The Situation: The Pirates have stumbled through the season so far, much due to the struggles and injuries of the rotation. Fellow top prospect Jameson Taillon joined the club earlier this year, and it is now Glasnow’s turn to try and stick in Pittsburgh.
Background: Glasnow was a fifth-round pick in 2011, highlighitng the tremendous work the Pirates scouting and player development has done in selecting and grooming players. He has been steadily rising up our Top 101 rankings checking in at 42nd, 21st and 11th over the past three years. He was signed out of high school in Santa Clara, California and turns 23 next month.
Scouting report: Standing six-foot-eight, length is an advantage for Glasnow’s fastball. In his most recent start on Saturday night at Toledo, he reached as high as 97, sitting in the mid 90s the entire night. Throwing downhill, he had sink and run, totaling up to a plus-plus pitch. His curveball rivals his fastball, coming in hard with 11-5 break, but also backing up to 12-6 occasionally to give it a different look. These are his bread-and-butter pitches, focusing heavily on a mix of the two. The changeup is a work in progress as he struggles with command of it. Many believe it will be at least an average pitch in the majors, which will come with time and reps.
The big issues for Glasnow have been his control, command and working with runners on. Because of his height his mechanics and delivery will always require some upkeep to ensure consistency, and this is doubly true with runners on. In a recent start his tempo changed with men aboard, and he was visibly uncomfortable, throwing over multiple times, and struggling with his command. If this is a problem in Triple-A, it will only be exploited in the majors.
Immediate Big-League Future: With the decimation of the Pittsburgh rotation through injury and mediocrity (or worse), Glasnow has the opening to stick with the big league club if he pitches well, or until others get healthy. The Pirates haven’t decided one way or the other whether he’ll would stick, but Thursdays outing will be a factor. Unlike Taillon, innings should not be an issue, which will help his case if he pitches well. The fastball-curveball combination will be enough to get hitters out at the major-league level, and assuming the development of the changeup continues as expected, Glasnow will become a staple at the top of the Pittsburgh rotation. —Grant Jones
Fantasy Take: What would be really great is if you played in a league without WHIP. I don’t know if any of those leagues exist, but given the strange, bizarre formats you’ve sent us over the years, there have to be a few of you out there who play with such a format. If you do, congrats—Glasnow is a super intriguing prospect. He’s going to miss bats, and he’s going to miss a lot of them. No matter how steep the climb from Triple-A to the majors may be, you don’t strike out 30 percent of batters as a 22-year-old in the high minors without legit bat-missing ability. Glasnow figures to notch *at least* a strikeout per inning right from the get-go, and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him march well past that total in due time.
The problem? The walks. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Glasnow walk 15 percent of the batters he faces in the early going, and you can’t get away with that at the next level. Odds are we’ll end up with some amazing Glasnow starts and some really, really bad ones, but the variance will have more to do with how Glasnow feels that day than they will the competition. This is a man with enough stuff to blow past the Red Sox lineup and with poor enough control to let the Padres tag him for six runs.
Long-term, I’m a believer that he’ll iron the worst of his command issues out. Even if he can get down to, say, a BB/9 of 3.00, I think the strikeouts will outweigh the WHIP damage. They get it done in very different ways, but he could profile similarly to Chris Archer – amazing in his good years (2015) and barley rosterable in his bad ones (2016). For 2016, however, only use Glasnow if you really, really need to make up ground in strikeouts, because there’s a good chance he’ll totally tank your WHIP. There are worse players to gamble on, for sure, but don’t mistake Glasnow for anything other than a gamble, and one that will probably be expensive thanks to the prospect hype. —Ben Carsley
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