Q&A: Can Tyler Glasnow Make it to Indianapolis By the End of 2015?

Every Friday we run a Q&A with questions that I’ve received throughout the week. You can submit your questions all week by using the Q&A form on the bottom of the site. This week we had a few questions that resulted in longer answers, and a lot of questions about Spring Training stats (I only answered one). Below are the questions for this week.

Austin Shirley: If Tyler Glasnow puts up Bradenton like numbers in Altoona would there be any chance of a promotion to Indianapolis at the end of the year?

Glasnow is in an interesting position. The Pirates typically have their starting pitching prospects throw about 150 innings at the Double-A level, before being promoted to Indianapolis. The one exception here has been Gerrit Cole, and even in that case, people in the organization and coaches in Altoona at the time didn’t think he was ready to make the jump.

The thing about Glasnow’s numbers in Bradenton is that they were fantastic, but didn’t tell the story of what was going on. He was working on his fastball command, which was hidden behind the numbers because his stuff was good enough to get away with mistakes in A-ball. That may or may not be the case in Double-A. It might not even be the case in Triple-A. But he’s not going to reach his upside in the majors unless he continues to improve on his command.

Any mid-season promotion for Glasnow will have to be a result of his stuff, and not his numbers. I’m not sure if he falls in the Gerrit Cole category right now. There’s also the fact that Cole was promoted to Indianapolis early because it was the end of the season, and he was on pace to spend half a season with Indianapolis in 2013, before making the jump to the majors. Glasnow could have a full season in Altoona, and still have half a season with Indianapolis. Since he’s not coming up before mid-season 2016, there wouldn’t be much of a need to rush him through Altoona.

The only way I see him making it to Indianapolis at the end of the year is if they make the playoffs and Altoona misses the playoffs. That would likely result in a promotion during the final week of the season, in order to get more playoff experience for Glasnow.

Michael Nelson: Would it make sense to have Kang start at 3B and move Harrison around the diamond again to give every starter a day off? 1 day at 3B, SS, 2B, RF, and twice in LF (Marte covering CF 1 of those days).

First, you’d have to be sure that Kang is good enough to start, and comfortable playing third base. As for moving Harrison around, that wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep everyone fresh by going with the “Golden State Warriors” approach. You’re using six games per week here, and the only change I would make would be one start in left field. I wouldn’t want to see Andrew McCutchen taking off one game per week. Also, this schedule would give Harrison six games per week, and everyone else would get five games per week. If you cut out that second start in left field, then you’ve got six games from McCutchen, and five from everyone else.

This also assumes Harrison is hitting as well as he was last year. If he’s not, then it might not make sense to bench everyone once a week in order to get him a starter’s workload.

David Gaudino: So far in the early games, it looks like the players who we expected to compete for those final roster spots are not off to a great start of spring training games while other are playing well?

I don’t put much stock in Spring Training stats. Last year with Andrew Lambo was an example. He struggled in Spring Training and was sent to Triple-A. Travis Ishikawa had a good Spring and won a spot. A month later, Ishikawa was out as the starter, the Pirates traded for Ike Davis, and Lambo was hitting just fine with Indianapolis. Maybe Lambo doesn’t do well in the majors if he gets the job over Ishikawa. But Ishikawa showed that Spring Training success doesn’t guarantee regular season success. And he’s not the only example. Remember a few years ago when everyone thought Matt Hague was suddenly becoming a power hitter because of his Spring Training numbers? You could probably spend all day finding examples of guys who had unexpected numbers during the Spring, then righted the ship in April.

Lee Young: If Allie does his 3 outcome ‘thing’ at Indy, does his MLB chances go up? And secondly, Glasnow said that Allie’s defense is the best he’s ever played with. Is Allie’s defense that good?

I don’t know if his MLB chances go up, because he would still need to make the jump to the majors and have the same stats. It seems very unlikely that he sees no drop off from his Double-A stats to his MLB stats without an improvement to his strikeouts.

As for the defense, Allie’s defense has been surprisingly good, considering how new he is to the position. That said, I don’t think Glasnow’s statement is strong praise. Here are some of the other first basemen he has played with in pro ball.

Samuel Gonzalez – Converted from catcher that year after having labrum surgery.

Jared Lakind – He’s now a pitcher.

Edwin Espinal – Converted from third base, and horribly out of shape at the time he played with Glasnow.

Jose Osuna – Converted from the outfield, and doesn’t have strong defense.

I’d say Allie is the best of the group, but it’s not a good group. That doesn’t diminish his defense. It’s good, but still needs improvement, which is to be expected considering how new he is to the position. Ultimately, his hitting is what will matter, and the defense will be a bonus.

