First Pitch: The One Thing Standing Between Tyler Glasnow and the Top of a Rotation

Free agency began today, with four Pittsburgh Pirates — Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Clint Barmes — officially filing as free agents. Martin is going to be a huge focus, although the other big focus will be on starting pitching. The Pirates will most likely need to add two starting pitchers from the outside, adding to their internal options of Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and Brandon Cumpton. They also have several top prospects in the upper levels of the minors who could arrive by mid-season — Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Adrian Sampson.

The one upper level pitching prospect who isn’t on that list is Tyler Glasnow. The right-hander is projected to start the year in Altoona, and I project him to stay there for almost the entire 2015 season. Glasnow has put up video game numbers in each of the last two seasons, making him look like one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball. Glasnow has the abilities to be one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball, and eventually, one of the best in the majors. But he will need to spend a lot more time in the minors than you’d expect by just looking at the video game numbers alone.

Tonight was a perfect example of that. Glasnow was coming off three straight shutout appearances in the AFL, only to deal with control issues. After the outing, Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus had this to say on his command.

https://twitter.com/jeffmooreBP/status/527918631297241088

I saw a lot of Glasnow in Bradenton this year, including dominant starts, or one of the rare starts where he struggled. The common trend in all of those starts was that he had an inning where everything fell apart from the command side. On the best days, he would fix the command issues mid-inning. Most days the command would lead to one bad inning. On the worst days, the command issues would continue for a second or third inning, leading to a bad outing and shortening his day. Glasnow has amazing stuff, which is why he was able to get away with this while still putting up strong numbers in the lower levels.

He has been improving on this, but it’s still a concern. It’s a big reason why he stayed in Bradenton all season, despite the results. It’s probably why he will spend all of next season in Altoona.

Jeff’s tweet is correct. Right now, Glasnow would be one of those starters like Ian Snell, who had great stuff, but always had a blowup inning that led to Quad-A results from top of the rotation stuff. And so he’ll work to improve on those results, and make it so that outings like tonight won’t be a common issue going forward. From the looks of the early results in the AFL, Glasnow is going to see the same results in Double-A that he saw in both levels of A-ball. He will have some unstoppable outings, followed by a blow-up outing where his lack of command kills him.

In short, Glasnow could have another season where the only way he can be beat is if he is off his game. He’ll have another year and a half in the minors to get more consistent in that regard before he is expected to arrive in the majors. And it’s important to remember during this time that he’s going to look great most of the time, but there are some developmental issues he still needs a lot of work on before he can go on to have success in the majors.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**AFL: Tyler Glasnow Struggles With Command, Loses Shutout Streak

**2014-2015 Off Season Primer

  • To me. Ian Snell, Kip Wells and Charlie Morton all suffered from the same thing. Lack of mental toughness. Everything was fine with them until they had to face adversity. Blown call, error, not getting a strike call, ect. Then they blew up. Snell additional problem is that he was a hard headed crybaby. I’m not saying Glasnow is like that, I have no idea. but when Snells name was brought up I thought about what, IMHO, made him less than he could have been.

  • Bucs Stop Here
    November 2, 2014 1:08 am

    As rookies and second year players, John Smoltz and Matt Cain always had the blow up inning as countless other pros did as well so that’s a non argument. It’s better to learn at the mlb level now where a great pitching coach like Ray Searage get turn Glasnow around fix that issue right now. Look at Volquez, Liriano and all the journeymen relief pitchers turned around by Searage!

  • There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. For every 5 prospects with Glasnow’s “stuff” perhaps 1 of them winds up with a memorable major league career.
    The Giants have their own Glasnow – his name is Kyle Crick. The Royals have Kyle Zimmer. The Yankees have Luis Severino.
    According to Baseball America, only 40% of the pitchers who are rated as “top-20” overall prospects “succeed in the majors.” Even though Glasnow has reached the upper echelon of pitching prospects, the odds are still against him even “succeeding” in the majors, let alone becoming a staff ace.
    The most likely scenario in my opinion is that Glasnow fails to get his BB% down and needs to become a reliever to allow him to rely on 2 pitches. He will probably need TJ surgery, which will reduce his velocity and therefore reduce his K%. He should have a good chance to become a late-inning reliever for a few years. But the odds of him becoming a high-end starter are still very low.

