TYLER GLASNOW, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: August 23, 1993
Drafted: 5th Round, 152nd Overall, 2011
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Hart HS, CA
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Glasnow was a projectability pick; Baseball America did not have him rated among the top 105 prospects in southern California, which is worth remembering when the Pirates select players in the draft who aren’t on BA lists. He grew rapidly in high school, eight inches after his freshman year. His velocity also increased rapidly, eventually to the upper 80s to low 90s, reaching as high as 93. He throws a slider, curve and change, with the curve having good potential. Glasnow gets a lot of extension from his long frame, so he releases the ball much closer to the plate than most pitchers. He’s considered a good athlete, so the Pirates were no doubt hoping he could break out once he grows into his body. He had a college commitment to the University of Portland, but signed an over-slot deal at the beginning of August. He didn’t get into any action in 2011, but in 2012 started establishing himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the minors. He throws now mostly in the mid-90s, often reaching 96-97, with a curve that, combined with the fastball, can be devastating. His change is still a work in progress. He’s proven to be almost comically hard to hit, with very high K rates and very few hits allowed. Control remains an issue, though, as does holding runners.
Glasnow started off in the rotation in the GCL and, other than a few control meltdowns, got impressive results. He struck out well over a batter an inning and opponents hit only .156 against him. Baseball America picked him as the 9th best prospect in the GCL. He got one start at State College at the end of the year and was impressive, sitting around 93 and reaching 96 with his fastball.
Glasnow was one of the major breakout stories in the minors, putting up playstation numbers and improving as the season went along. Early on he had control issues, but he cut his walk rate from 5.7 per nine innings in the first half to 4.2 in the second. A lot of his second half walks came in his last two starts, when he allowed nine walks but no hits in ten innings, with 17 strikeouts. On the season opponents batted just .142 against him, which would have led all the minors by a wide margin if he hadn’t fallen an inning short of qualifying (as the Pirates monitored his workload closely). He struck out 36.3% of the hitters he faced, which not only led the minors easily, but may have been the highest percentage in all of baseball since 2001. He now features two plus pitches, a fastball that often reaches 96-97 and plays tougher due to his height, and a curve that misses plenty of bats. The curve is especially devastating when he throws it for strikes because it’s very difficult for hitters to prepare for the fastball while still being able to adjust to the curve. He also made progress with his change, although that’s undoubtedly a pitch he’ll need more as he faces more advanced left-handed hitters. Aside from the walks, he allowed nine HRs, which wasn’t a large total but did lead the West Virginia staff. After the season, Baseball America named him the league’s second best prospect.
Glasnow did nothing to hurt his prospect status at Bradenton, as he once again put up dominant numbers. His season got off to a slow start, as he suffered lower back stiffness in training camp and missed the first three weeks. He had some control problems early in the year, including one seven-walk outing. He once again made progress with his control over the course of the season, cutting his BB/9 from 5.2 in his first 13 starts to 2.9 in his last 11, with his overall walk rate dropping by nearly one per nine innings from the previous year. The control problems aren’t gone, though, as Glasnow showed when a control meltdown forced him out of Bradenton’s playoff opener after just three innings. Overall, opponents put up a meager 171/268/228 line against him. Glasnow’s K rate dropped a little, which isn’t surprising, but it remained extremely high. Some of the drop was the Pirates restricting his use of his curve at times. He continued to work on his change and also on his move to first, although he’ll probably always be vulnerable to the stolen base. Opponents stole 24 times in 32 tries against him.
Glasnow opened in AA and continued to dominate. He missed a month with an ankle injury sustained while running the bases, which is an activity that might best be avoided, although he seems to be a semi-decent hitter. Glasnow’s AA numbers are actually inflated by one bad start when he tried to come back from the injury before going on the disabled list. He remained absurdly hard to hit, with AA hitters posting a .182 average against him. The Pirates promoted him to AAA at the beginning of August. That level was more of a challenge. He continued to miss bats and hitters managed only a .150 average against him, but higher level hitters laid off more of his pitches and he had some control meltdowns. He lasted just a third of an inning in one start and walked six in another. It wasn’t always a problem; in his last regular season start, following the 1/3-inning start, he walked none over seven and a third innings, his longest pro outing. Glasnow also had trouble holding runners on base, something that’s likely always to be an issue for him. The Pirates created some consternation among their fans when they didn’t call Glasnow up in September, but such a move wouldn’t have made sense. Major league hitters would be much better at laying off pitches out of the strike zone, so there’s a real possibility that he wouldn’t have lasted long in a start and the team couldn’t have sensibly used him as a late-inning reliever in close games, as the Rays did with a young David Price. The clamor to call him up seemed to be based mainly on anybody-is-better-than-Jeff-Locke hysteria, a proposition that in fact isn’t true. Glasnow was better off continuing to work on his command in the International League playoffs.
