Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates’ top prospect, is currently tearing up Triple-A Indianapolis, to the tune of a 0.99 ERA across 27.1 innings of work. This, Glasnow’s career numbers across his minor league career as a whole, and the recent poor outings from Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton (at least, up until recently for Morton), has led to the belief by some that the Pirates should call up Glasnow to the majors for the stretch run.
Now, there are people on both sides of the fence for this situation. Those that want Glasnow with the big league team point to the string of poor outings from Locke at the back-end of the rotation, the occasional poor start from Morton, and the need to use any and all methods to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central as reasons why he should be up. They also point to Glasnow’s dominance in the minors, especially his high strikeout totals, and how that could translate well to the Pirates’ bullpen.
Those that would prefer that the Pirates’ wait to call Glasnow up are concerned with rushing the team’s top prospect to the majors and how that could potentially hurt his development. Glasnow also has averaged 4.2 BB/9 innings during his time in the minors, and walking batters has always been his weak point. Maybe most importantly, though, is the though that Glasnow’s service time clock would be started early, as opposed to if he was called up in the middle of next season, which seems to be the trajectory that he’s on now.
Both sides present valid cases. The handling of the team’s top prospect, especially a pitcher that has the potential to be the ace of the rotation (yes, the ace of a rotation that features current ace Gerrit Cole), is of utmost importance to both Glasnow’s and the team’s future. Let’s take a look at this situation and briefly break down each side’s argument.
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Glasnow should be called up this season
Tyler Glasnow has the makings of a future ace in the big leagues. The former fifth round draft pick has dramatically risen up the ranks of baseball’s top prospects to find himself currently in the top ten of most prospect rankings. His incredible career minor league ERA of 1.97, and his even better ERA of 0.99 at Triple-A this season, speaks for itself, as does his career 11.9 K/9 innings rate. Many people have been waiting for Glasnow to face some adversity in the minors, especially after his breakout season in 2013 with Class-A West Virginia. But even as he’s face stiffer competition, he’s only gotten better. Outside of some innings pitched mark that management may want Glasnow to hit before he’s called up, all signs point to Glasnow being ready to be thrown into the major league waters.
Glasnow would be a dynamite arm to add to either the rotation or the bullpen. Jeff Locke’s been struggling, especially as of late, as he can’t last long in games and only has a decent start once in a blue moon. If the Pirates want to catch the Cardinals, maybe they need an extra push to get them there. Glasnow could struggle, but he could also thrive. Playoff teams might struggle against an unknown arm, and if Glasnow struggles, Locke will always be available to retake his former spot in the rotation. Or Glasnow could be thrown into the pen, and he could get some innings down the stretch before the playoffs hit. If he doesn’t work out this season, he can be sent back down to Triple-A. But a guy who can strike guys out at the rate that Glasnow has been able to do could be a huge addition to the Pirates’ bullpen.
And let’s not forget the David Price situation in 2008. That season, Price was called up by the Rays in September and helped propel the Rays to a berth in the World Series. He had only spent one year in the minors before that call-up, and he had a 1.93 ERA with the Rays during the regular season in ’08, followed by a 1.59 ERA in the postseason. Could Glasnow follow the same path?
Glasnow should not be called up this season
The handling of the team’s top prospect, especially a pitcher that has the potential to be the ace of the rotation (yes, the ace of a rotation that features current ace Gerrit Cole), is of utmost importance to both Glasnow’s and the team’s future.
The fact that Glasnow has ace potential means that the Pirates should do everything in their power to protect him. That means they shouldn’t rush him, especially to a team whose season may come down to one game, and his call-up could be all for naught. And for those that say he’s ready, remember how many people said that Gregory Polanco was ready last June? And remember how much he had struggled up until the last couple months of this season? Neal Huntington said that Polanco may not have been ready when he was called up, and he may not have struggled as much in the majors if the team had waited a little longer to call him up. We absolutely don’t want Glasnow’s development to be compromised by an early call-up, so it may be best in the long-term to let him pitch more innings at Triple-A and see the majors at some point next season.
His contractual status is also of concern. If you want all of the details about how Super Two status works, check out this article from MLB.com. Essentially, if Glasnow accrues a certain amount of service time, he could acquire Super Two status, turning one year of team control into a year of arbitration eligibility. By delaying his call-up, the Pirates could potentially save millions of dollars. And depending on when he’s called up, the team could even lose Glasnow to free agency a year early. I’m not going to pretend that I know how this whole situation would work with Glasnow, but it is based on when he’s called up and how many days he’s in the majors before his Super Two status is determined. It’s definitely a situation to keep an eye on.
And David Price is different than Glasnow in that Price spent three years in college before being drafted, as opposed to Glasnow who was drafted out of high school. Price was 23 when he was called up; Glasnow just turned 22. While they seem like similar situations, the two do have their differences.
There are a number of different variables when analyzing whether Tyler Glasnow should be called up to the majors this season. The Tampa Bay Rays called up Price knowing the affect it would have on his future contract status, and they play in a smaller market than the Pirates do. Glasnow can also only improve so much at the minor league level before needing to face major league batters. The addition of Glasnow to either the rotation or the pen could be tremendous, or it could be a flop. Personally, as long as the Pirates don’t lose Glasnow to free agency a year early, I’d love to see Glasnow in the majors this year. I don’t think his development would be hampered by a small number of innings in the majors this season that he would otherwise throw in Triple-A, and if he struggles, he can always be sent back down. But there’s no reason not to trust that GM Neal Huntington will make the best decision for both the Pirates and for Glasnow, both in the short- and the long-term.