    • I think the orioles had a full rotation of elite pitching prospects matsutz/arrieta/britton/tillman and I think one other? Tillman is a solid #2.. pretty much all they got out of that for starting pitchers.. though arrieta looked good last year with the cubbies

    • You are exactly right, and about Crick particularly. He has a much more advanced case than Glasnow from what I understand.

  • Saw Tyler pitch yesterday in Mesa. Serious problems from stretch. Couldn’t hold runners. A couple of steals where Elias Diaz had no chance. Needs a lot of psych work too. Diaz visited mound to settle him down many times Good thing his battery mate is a Pirate cause ya never see mound visits in AFL

    • Hi sam.. bucswc mentioned the stretch issue above as well.. does/did he have good command when the bases are empty?

      • No, Very poor fastball command and seemed to be getting pitches up. Even these AA youngsters were ripping laser shots. Tyler still has a ++ fastball and was able to get out of a few messes with it by simply overpowering some of the players with lesser talent. Also, Elias Diaz made 3-4 trips to the mound to settle him down. He seemed to get rattled alot. Hopefully a full year of double A will help him out. I will be trying to get to Altoona next Aug. to see any improvements.

  • If he were a St.Louis product he would be in the majors by now, two pitches is all they require, they would just tell him to stick with the pitch that is working and not worry about walks or big innings. It is hard to tell with minor league pitchers when it comes to bad innings because they must spend some time working on different pitches, they also have to learn to handle bad umpiring. I know for sure the Pirates preach to pitchers that they must learn to minimize in the big innings, one or two runs is not the end of the world, could be to Tyler that one or two runs gets him rattled since he is used to getting people out so easily. Every pitcher in baseball has an inning or two that they have to battle through.

  • The pirates have proven that they know how to develop pitching, whether it be by bringing along young guys or by fixing mechanics on a struggling big league starter. With that said I think I will just sit back and trust the pirates pitching coaches decisions w/out second guessing them. (at least until they show me otherwise.)

  • Lee Foo Young
    October 31, 2014 1:29 pm

    History is littered with young pitchers with #1 starter stuff, but little to no consistent command.

    Let’s hope Tyler doesn’t become one of them.

  • How many pitchers go threw the minors without having bad innings almost every start? I get where your going but it sounds to me what your saying is he has a mental hip cup every start or struggles a little from the stretch. I think those things take care of themselves just through experience. He will struggle at the majors when he eventually comes up like almost every pitcher while he learns what he can and cannot do. Name me a starter who comes right up and dominates? I think Ian Snell is a poor comparison because he was a nutcase. If Glasnow has that personality you can keep him in the minors for a decade and it wouldn’t change the outcome once he hits the majors.

    • I think they key thing is that the mental hiccup results in at least 1 terrible inning that derails an entire start. Experience may help, but for some it really doesnt. The coming year will be key in terms of him limiting those hiccups and learning to repeat his delivery consistently. Everyone struggles, but his lead to rather shockingly bad innings.

    • You hit the nail right on the head with that comment Bob. Comparing any pitching prospect to Snell is pretty funny. You had to be around any team he was on to fully understand.

  • Wabbit_Season
    October 31, 2014 9:22 am

    Ian Snell.

    • James McDonald–tanned, rested, and ready!

      • Where is James now – his contract status with anyone?

      • I really like this idea at the moment. At some point one would hope he’d get past his immaturity and listen to searage.. I suppose the cubs have a good idea on pitching development as well now so if they gave up on him, maybe he hasn’t

  • Never saw him pitch but hope to in ST. Are his problems mostly from the stretch? Does he have similarities to early Electric Charlie Morton, where an error or a couple of walks would seemingly send him into an unrecoverable funk/crisis of confidence?

    • I think it would be good if that was the case? Seems like that can easily be corrected versus just having overall difficulty repeating his delivery.. well. The pitching in stretch part not the mental struggles

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