  • I feel like you went way out of your way to try and compliment Lambo for some reason. It is because of comments like this that people such as N_Cap claim you have some sort of weird man crush on Lambo. Yes, Lambo struggled last year in Spring Training. Yes, Lambo hit well at AAA, No, this is not a good example of why ST stats are pointless. An example of that is Ishikawa, you should have mentioned him and not Lambo. It would have made that answer a lot better and seem a lot less silly.

  • I think Ishikawa had some success.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFKDsFYj3E4

  • If — and it’s a big if — Jang can show he’s an everyday player, I’ve maintained all along I’d like to see him at third with Josh returned to his super-utility role.

    The arguments against it are that: A.) Jordy isn’t as good a player as Josh and Kang feels most comfortable at shortstop, so he should play there instead; B.) Kang should be moved to second, which would allow you to trade Walker since he isn’t a good bet to be extended anyway; and, C.) Josh wants to play one position regularly and has earned that right with his performance last year.

    My response is that Jordy has proved over the past two seasons he’s a capable — and occasionally spectacular — defensive shortstop and an above-average hitter for that position. He’s also relatively young and under team control for several more seasons. That’s a valuable commodity in itself, and relegating a guy like that to the bench — especially since you have no idea whether he could handle pinch-hitting or playing other positions — would be misusing a major asset.

    Secondly, I’m not in the camp that believes Walker shouldn’t be extended under any circumstances, especially if he’d consider giving the Pirates a hometown discount and moving to either third or first at some point. But even if you do decide to trade him, installing Kang at second blocks Alen Hanson, and I’ve been salivating for several years now over the possibility of a young, speedy switch-hitter at the top of our lineup. Moving Walker should be contingent on Hanson showing he’s ready to play, not Kang — as long as there’s another option for Kang.

    Which brings us to…

    Putting Kang at third — assuming he can be productive — not only buys you four years to find a replacement third basemen who isn’t already in the system, but it also makes your already-strong bench about 50 percent stronger and more versatile. I understand Josh wants a regular position and has earned an opportunity to be something other than a utility player. But from a team standpoint, a guy who can give any one of five position players a rest on any given night with no drop-off in production is an extremely valuable guy to have around.

    Under that scenario, Josh would get his at-bats, but everybody else would stay fresh and, on nights when Josh wasn’t starting, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have lurking on the bench as pinch-hitter.

    Again, no one’s talking about just handing Kang the job. But if he shows he can handle it, I want him at third.

    • I agree with this. Positional versatility is a huge value, especially with a legitimately deep roster. I understand the “starter” designation meaning something, but even if you play a different position every day, if you’re playing every day, you’re still a starter.

      There is, of course, also the option of trading Alvarez and moving Walker to first, but now is not the time to do that with Pedro’s value low. If he has a big season this year, though, the Bucs will likely look to deal him, especially if Bell is knocking on the door. In that case, bringing Walker back for another year and moving him to first might make a lot of sense.

      But yeah, all of this depends on a lot of variables. For now, let’s just go with the guys we know about.

    • Scott Kliesen
      March 13, 2015 1:15 pm

      You certainly make a good argument, but I doubt Pirates will move a superior defensive 3B, which is what Harrison was last season, off that position for a guy who has never played the position. Considering how ground ball oriented the Pirates staff is, I doubt the Pirates will feel comfortable handing him the 3B job over Harrison no matter what he shows them this Spring.

      In addition, they have their new Josh Harrison. His name is Sean Rodriguez.

      I expect Kang to be more of a PH, play a couple days at SS or 2B per week player for the first part of the season.

      • Sean is unlikely to carry the same bat that Josh does.

        • Much more of a defensive replacement type than Josh for sure. Kang provides, they hope, the Harrison type bat at multiple spots while Rodriguez now becomes a defense option late in games at so many spots. I’d guess had the team known they were going to get Kang, Rodriguez wouldnt be a bucco.

        • Scott Kliesen
          March 13, 2015 3:20 pm

          Up until last year, Harrison’s bat was nothing special. But you’re right, I have no illusions of Sean hitting like Josh did last year.

          • Actually, Harrison has a long record in the minors of having a bat similar to what he did last year (not a .300 type guy, but a consistent .280 option with good not great pop). When given a chance to start, Harrison actually has a pretty strong record of having a plus bat. Maybe he took longer than some to adjust to the bigs, maybe his lack of any type of regular at bats didnt do well for him, but his bat was considered decent most years. Even in the bigs, he had a not good 2012, after a fine 2011, and a SSS “meh” 2013.