Glasnow had a season that raised more questions than it answered, including a remarkably troublesome 1.87 ERA while he was in AAA. He continued to struggle with the strike zone, which of course led to high pitch counts. He also persisted in his reluctance to throw changeups. A new issue arose as well: at times, both in the majors and minors, Glasnow’s velocity dropped to the low-90s, sometimes even the upper-80s. He went on the disabled list with shoulder soreness for three weeks in late July, which combined with the velocity drops raised concerns. Based on the Pirates’ and Glasnow’s own statements, it really does seem to have been just minor soreness, rather than the dreaded, career-killing “discomfort.” Instead, the Pirates attributed the lost velocity to Glasnow sometimes holding back in an effort to find the strike zone. GM Neal Huntington made it clear that the team thinks his control is better when he simply lets loose. If so, that’s a second area, along with throwing more changeups, where Glasnow may be reluctant to do what the team wants. In any event, Glasnow’s velocity always bounced back and averaged 93.5 mph during his time in the majors, which is only a little below his previous norm. It also generated a “high number of swings & misses,” in the language of Brooks Baseball, even with the sometimes-lower velocity.
As for his perfomance, Glasnow continued to dominate AAA hitters when he wasn’t walking them. He had games in which he threw strikes consistently, but had stretches when he didn’t, such as a string of four starts in June in which he walked 20 in 23.2 IP. He also had a stretch of five starts in which he allowed no hits in three of them, but exited after five, six and seven innings due to his pitch counts. He did well enough that Baseball America named him the fifth best prospect in an International League that was loaded with outstanding prospects. The low ERA and the difficulties Glasnow presented to hitters led fans to call loudly for him to join the Pirates, but it’s a lot harder to get by without throwing many strikes in the majors than in AAA. Glasnow showed this when he finally got called up. He made two spot starts for the Pirates in July, leaving the second one with the sore shoulder. When he returned, he struggled more than usual with his command through four rehab starts, but finally got called up in mid-September and made three relief appearances and two more starts. In the majors, he continued to show the ability to miss bats, but had much more trouble pitching around the control issues, with hitters batting .250 against him, compared to .172 in AAA. (Obviously, when you’re walking five batters per nine innings, a .250 opponents’ average is a lot more damaging than when you’re walking, say, three.) Glasnow also had serious problems holding runners in the majors, allowing them to go 9-for-9 in steal attempts just 23.1 IP.
Glasnow didn’t have a good spring, but none of the candidates for the last rotation spot took control of it, so he got it almost by default. He lasted a dozen starts; every game was a struggle for him to get through the early innings. He had severe problems throwing strikes and also got hit increasingly hard, as he seemed to ease up on his fastball to try to get it over. His velocity generally dropped a little below 95 and sometimes down to 90. When the Pirates sent him to Indianapolis, he suddenly became a different pitcher, dominating to a degree he didn’t in 2016. He threw strikes and struck out batters at an extremely high rate, and his velocity returned to the upper-90s, often hitting 100. The Pirates brought him back up after Indianapolis got eliminated from the playoffs. Glasnow got one start and two relief appearances, and struggled even more than he had previously, walking 15 batters in just 7.2 IP. His velocity remained where it was in AAA, but it didn’t help.
It’d be very hard to find another pitcher with such a vast divergence between his AAA and major league performances. The Pirates badly need to add high-performing pitchers to their rotation and no other pitcher in the system has his ceiling, but it’s impossible to dismiss his abysmal major league track record. The Pirates have decided he has nothing left to prove in AAA but their rotation is set, so he’ll open the 2018 season in the bullpen. Long relief might be the most realistic way to get him acclimated to the majors.
|2018: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $600,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: 7/7/2016
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: Protected
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2015
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2016, 2017)
MLB Service Time: 0.158
|June 7, 2011: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round, 152nd overall pick; signed on August 6.
November 20, 2015: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.