Glasnow will refine, not rebuild, for 2018

Former top prospect not discouraged after rough rookie season

October 20th, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- After a season that began and ended with disappointing stints in the Majors, there may not appear to be much that can build off heading into next year. The good news? At least he doesn't have to rebuild.

The season-long numbers paint a brutal picture for Glasnow. He finished 2-7 with a 7.69 ERA and 2.02 WHIP. Only three Major League pitchers who worked at least 60 innings had a higher ERA; none had a higher WHIP.

After struggling through 12 starts in the Pirates' rotation, he was demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 10. It marked a clear divide in the 24-year-old's season, a turning point that unlocked his remarkable natural ability, even if it did not lead to success upon his return to the Majors.

"I think I'm a lot more solidified with what I have to do physically. Velo's back. Stuff's back," Glasnow said. "A lot of it has to do with staying on that track rather than trying to change something. I think that'll add to a lot more comfort and confidence on the mound."

Last offseason, the 6-foot-8 right-hander overhauled his mechanics. The changes were supposed to help improve his command and his control of the running game as he earned a spot in the Pirates' Opening Day rotation. But ultimately, he found it made him less athletic and took the zip off his stuff.

Glasnow earned his top-prospect pedigree by blowing away Minor League hitters with a high-90s fastball and a devastating curveball. Those pitches didn't show up in Pittsburgh.

During his first 12 starts, Glasnow's four-seam fastball averaged 93.9 mph. Between his debut last year and those 12 outings, he touched 98 mph only three times. In Triple-A, he ditched his windup and focused on being "quick and athletic." He was as dominant as ever, posting a 1.93 ERA with 140 strikeouts over 15 starts.

He returned to the Majors on Sept. 10, made one start and two relief appearances and recorded a 9.39 ERA while walking 15 of the 40 batters he faced. He was ineffective and wildly inefficient, but the Pirates were encouraged by some of what they saw.

Glasnow's average four-seam fastball jumped up to 96.1 mph in September, and 12 fastballs touched 98 mph. His curveball's average spin rate ticked up, according to Statcast™, and he threw more quality changeups. The problem was his command; only 51 percent of his pitches were strikes.

The Pirates have plenty of pitching depth, so Glasnow is not guaranteed a spot in next year's Opening Day rotation. But with few arms that possess his potential, Pittsburgh will continue to be patient.

"That's the next step we take with him -- continuing to get him to trust his stuff and trust that he has the ability to play at this level," general manager Neal Huntington said.

To that end, Glasnow set out this offseason focused on refinement instead of reconstruction. The southern California native will spend most of the winter in New York before making his way down to Florida when it's time to start pitching in January.

Sitting in front of his locker at Nationals Park on the final day of the season, Glasnow called this year a "learning experience." He experienced failure for the first time in his career. But he found something to build off, too.

"It's not all failure," Glasnow said. "It's definitely not the year I wanted to have, but I'm just ready to come back next year."