By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Tyler Glasnow, Starting pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
2015 season (Minors): 22 G, 22 GS, 109 1/3 IP, 2.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7 W, 136 SO, 43 BB
After enduring 20 straight seasons without 80 wins, Pirates fans have enjoyed three straight postseason appearances and the development of a load of homegrown talent. From their incredible young outfield of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco, to their young ace Gerrit Cole, the Pirates have been a ton of fun the watch the past few years — and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
While their team has been right in the thick of things, their lack of depth in a few areas has held them back. Looking at the Pirates’ depth chart entering the 2016 season, their rotation takes a stark drop after Cole and veteran Francisco Liriano, which leaves a clear space for No. 1 prospect Tyler Glasnow to have his breakout season.
A fifth round MLB Draft pick out of high school in 2011, Glasnow has spent the last four years honing his skills in the Minors. Last season, he made the jumps from Class A, to Double-A all the way up to Triple-A, and he found immense success at every level. He kept his K/9 above 10 at each level while allowing just three home runs in total.
Glasnow kept his walks down for the most part, but did run into some issues at Triple-A, walking almost five batters per nine innings in his eight starts in Indianapolis. Some of that had to do with his return from an ankle injury, as he struggled with inconsistencies with the curveball and was forced to throw more of his third pitch, an underdeveloped changeup.
Despite that, Glasnow’s fastball, which sits in the mid-90s consistently, simply makes bats miss. He struck out 48 in 41 innings at Triple-A after fanning an incredible 82 hitters in 63 Double-A innings. His curveball, should he control it, also keeps hitters off balance and comes in at a 60 prospect grade (out of 80 on MLB.com), just behind his 75 fastball grade.
Glasnow stands at 6-foot-8 and is a super imposing figure for hitters, no matter the level. He didn’t get much of a look at big league camp this spring before being reassigned, and the Pirates have every intention of giving him a good amount of innings at Triple-A this year. The organization wants to see how he performs at Indianapolis while 100 percent healthy. With that being said, the expectation is that Glasnow joins the Pirates before long.
With a back end of the rotation consisting of low-level arms Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong, Glasnow’s biggest obstacle in making Pittsburgh’s rotation will be himself. If the curveball and changeup come along quickly after a number of Triple-A starts, the Pirates will feel the pressure to call up their golden right arm (ranked as the No. 2 right-hander in baseball by MLB.com) and have him join the rotation at age 22.
There will be a learning curve for Glasnow in the bigs at such a young age, but there’s no reason he can’t come close to replicating Cole’s debut season with the Pirates, which came at the same age of 22 after tossing 68 innings in 12 Triple-A starts. Cole won 10 of his 19 starts with the Pirates that year with a 3.22 ERA and 1.17 WHIP — a line that nobody would complain with should Glasnow compare.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.