to be the final thing Glasnow needs before arriving in the majors. He still has control problems at times, and that will also happen when he’s called up. There are some things that you continue working on after a promotion to the big leagues, and the control would be one of those things for Glasnow. The changeup isn’t one of those things, as he wouldn’t see the same success he’s having in Triple-A by working off two pitches, and would get hammered when one of those pitches was off on a given night.
One topic that has surrounded Glasnow’s season this year is the usual Super Two debate. The idea among fans is that he will magically discover a changeup right when the Super Two deadline passes, putting him in line for a call-up. Every year, teams all around baseball say that a prospect has things to work on, and those prospects coincidentally are ready by the second week of June. That’s probably going to be the case with Jameson Taillon and the Pirates. But I don’t think it will be the case with Glasnow. He legitimately has things to work on, and this might take him beyond the second week of June.
Glasnow isn’t concerned about the Super Two talk, or when he could arrive. Instead, he approaches every level knowing that he has to compete and try to use his best stuff.
“You know what you have to do as a pitcher,” Glasnow said. “I’m not a guy that needs to hear ‘This is when we want you to come up.’ You have to pitch good in order to go up, and I have to be consistent to go up. I have to just keep going and keep grinding… My goal is to go up in the big leagues and stay in the big leagues. Whether they want to do it later, or they want to do it now, I have no control. I just have to go out and pitch.”
Glasnow will arrive in the majors at some point, and it could even be later this year. I’d be surprised if he does arrive in a few weeks. If that does happen, I’d temper my expectations for how much he can help right now. The lack of a changeup is a serious issue for him right now, especially when he still has command issues with his other pitches from time to time. Long-term, Glasnow could be better than any pitcher currently in the organization — both in the majors and minors. But in the short-term, without that changeup I’m not sure he would be an upgrade to the current rotation.