Early this morning, Jeff Passan had a comment about Tyler Glasnow which sparked a few conversations on Twitter.
File this away for September: Pirates must add Tyler Glasnow 40-man after this year. He is a profound stretch weapon if they promote early.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 4, 2015
It’s true that Glasnow needs to go on the 40-man roster at the end of the year. He was drafted out of high school in 2011, making him eligible for his fifth Rule 5 draft, which is the upcoming one in December. So just from a roster angle, that makes him no different than Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Elias Diaz, or Willy Garcia last year. And if we’re going to make a connection between Glasnow being added to the 40-man roster this off-season and the possibility that he could be added to the active roster in September, then the closest comparison would be Kingham. The Pirates didn’t make this move with Kingham last year, and I don’t see it happening with Glasnow this year.
There are many reasons why I don’t see this being a possibility for Glasnow. First of all, he’s currently in Double-A, and has just four starts under his belt. They have been excellent starts, but it’s still four starts. He’s going to likely spend the entire season with Altoona. That’s just what the Pirates do with their starting pitching prospects. Every starter that has come through the system has spent at least 150 innings in Double-A, with one exception. That exception was Gerrit Cole, and the only reason he was an exception was to get him in the majors by the middle of the 2013 season.
Glasnow is expected to arrive by the middle of the 2016 season, so there’s no need to rush him through Altoona. He’s got legitimate things to work on this year, such as improving his changeup, and learning how to actually pitch, rather than just focusing on improving individual pitches with no regard for a game plan. And while two of his last three starts have featured zero walks, I’m not ready to say that his fastball command issues are a thing of the past.
But this topic comes up every year, and it’s always the same flawed argument. The argument in theory is that a top prospect could provide a boost for his team in a limited role down the stretch, increasing their chances of making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs. Here is why this theory is flawed.
1. It imagines the top prospect at his upside, and ignores where he actually is with his development. In this case, Glasnow probably won’t have any time above Double-A by the time September rolls around. He will likely have around 150 innings, which will already be an increase over his 2014 totals. Glasnow is going to be a great pitcher in the majors one day, but he’s not going to be that pitcher this year.
2. It focuses on vague strengths, and ignores key individual details. In Glasnow’s case, the focus is on his fastball velocity and his minor league stats. If that’s all you’re looking for, then you can just find any reliever with good numbers and good velocity. Blake Wood, for example, has good velocity and good numbers in Triple-A. But no one dreams about the impact Wood could make over Glasnow, mostly due to the reasons mentioned in #1.
But to this point, the focus needs to be on Glasnow, and not on two parts of his game that can be replicated by other pitchers. I’ve talked a lot with Glasnow through his career, discussing the root of his control problems. The big thing he references? Nerves. He enters every start amped up due to his nerves. Eventually he settles in, although sometimes the nerves can lead to some poor control problems and can throw him off his game.
Now imagine a pitcher that just turned 22, making the jump from Double-A to the majors, and being called upon to provide a big boost in just one inning of work. Imagine the nerves that would be at play there. When you think about it that way, it doesn’t sound as optimistic and as guaranteed as focusing just on the fastball and the strikeout numbers.
This is an issue Glasnow has been working on, and he’s doing a better job in Altoona early in the season. But there’s a big divide between Double-A and the majors. Channeling his mental game in the minors is a lot different than being expected to do the same thing at the major league level as a rookie in key situations during a playoff race. This is similar to #1. Glasnow could get there, but he’s not there now.
3. Every time a prospect is close to the majors, the expectation is that he’ll make an immediate impact on his team. And yet so many examples tell us that a prospect coming up and having immediate success is the exception, and not the rule. Gregory Polanco is a recent example of someone who came up, struggled initially, and is now starting to find some success. Gerrit Cole was far from an ace when he made his debut in 2013. Starling Marte had his struggles when he arrived in 2012.
Even if you ignore the first two points, there’s little reason to expect Glasnow to come up and instantly have success at the MLB level. There will be an adjustment period, and that’s not something you want taking place in the final month of a playoff stretch, or during the playoffs.
4. David Price. Every time this argument comes up, the argument is made that David Price made a big impact for Tampa Bay. That was back in 2008, which should tell you something. If David Price is still the example seven years later, then maybe his situation shouldn’t be seen as a guide for every single team that has a top prospect they could promote for a playoff stretch.
Price was a year older than Glasnow, and had a lot more experience under his belt. He pitched for three years in a major college conference. He pitched in big tournaments, and pitched for the US National Team. He also didn’t have the historical control issues that Glasnow has shown.
Even with all of that said, Price didn’t really make a big impact. If you look at his numbers, he had a 1.93 ERA, but a 3.90 xFIP. He benefitted from a .205 BABIP, a 79.4% strand rate, and a 6.7% HR/FB rate. The following year he struggled with a 4.42 ERA and a 4.43 xFIP after all of those numbers normalized. The Rays were very fortunate with Price. He wasn’t the David Price that we all know now. They could have very easily gotten the 2009 numbers, and I can’t imagine who the “David Price” argument would be in these cases if that happened. As for the impact, Price was worth 0.2 fWAR down the stretch, which was the same value John Holdzkom had last year. That goes to show that you don’t need a top prospect to get the David Price boost. Not to mention that boost isn’t really a big boost at all.
It sounds nice to dream about Tyler Glasnow coming up and posting his Altoona stats in the majors down the stretch, making him a key figure that will lead the Pirates to a World Series. But that’s just a dream. The reality is far less optimistic. And even if it works out like David Price, the impact isn’t going to be that great. Overall, this sounds great in theory, but doesn’t play out the same way in reality.
And honestly, the Pirates have shown they don’t take this approach. They didn’t do it with Taillon in 2013, or Kingham or Adrian Sampson last year. They also have plenty of good pitching lined up, with Kingham, Sampson, and even Jameson Taillon being in better position to provide a boost this year.
**I’ve been working on fixing a few site issues over the weekend, and would like some feedback to make sure these aren’t still issues. The first issue was that people were having problems receiving their password or changing their password. The “Forgot Password” feature wasn’t sending out e-mails, but only to some members. Others were getting the e-mails just fine. I haven’t had an e-mail with this problem since Friday, and usually I would get a few per day. So I’m hoping this has been fixed, but would appreciate it if anyone who had e-mail problems in the past could tell me if it’s working now.
There was also another issue where people weren’t staying logged in, and would have to go through the process daily, or multiple times per day. It has been difficult finding a source for this, but I applied a potential fix on Sunday. If you were having this issue, you might need to clear your cache and delete your site cookies to get the new fix.
Finally, on a minor note, for those of you who use RSS feeds, the feed should be working again after being down over the weekend.