Pittsburgh Pirates righty Tyler Glasnow seemingly has it all. Big frame and a big fastball? Glasnow’s got it. Potential dominant breaking ball? Glasnow’s got it. A legitimate incapability of throwing strikes? Unfortunately, Glasnow’s got that too.
Since being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB draft, Glasnow has posted incredible minor league numbers. By 2014, he had climbed into the top 50 of beloved prospect rankings, and was widely regarded as a top 10 prospect heading into this season; and it’s not too difficult to see why. Across his 22 minor league starts last year, opponents hit a meager .197 against Glasnow. He struck out 11.1 batters per nine, allowed just 5 home runs in 116.2 innings, and boasted a fantastic 1.93 ERA. However, these videogame-like numbers came with one major drawback: a hideous 5.2BB/9. Glasnow can be the utter definition of unhittable, but missing the strike zone at that rate will kill you in the majors.
In June of last year, Glasnow made two successive starts that define who he as a pitcher. Pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis on June 17th, the 6’8 flamethrower fired six no-hit innings, fanning six, but handing out six free passes. Despite not allowing a hit, it took Glasnow 97 pitches to get through six frames. He flirted with a no-no again five days later, but again, he couldn’t find the strike zone. This time he made it through seven hitless innings, striking out eight while walking five. Two starts, 13 innings, 0 hits, 11 walks. Surely Edwin Jackson would be proud. Throughout the entire minor league season, Glansow almost had as many walks as hits allowed, walking 68 and surrendering 69 hits. A very nice stat indeed. After a brief two-start stint in July, he was summoned to the majors again in September.
Glasnow comes into the 2017 season with high expectations. After being named the 9th best prospect in the game by MLB.com, Glansow beat out Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc for the final spot in the Pittsburgh rotation. He made his 2017 debut on Monday, drawing one of the worst offenses in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds. The results? Nothing short of disastrous. After allowing a leadoff single (and stolen base) to Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza popped out to the infield. Then the wheels fell off. As he seemingly always does, Joey Votto walked. Then Adam Duvall did the same. With the bases now loaded, Glasnow proceeded to walk Eugenio Suarez…and Scott Schebler as well.
By the time Scooter Gennett grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, Glasnow had already thrown 42 pitches. Glasnow would hit the showers early, giving up five runs on four hits and five walks, while recording just five outs. This humbling outing was proof that even the most underwhelming MLB offenses will punish a pitcher that cannot throw strikes.
Obviously one (horrific) outing in April shouldn’t change anybody’s opinion on a player, and Tyler Glasnow’s ceiling is still every bit as high as it was last week. Regardless, his struggles should remind you just how much more work needs to be done if he is to approach his potential. He could plow through the Cubs lineup on Saturday and it wouldn’t come as too huge of a surprise. Tyler Glasnow possesses the Top-of-Rotation “stuff” that can make even all-star caliber hitters look foolish. But those walks that we saw on Monday didn’t come out of nowhere. This isn’t the minors anymore. If he can’t solve his longstanding control issues, his stay in the Show will be brief.