Pipeline Perspectives: Glasnow will lead Minors in K's
Pirates prospect expected to thrive with Double-A Altoona in 2015
There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
We're continuing our march through 2015 statistical leader predictions with this week's Pipeline Perspectives. Last week, Jim Callis and I discussed who we thought would win the Minor League home run crown (in case you missed it, I took Matt Olson of the A's; Jim went with the Rangers' Joey Gallo). This week, we're looking at power of a different kind.
I'm referring to power of the pitching variety. This week's question: Who do we think will win the strikeout title in 2015? Though I suppose you don't technically need to be a power pitcher to rack up K's, especially in the Minors, it certainly doesn't hurt. Both Jim and I are picking guys with the ability to crank it up there. He has Royals lefty Sean Manaea, and I'm staying loyal, sticking with Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow for the second straight year.
It's not like I'm going out on much of a limb, other than the one that extends from Glasnow's 6-foot-7 frame. Glasnow finished eighth in the Minor Leagues in strikeouts in 2014 with 157, and he didn't make his first start until April 25. Even then, he was brought along slowly because he was returning from a back issue.
Glasnow struck out 11.4 per nine innings in 2014. Yes, that was a drop from the 13.3 rate he put up in 2013, when he finished fifth in the Minors with 164 strikeouts despite pitching just 111 1/3 innings. That K/9 rate, by the way, led the Minors. Even with the drop, he still had one of the best strikeout rates in the Minors last year. For the sake of argument, had Glasnow made three more starts in April, at his season average of 5.4 innings per start, that would've been another 16 2/3 innings. Stay with me here: At 11.4 K/9, that's an additional 21 strikeouts. That would have given him 178 K's, good for second in the Minors.
At times, Glasnow has been his own worst enemy, and he's the first to admit it. While his walk rate did drop in 2014, from 4.9 the previous year to 4.1, he knows he has to throw more strikes in order to succeed as he moves up. Glasnow is virtually unhittable -- he had a .174 batting average against in 2014, after a .142 BAA during his first full season in 2013. Over the course of his career, he's allowed a measly five hits per nine innings.
If Glasnow throws more strikes, his pitch counts stay down. If his pitch counts stay down, he throws more innings. If Glasnow throws more innings, the strikeout totals go up. If he strikes out more hitters in Double-A in 2015, I'm going to win this thing going away.
Glasnow's stuff is plenty good enough to keep missing bats, even with that big leap up to the Eastern League. Glasnow will sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, maintaining the velocity deep into his starts. He has both a curveball and a changeup, both which have the chance to be Major League average or a tick above.
While Glasnow's command does need refinement, there are no questions about his ability to start. He threw more innings in 2014 than he did in '13, and he had plenty left in the tank at the end of the Florida State League season. Glasnow's two best months in terms of strikeout rate came in July and August. So did his two lowest monthly walks per nine rates. Coincidence? I think not.
Glasnow has started to make the move from just a thrower to more of a complete pitcher. The work he put in during his Arizona Fall League stint will only help him more. In the AFL, Glasnow focused on throwing his breaking ball early in counts. At times, he was successful; other times, it didn't go so well. But Glasnow knew that being able to throw his curve at different times in an at-bat will be vital against higher levels of competition.
Let me put it this way. Glasnow has struck out 12 per nine innings throughout his professional career, and he's done that with hitters more or less knowing what was coming. Still, they couldn't hit him. With a greater understanding of how to set up hitters, how to keep them guessing, along with every ounce of his pure, electric stuff, it's not going to get any easier for hitters.
I don't care how much more advanced the hitters are in Double-A. With Glasnow throwing his breaking ball at any time, as long as he limits the bases on balls -- I foresee another big dip in his walk rate in 2015 -- then there won't really be anything to debate here.