Alex Reyes and Tyler Glasnow checked in at nos. 10 and 11, respectively, on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101. The margin between the two players was razor thin throughout our discussions. Adam McInturff breaks down how he sees the two starters, and sheds light on all of the variables that went into the discussion.
Both Reyes and Glasnow come by their prospect attention authentically. Reyes was a high school third baseman—interestingly enough, born stateside—who moved to the Dominican to get more access to scouts. While there, he moved to the mound, and signed with the Cardinals in 2012 for $950,000. Glasnow was a late bloomer as an amateur—he has grown nearly a foot since his freshman year of high school—who received an over-slot bonus as a fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft.
Entering the season with soaring prospect pedigrees, both pitchers took steps forward in 2015. Glasnow was among the Pirates’ top pitching prospects, as was Reyes with the Cardinals.
Glasnow will debut as one of the taller pitchers in the big leagues. He’s athletic for his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame, and he gets through his delivery fairly loose, with good extension. Glasnow pitches with a pretty simple semi-windup; he takes a horizontal step to start his motion, and his upper half stays quiet through the gather and leg-lift of his delivery. He hides the ball well as he drives towards the plate, throwing up a high and closed front side with extra-long arms that show the ball very late. At his size, he lands fairly hard on his front leg during his release. Glasnow’s back side swings around with a fair amount effort, and he gets pronounced extension over his lower half. He pushes the ball downhill from an arm angle that is close to over the top. He pulls off to the first-base side after his release, but is generally able to throw his fastball and breaking ball over the plate for strikes, albeit with with more control than command at times.
Reyes is shorter than Glasnow, but is by no means small. At 6-foot-3, with bulky, muscular features through his shoulders, hips, and legs, he has a more traditional power-pitcher’s frame. He’s listed at anywhere from 165 to 185 pounds, but appears to be much larger than that. While Reyes has more strength and arm-speed in his mechanics, he’s a little rougher than Glasnow when executing pitches—especially his breaking ball—in front of his delivery. Reyes has a compact semi-windup, with a lower leg kick and a short stride. He also has more violent, rigid arm action (stab) in the back of his delivery, which hinders his consistency in producingthe swing-and-miss action his curveball shows when it’s at its best.
Reyes has the edge in sheer dynamics, though both guys have good swing-and-miss pitches and plenty of velocity. However, his delivery doesn’t fill the zone the same way that Glasnow’s currently does. While Reyes can certainly make some adjustments to his delivery, at the moment he has the higher chance of moving to the bullpen. For that reason, I’ll give Glasnow the edge mechanically.
Glasnow throws a power fastball in the 94-98 mph range straight downhill at hitters from his high arm slot. He has deception because of the natural length and easy looseness of his levers through his delivery. His fastball shows late, with excellent natural angle. It’s an easy plus pitch; one that he can pitch off of numerous times through a big-league lineup and produce swings and misses.
Reyes might have the most explosive fastball of any right-handed starting pitcher in the minor leagues. He rarely drops below the mid-90s and is always a viable candidate to crack triple digits. His shorter arm action in the back can catch batters by surprise at times, because it’s a shorter arm circle with an unusual amount of raw velocity,
Both Glasnow and Reyes pitch with no-doubt plus fastballs, and—because of their velocity—don’t need three pitches or pinpoint command within the zone. At the end of the day, I do think Reyes has the edge in fastball grade, if only by a hair; his has a late-gear explosion to his arm-side that simply can’t be taught.
Glasnow and Reyes are among the minors’ best pitching prospects because, in addition to their fastballs, both have power curves that give them another potential 60+ offering. Glasnow has an overhand breaking ball that shows depth and tilt, which plays up a tick more as he showed an improved ability to drop it in for a strike this past season. Reyes has a nastier breaking ball in terms of velocity, bite, and depth, but unlike Glasnow, he doesn’t get the same action on every curveball—nor does he throw it consistently for strikes.
Reyes should get more consistent with his curveball as time progresses, but the off-and-on nature of its action and control make it less usable than Glasnow’s at present. It is important to mention that Reyes would have the better breaking ball of the two if he could throw it more consistently for strikes. However, being able to land an out-pitch for a strike has become increasingly important at the major-league level. More than his fastball command within the zone, it’s Reyes’ inconsistencies with his secondaries that could have him bullpen bound. All things considered, Glasnow’s curve has a slight advantage right now, insofar as it is a solid pitch—but more importantly, it’s a more consistent offering for Glasnow.
When I saw both pitchers last season, I thought Glasnow looked far more like the two-pitch guy. While neither pitcher really needs to mix in third-pitch wrinkles to keep hitters honest, Reyes’ changeup showed more potential over two 2015 starts. Glasnow has a seldom-used straight change that doesn’t appear to be a full part of his arsenal yet, though it will likely be something he focuses on in 2016. Reyes’ changeup wasn’t consistently around the zone, but with hard, late arm-side turnover that dives away from left-handed bats, it could develop solid action.
Both pitchers rely heavily on plus fastballs and hard, swing-and-miss breaking balls. However, this category goes to Reyes almost by default, because he both throws a better change more frequently, and for more strikes.
Both pitchers have the type of stuff that doesn’t require them to be particularly fine within the zone. Neither Reyes nor Glasnow has 50-grade command of their fastballs right now, but neither may need it to get there, considering where their natural stuff will be early in their careers.
Overall, command and control are actually the largest separators between Glasnow and Reyes as it stands today. With his unusual size and mix of stuff, Glasnow is the safer bet to remain a starter right now. Reyes has always posted high walk rates, and his dominant two-pitch mix might be too tempting to keep from the back end of games if his control doesn’t come around.
As a pro, Reyes has never posted a BB/9 better than 4.3-4.4 over a full season. His inability to throw strikes with his pitches leave more room for major-league hitters to lock in on his fastball as the only pitch he’ll throw over the plate. While Glasnow isn’t a touch and feel guy by any stretch of the imagination, he looks like a better overall strike-thrower right now. Although Glasnow did walk a lot more hitters after being moved to Triple-A last year, it was encouraging to see him put up a 2.7 BB/9 over 12 starts in 2015, ultimately posting a full-season BB/9 of 3.5—by far his best career mark.
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