The 2011 draft made headlines for the Pittsburgh Pirates for two main reasons. They selected Gerrit Cole first overall, and gave him a record-setting bonus of $8 M. They also took Josh Bell in the second round, then gave him a $5 M bonus, which is a record for the biggest bonus outside of the first round. But the best story of that draft could end up being their fifth round pick — a projectable prep pitcher who was signed for $600,000.
You know that pitcher as Tyler Glasnow. He’s currently the top prospect in the organization, and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He rates higher than Josh Bell in terms of prospect status, and he could end up being better than Cole in the majors. Glasnow has opened a lot of eyes the last two years, posting ridiculous strikeout numbers with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, and his curveball, which can be a plus offering when he’s commanding the pitch.
Glasnow has soared up the prospect lists, and has gotten a lot of attention for his strikeouts. But he still has a little ways to go before he reaches the majors, and a few specific things to work on.
The first thing is the obvious — he needs to have success in the upper levels. That process started in the Arizona Fall League, where Glasnow had his first taste of upper level competition.
“It was pretty reassuring going in there,” Glasnow said about his time in the AFL. “You can tell it’s the same game, no matter where it is. It didn’t seem too different than where I was at. I know they swing a lot more in the fall league because it’s a showcase league, but I didn’t see much of a difference.”
During his time in the AFL, Glasnow focused on his off-speed pitches, specifically focusing on improving his changeup and throwing the curveball for first pitch strikes. The changeup has been a big focus for the last year, with Glasnow spending a lot of time working on the pitch in Bradenton. He worked in the AFL with pitching coach Justin Meccage and Minor League Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell to improve the pitch, and Glasnow said that “something just clicked” in the final week with his changeup.
“I think it was the repetition over time,” Glasnow said about how the changeup improved. “I used to just throw it like a fastball, and I used to probably just let up, and I wasn’t really confident in it. It used to be a speed thing. It was an alright changeup, but it was really fast, so I turned it over like you were supposed to do. I never even tried it.”
The pitch went from sitting in the upper 80s and touching 89, to sitting in the 80-84 MPH range. Meccage was encouraged by the progress of the pitch and where it is heading, saying that the pitch is also starting to show some life, with a late fade, which is always a good thing for a changeup. Glasnow worked with Meccage in Bradenton last year, and the two will make the jump to Altoona to work together again this year.
Glasnow has also made some adjustments to his delivery, going back to an approach he was more comfortable with during the season. That approach involves throwing across his body a little bit and being really loose, which allows him to finish out in front more and get extended to the plate. He was doing well when he used this approach during the season.
“Right now I feel the best I ever have with accuracy, consistency, delivery-wise,” Glasnow said of the approach.
Control and a changeup are going to be key for Glasnow, especially when he gets to the upper levels and faces hitters who have seen much better stuff in their careers. That’s not to say everyone has stuff like Glasnow. His long arms and long stride make it seem like he’s already at the plate when he delivers, and I’ve talked to hitters who have said his pitching is like watching the ball fall from the sky, due to his height and steep downhill plane. All of that, plus the ability to hit 100 MPH, makes it extremely difficult to deal with Glasnow’s fastball. Controlling that fastball, and throwing people off with an effective changeup, will allow him to reach his upside.
I conducted two interviews with Glasnow. The second one came the other day after his first live batting practice, talking about where his stuff is so far in camp, and talking about some of the adjustments he made. I also talked with Meccage about the changes made during the AFL. Both interviews can be seen below, along with clips of Glasnow throwing during his live BP on Tuesday.