            The real issue with Harrison is that he doesnt walk, so if he sees a large drop in BABIP it’ll effect him more than most. But even a normal regression in BABIP to minor league type numbers puts him as a .275+ hitter with plus defense at 3B. His 2 bad years have come from a .250ish BABIP, with every other year seeing .300 or above. So if his BABIP drops 80-100 points, he isnt good. If his BABIP drops 50 points, he is still a .275+ hitter.

            • The minor league track record means little to nothing.

              There were exactly zero people citing Josh Harrison’s minor league track record as a reason he would break out before he broke out. Classic case of finding an argument to fit a narrative.

              • Scott Kliesen
                March 13, 2015 5:28 pm

                Except for Josh Harrison. I distinctly remember him saying whenever he got consistent playing time, he hit well. And the last time that happened before last season was in the minors.

                • Josh Harrison said that? No way. Obviously an impartial source.

                  Check how many games Harrison started at 3B in 2011 whle Alvarez was in AAA and then update that I-never-got-a-chance narrative.

                  • Scott Kliesen
                    March 13, 2015 5:48 pm

                    You did say “zero people.”

                    • Well played, sir. 😉

                      Seriously though, I don’t fault Josh at all for having that chip on his shoulder. I *want* players to think like that.

                      But when you start massaging facts like the minor league BABiP and never-got-a-chance narrative to paint a picture like whatever happened last year is totally reasonable and should be totally reasonable going forward you set yourself up for disappointment.

                      I love reading Dejan, but he literally ran an article earlier this year claiming, as a fact, that nobody in baseball last year could figure out how to get Harrison out, ergo he has no weaknesses and will be great going forward. Absolute bologna. Baseball is a game of *constant* adjustments. It took the game 2 1/2 years to figure out Mike Trout struggles with high fastballs, but they did, and Mike Trout is the best baseball player alive.

                      I certainly don’t mean to rain on fan parade or anything, but this game is just too damn humbling to dive in head first like this.

                    • Scott Kliesen
                      March 13, 2015 6:10 pm

                      Yeah, this just in, hitting a baseball is HARD! I will say it looked to my untrained eye as if Harrison did an exceptional job of hitting the ball where it was pitched. And that approach generally works best.

    • John Janesko
      March 13, 2015 1:52 pm

      I feel like there doesn’t need to be a set utility man. Harrison can play anywhere. Rodriguez can play anywhere. Kang can play all the infield positions. Just rotate guys as needed, don’t just designate Harrison as the guy who never has a stable position, despite being one of the best players last year. Do it on a day by day basis.

      • To be fair to Josh, he has said in interviews last year that it was tougher not knowing where he was going to play in that role. He seemed to be liking the idea of not having to guess/practice at a different spot everyday. Early on i’d like to see Harrison be able to focus 75% of the time at 3B with some sparing usage in RF, with Kang being the rover option at 3B and 2B. Personally i dont think anyone should take more than 5-10 starts away from Mercer unless he earns a demotion.

        • Scott Kliesen
          March 13, 2015 5:32 pm

          Well said. I’ll be very surprised if Harrison isn’t penciled in to play 3rd on an every day basis until injury or performance dictate otherwise.

    • My question is how a player “shows he can handle it” without getting handed the job? Thatd mean the team has to rely on a really SSS to make a big change in the lineup either way. I dont dislike the idea, but without just making that move and letting Kang sink or swim, the team is basing the switch on either a few spot starts or PH duties. Love keeping guys fresh, but it seems a simpler way to do that is use Kang in that role and let Josh be at 3B, Walker at 2B, and at times move Josh to the OF and Kang spots at 3B. Same basic amount of rest for guys, but it rewards Josh for last year and lets Kang slowly work his way into things.

  • lol Lambo cant deal with pressure has nothing to do with ST or AAA, when its time for him to produce he folds

  • If Glasnow is not in Indy by August, I will be disappointed….I think he will be pushing for that promotion by July 1…..

    • Lee Foo Young
      March 13, 2015 1:54 pm

      I have faith in the Bucs…if they see fit to move him, then fine. Otherwise…..

    • I think I’d rather see Glasnow in Pittsburgh in 2017, extending the length of time in his peak years that the Pirates will have him. He could work on expanding his command and pitch arsenal in AA (2015) and AAA (2016 and early 2017).

    • Which is why fans are fans and the development team knows better. His stats are flashy, and he has big upside. But promoting him on those stats without ensuring his stuff is ready is how you lessen the upside of a great player. Much rather they take their time and make sure his control keeps making the needed improvements before big promotions. Full season in AA, half a year in AAA and if all goes well he is a mid year call up. Solid timeline that gives him time to fix his minor issues in AA before having to ignore them and just pitch in AAA/MLB

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