Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell Named Among Top AFL Prospects

MLB.com has released their top 25 list for prospects in the Arizona Fall League. They pointed out that this year was a particularly strong year for prospects in the league and they expanded the list from their normal twenty spots. Two Pittsburgh Pirates prospects made the list, with Tyler Glasnow leading the way in fifth place and Josh Bell ranked 16th overall.

There seems to be some agreement among scouts and those prospect experts watching the game, because Glasnow was also fifth on Baseball America’s AFL prospect list and for both lists, he is the top ranked pitching prospect. While they do agree on his prospect ranking, they don’t all agree on where he is right now in his progress towards the majors. Glasnow ran up high pitch counts per inning in the AFL, which led to him throwing just 19.1 innings in seven starts. Part of Glasnow’s inconsistencies can be seen in the scouting reports we have heard about his curve during the fall.

MLB.com points out that he was focusing on upgrading his curve, so his numbers may have suffered from throwing it more often. Following him all season, he seemed to be using it about the same as usual and when the pitch is on, it’s unhittable. When he isn’t throwing it for strikes, then batters can sit on his fastball. The reports we have got just from this fall have called his curve a plus pitch, a plus-plus pitch and a pitch that has the makings of a plus pitch. So basically, depending on what day you saw him pitch, your opinion of him could vary widely.

The most common report is that he has a plus curve/fastball combo that allows him to dominate in the lower levels, even with spotty command at times. His change-up is a seldom-used third pitch that needs work and is important for his progress. Without better command and a third offering, he is going to have more trouble the further he advances. Saying all that, he has shown steady improvements and he turned 21 in August, so he has time. His ETA for Pittsburgh is probably mid-2016 at this point.

Bell wasn’t listed in BA’s top ten list and he didn’t even get a mention among 12 other players that were considered for their list. MLB.com has him ranked 16th overall due to approach at the plate, which led to a 12:13 BB/SO ratio in 84 at-bats. They also believe that he should be able to handle first base and just needs to reps there. Between the Fall Instructional League and the AFL, Bell got a nice jump start on learning the new position. Spring Training will give him more time to learn the spot before he starts playing it in games that count.

Like Glasnow, Bell will probably spend most(or all) of 2015 at Altoona. That could change depending on how quickly he learns the new position and if he starts hitting for more power. Both players are top prospects, but neither is a polished player at this time, so the 2015 season in another big step towards their future potential. If they continue to progress, you will have an ace for your pitching staff and a middle of the order bat at a position the Pirates have had a tough time filling.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Joe Sweetnich

I got to see Glasnow in the Instructional League a few months ago. I thought it kind of funny that the coaches were kidding the hitters with “you want some Glasnow”? Obviously he is held in the highest regard.


Rather than convert Bell to a first basemen, why not trade him for a similar value prospect who plays first? It seems to me the Pirates are running the risk of lowering Bells value or damaging him.


Glasnow will have to work on command and the changeup, that could mean he will get hit around some, when that happens many will jump to the conclusion that he is overrated.


Exactly like Cole and Taillon in that respect leadoff.


Stats aside, I think you have to at least entertain the thought that the AFL exposed him to the most advanced hitters he’s seen yet, and they were far more capable of laying off the curveball when he doesn’t command it…which is often. Seems to be more than a matter of settling down, to me.


Ah, I got you. Really enjoyed your AFL work. Thanks!


That said, he was still rated the top pitching prospect in the AFL. Why isn’t that a better grounds for optimism than skepticism?


By no means was my comment meant to be some overarching judgement of his prospect status.

He faced better hitters and tasted his first bit of “failure”. IMO, that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to get out of a league like this.

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