It might seem as though Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow has been around in the prospect game for a long time. In fact, he has indeed.
He has steadily climbed the MLB Pipeline pre-season rankings. Prior to the 2014 season he was ranked as the 27th overall prospect. In 2015, he moved up to #12, then to #10 in 2016. Finally, prior to this season, Glasnow was ranked as the #9 overall prospect in the game.
For the last three years, Glasnow has been a Top 25 prospect in the rankings as presented by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
Selected by Pittsburgh with their 5th round choice in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of a California high school, Glasnow turned 24 years old just three weeks ago.
He was called up for his first taste of life in the big leagues in July of 2016. Then in September, Glasnow re-joined the Bucs to finish the season.
Overall in 2016 he appeared in seven games, making four starts. He allowed 22 hits over 23.1 innings while striking out 24 and walking 13 batters. The right-hander threw just 59% of his pitches for strikes.
While it was a largely inauspicious beginning, it was a beginning. Most prospects struggle during their first go-around in Major League Baseball. Glasnow had at least gotten his feet wet. It was hoped the experience would serve him well entering 2017, when he was expected to fill a rotation spot with the Pirates.
Big league fail, minor league recovery
He was indeed given that shot at the beginning of this season, but struggled mightily. Over a dozen starts, Glasnow surrendered 75 hits in 54.1 innings. He produced a modest 50/29 K:BB ratio. His ERA was through the roof at a 7.45 mark, and he was still throwing just 61% of his pitches for strikes.
Pittsburgh brass had seen enough. They returned their prized young pitcher to AAA Indianapolis for more seasoning.
Back with the Indianapolis Indians of the International League, it once again all kicked in for Glasnow. He would go 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 0.954 WHIP mark over 15 starts. He dominated minor league hitters, allowing just 57 hits over 93.1 innings. Glasnow also produced a sensational 140/32 K:BB ratio.
“It was at the point where I went down and it was like nothing else, it’s the worst it can get right now,” Glasnow said per MLB.com’s Alaina Getzenberg. “I was up here, I didn’t do very well, so it was the time to make a big change, and it was kind of like the perfect time for it. It clicked my first start in the Minor Leagues and I carried it on through.”
Second chance as season winds down
Just as clearly as he needed to go back down to find himself, it has now become clear that Glasnow is ready to come back up and prove himself.
A lost season is winding down in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won just nine of their previous 28 games before shutting out Milwaukee on Monday night.
Gerrit Cole will be 27 years old next year. Jameson Taillon will be 26 years old. An organization such as the Pirates can’t really afford to splurge on big-ticket free agents. They could desperately use Glasnow to emerge into a legitimate home-grown rotation force, joining those other two talented arms.
“I think when you come up here, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and you can kind of lose who you are a little bit,” said Glasnow per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “What I learned most is just do what I do, just kind of be who I am and not worry about … obviously don’t come down and be an idiot, but just be yourself and don’t worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.”
The Pirates could use someone to loosen up their locker room, and Glasnow may be a great fit in that regard. But more importantly, they need him to just be himself on the mound. That self who scouts have envisioned, and who has dominated minor leaguers.
It’s time for that Glasnow to take the mound in the big leagues. His second chance will begin on Wednesday night in Milwaukee against the division rival Brewers.