Prospect Retro: Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Braves in 1984, out of high school in Billerica, Massachusetts. Some teams considered him a first round talent as the classic projectable lefty, but he was an outstanding hockey player in high school (testimony to his overall athleticism) and there was some concern about if he could be bought away from the NHL. The Braves picked him in the second round and he signed quickly. Assigned to the Gulf Coast League, he did well in his pro debut, posting a 3.34 ERA in 32 innings with a 34/13 K/BB ratio. Given his draft status and early pro numbers, Grade B would be a solid rating. He didn't throw that hard, but was polished and projectable.
Promoted to Sumter in the Sally League in 1985, Glavine went 9-6, 2.35 in 26 starts with a 174/73 K/BB in 169 innings, allowing 114 hits. His K/IP and H/IP ratios were excellent, but his walk rate was higher than ideal for a guy without a blazing heater.. Nevertheless, he was clearly one of the most intriguing southpaw prospects in the game. At this point, my main concern for a similar pitcher would be excessive workload at a young age. Grade B+.
Moved up to Double-A in 1986, Glavine went 11-6, 3.41 in 21 starts for Greenville, with a 114/70 K/BB in 145 innings. Promoted to Triple-A down the stretch, he was overmatched at Richmond with a 1-5, 5.33 mark and a poor 12/27 K/BB in 40 innings. The main issue here was a drop in his strikeout rate compared to A-ball, but given his age (20) and the fact that he skipped advanced A, this wouldn't be a major issue. I'd still put him at Grade B+.
Glavine went 6-12 but with a 3.35 ERA in 22 starts for Richmond in 1987, with a 91/56 K/BB. He went 2-4, 5.54 in nine starts for the Braves with a 20/33 K/BB in 50 innings. I remember seeing some of his starts that year, and it was obvious he was a talented pitcher, if overmatched and "nibbling" too much at the major league level. Keeping him at Grade B+ would seem reasonable.
Glavine lost 17 games for the Braves in 1988, then turned things around with a 14-win campaign in 1989. Unlike many pitchers, however, he avoided injuries and has been incredibly durable, winning 20 games five times, nearing 300 wins and collecting 4,150 innings without dramatic loss of effectiveness.
Glavine as a prospect was efficient, effective, and durable, just like in the majors. His minor league numbers fit in perfectly within the larger context of his career.