The Pittsburgh Pirates went through a bit of a renaissance on the big league level in the earlier part of this decade. During that time, they made some quality draft picks that were thought to help prolong the newfound success that the 2012 team began. Offensively, names like Austin Meadows and Josh Bell were added through the draft, but it was the pitching that really took form.
Jameson Taillon in 2010. Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow in 2011. Even Chad Kuhl in 2013. Now on Opening Day 2017, all four appear to finally be in the rotation.
It’s not like Glasnow made ground-breaking strides the spring. He pitched 17.1 innings and allowed 25 hits and 12 earned runs. He also struck out 28 and walked just seven.
That is the silver lining. The walks were coming down (just one in his final tune-up), as command has always been Glasnow's Achilles heel.
Glasnow was selected in the fifth round of the 2011. The 23-year old right-hander rose through the Pirates ranks with little trouble, capping it off with a remarkable 2016. He went 8-3 with a 1.93 ERA (2.92 FIP) in 22 Triple-A starts striking out 133 in 110.1 innings. The problem was the walks, and it had been for Glasnow for the past few levels. He has a career 4.482 walks per nine in 500 minor league innings, including a 5.04 rate while at Indianapolis.
His big league debut — albeit 23.1 innings — didn’t go so hot. It led some to believe that he was hesitant, not comfortable with his stuff at the big league level. He still is young and has loads of potential, and was still regarded the Pirates top prospect in many circles. Here’s what our John Sickels said:
4.24 ERA in 23 MLB innings with 24/13 K/BB; electric stuff with fastball up to 97, plus curveball, and steadily improving change-up; command still needs work but stuff is first class; lots of comment in the prospect press and among Pirates circles about his trouble holding runners; that issue combined with control wobbliness and some prospect fatigue hurts his stock with some observers; this is understandable but we should be wary of over-correcting; I still see him as the top prospect in the system and one of the best in baseball with number one starter potential, though it may take some time to get there.
And that’s the beauty of him being the fifth starter. He is an imposing figure on the mound, standing at 6-foot-8 and 220, and plenty of young pitchers go through mechanics issues when they are that monstrous in size. That final rotation spot eases into the mix to start the season. Sure, you can argue he'd get more reps at Indianapolis, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
Triple-A — the International League specifically — just doesn’t seem like it has helped in extended stays for some of today’s top pitching prospects. Take Jose Berrios for example. He decimated the IL, but couldn’t produce on the MLB level last year.The Pirates made the right move letting Glasnow take his bumps and bruises in the big league rotation.
It’s rare to see an almost all home grown rotation in today’s game (with Mitch Keller still creeping up the ranks). These teams that have gone through major rebuilds -- the Cubs, the Royals, even the Red Sox and Nationals -- have brought in the bulk of their rotations while building their offense through the draft. Pittsburgh seems to have followed the Mets blueprint and put their faith in their pitching prospects. While there will certainly be a learning curve with Taillon, Kuhl and now Glasnow entering their first full seasons, it should prove for an exciting time in Pittsburgh.