PITTSBURGH – Tyler Glasnow has yet to make the successful jump to the big leagues. After struggling at the beginning of the 2017 season in the majors, Glasnow was sent down to Triple-A. He put up his usual strong numbers at the level, only this time the results came with better stuff and command. That led to an eventual promotion back to the big leagues.
So far, it has been more of the same. Glasnow has combined to pitch four innings since he has been up, giving up five runs on four hits and ten walks — yes, ten walks — with four strikeouts. Glasnow probably needs more innings in the big leagues, although the current lack of innings is on him, as he was expected to pitch much longer in both of his appearances. The Pirates are still giving him a shot while he’s up, as Neal Huntington said to reporters on Sunday, including our Alan Saunders.
“We’ll continue to give him opportunities to show the advancements and developments that he’s made and recognize we’re at [four] innings at the major-league level since dominating Triple-A baseball again, but in the right way,” Huntington said. “That’s the next step we’ll take with him, continuing to get him to trust his stuff. We trust that he has the ability to play at this level and we’re going to continue to push him forward.”
That’s going to be a challenge though. There is one more week left in the 2017 season. Huntington said that Glasnow will get another appearance, as will Steven Brault. However, both of those appearances might be out of the bullpen. That’s not going to give Glasnow much of an opportunity to adjust to the majors.
The problem the Pirates have with Glasnow is that they are eventually going to have to roll the dice with Glasnow in some way. They’re either going to need to do what they did this year and give him a shot out of Spring Training as a starter, or take a more conservative approach and give him a shot in the bullpen. Either approach becomes an issue if the Pirates want to contend next year, as it puts a huge risk in their pitching staff.
They could send him down to the minors again, but at this point that wouldn’t really help. He doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors, and at this point the only thing he needs to do is make the jump to the majors.
Complicating matters even more is the fact that the Pirates do have other options. Trevor Williams won out over Glasnow at mid-season when the Pirates had to make a decision between the two players. Steven Brault seems to be ahead of Glasnow in terms of September playing time. Williams and Brault have lower upsides, but are capable of providing better results right now in the big leagues.
The Pirates also have Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes as options at the top level, and Mitch Keller should arrive in Triple-A next year, with a shot at arriving in the majors in the second half of 2018. Glasnow might not have many opportunities left with the Pirates, since there will be so many other young starters looking for a shot in the majors, with most of them likely to perform better than Glasnow’s current 8.02 ERA/5.49 xFIP in the majors.
Glasnow is still young, only turning 24 years old a month ago. So it’s not quite time to write him off as a major leaguer just yet. But if the Pirates wish to contend next year and going forward, then it will be difficult to give him opportunities to adjust to the majors, especially with no guarantees that the adjustment will happen, and several other young pitchers at the top levels who could perform better than he is currently performing. While he has plenty of opportunities going forward in the majors, he might not have as many chances with the Pirates.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.