Turning Tyler Glasnow Into Archie Bradley

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 7: Tyler Glasnow
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 7: Tyler Glasnow /

The Pirates need to bolster their bullpen, and they have some internal options.  Tyler Glasnow has struggled as a starter with control issues, and a potential move to the bullpen could help both him and the team.

Tyler Glasnow made his debut in 2016, and he struggled in his first seven career games with control, as he walked 12.4 percent of hitters and only throwing the ball in the zone 42.6 percent of the time.  This past season, Glasnow struggled even more in his 15 games, walking 14.4 percent of hitters and throwing the ball in the zone 43.8 percent of the time.  It was a struggle, even with Glasnow appearing to be throwing more strikes after being sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis in mid June.

Despite his struggles, Glasnow still has the confidence.  Towards the end of the season, via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Glasnow told reporters that:

"“This is really the first time I’ve failed.  For me, the biggest positive I can take away from this season is I feel like I’ve dealt with [failure] pretty well. That’s everyone’s biggest fear in baseball: To do badly. I definitely did not do well. In day-to-day life, it didn’t change me much, and it was nice to prove to myself that I guess baseball doesn’t really define me.There’s definitely still frustration. I’m such a perfectionist. I want to get stuff right. But I can’t do it in a day. I need to keep doing what I’m doing. I know it’s going to click. I know it will.”"

Glasnow should still have that confidence, he has been almost unhittable in every minor league stop so far in his career.  He was in Baseball America’s top 25 prospects at the start of the season every year from 2015-17.  The talent is there, he’s shown it, but the ability to constantly throw strikes is something he has yet to do.

Glasnow will get another shot at the rotation this spring, and barring something drastic, he will be one of the Pirates starting five come March 29th in Detroit.  However, if he keeps struggling while showing no real progress over the first couple of months, a move to the bullpen might be something that needs to happen for both the team and Glasnow.

Moving Glasnow to the pen is what the Arizona Diamondbacks ended up doing with their former top prospect Archie Bradley.  Bradley, similar to Glasnow, was ranked in Baseball America’s top 25 prospects at the start of the season from 2012-15, even entering the top 10 in 2014.

Bradley’s description from MLB Pipeline in 2014 is almost the same as Glasnow was in that same year:

"“Bradley throws his fastball in the mid 90s, and he can reach the upper 90s when he needs to. The steep downhill angle he throws from and the good sinking action on the pitch combine to produce a lot of ground balls. Bradley complements his plus fastball with an above-average 12-to-6 curveball, and a changeup that will likely be at least a Major League-average offering.Bradley has improved his command, and he earns praise for his demeanor on the mound. His stuff, size and makeup make him one of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues.”"

Bradley having a mid 90s fastball and a plus change, while possessing a changeup that needs work describes Glasnow both then and now.  This is what MLB Pipeline had to say about Glasnow in 2014:

"“Glasnow overpowers hitters with his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, and can reach the upper-90s. His curveball plays well off his fastball, though it is still inconsistent. Glasnow’s changeup has improved, and if it continues to do so, he could have three above-average offerings.Glasnow’s biggest shortcoming is his command. While that’s to be expected for a tall, young power pitcher, he will need to continue to improve in repeating his delivery as he advances. Glasnow’s athleticism gives him a good chance to do so, though he will need time to work it out.”"

The two players had similar problems coming up through the minors, and have had the same problems as starting pitchers in the big leagues.  Below is some of the minor league numbers that Bradley and Glasnow produced:

PlayerERAInningsSO RateBB Rate

Bradley played out west and in more hitter-friendly atmospheres than Glasnow did, and he dominated hitters, though he did not strikeout the volume that Glasnow did.  The thing that really sticks out is Glasnow and Bradley both having really high walk rates something that usually causes a pitcher to be moved to the pen.

Similar to Glasnow, Bradley came up and struggled as a starter, though he made 26 starts in 2016 after making eight in 2015.  For his first season and two months, Bradley posted a 5.18 ERA and 4.27 FIP (120 ERA- and 104 FIP-), and he really struggled with his control, walking 11.1 percent of hitters.  Just like in the minors, Bradley wasn’t striking out a high rate of hitters, only 20.8 percent of them.

This past year, the Diamondbacks moved Bradley to the bullpen, and he excelled.  In his 63 outings, 21 coming as multi-inning appearances, Bradley struck out 27.2 percent of batters, only walked 7.2 percent, and had an ERA of 1.73 and FIP of 2.61.  Bradley became a real relief weapon for Arizona, and he played a large role in them making the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Glasnow, who has a similar upper 90s fastball and curveball, might benefit from having the ability to only need two pitches and forgetting about the changeup.  He can come into games and pitch up to about two innings two to three times a week – if needed they can dial him back in order to save the arm – providing the Pirates with a relief weapon that would extend their bullpen.

Next: Should The Pirates Pursue Alex Cobb?

This could either work really well or completely fail, but if Glasnow doesn’t show anything in his second chance as a Pirates starter to start the season, a relief ace might be in both his best interest and the teams best interest.  The Arizona Diamondbacks had a similar prospect and pitcher in Archie Bradley and though it’s only been one year, Bradley seems to have found a role that works well for him, and it might be best if the Pirates explore this route as well.

*Numbers from fangraphs