CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prior to the 2013 baseball season, Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow was an unknown commodity.
Now that the season is close to over, Glasnow is anything but.
A 6-foot-7 right-hander with a fastball that has touched the upper 90s, Glasnow has mowed through the South Atlantic League in 2013 and is considered one of the hot prospects in all of baseball.
For the season, Glasnow has 160 strikeouts in 1061/3 innings pitched with the West Virginia Power, including a 13-strikeout performance in his most recent outing. A big part of Glasnow's development this season has been the addition of a changeup to his repertoire of pitches. It has taken some time to work it in with his other pitches, but that addition has made for the 20-year old hurler.
"I feel like it's gotten a lot better," Glasnow said. "I still need to work on that pitch a lot and that was one of my biggest things this year - I really wanted to get a changeup. I knew I'd need it to get to a high level so this was the perfect year to do it. At the beginning of spring training I didn't have a changeup but now there is a lot of development. It's a pitch I really like to throw. I can rely on it if I fall behind. It's an easy out pitch and I really like it."
Names like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon have received a lot of attention in the Pirates' minor league system in recent seasons and with good reason. Cole and Taillon were tabbed early as pitchers to watch and have produced results to match those expectations. Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson has worked with Cole, Taillon and Glasnow during his time with the organization and said there are things about the West Virginia staff ace that remind him of the other two well-known pitchers.
"The hard part for me is I still see a lot of things that need to be corrected," Johnson said. "Taillon was probably further along in his development but he had been in the spotlight for a long time, Tyler has not been. Those things are different but they're very similar as far as stuff goes. I had Cole last year and they're all different but they do have lightning arms. Glasnow has more deception than those two, meaning (opposing batters) miss it a lot more than with Jameson or Cole. As far as how he's going through the league, I've never seen anything like that."
Glasnow set the Power franchise record for strikeouts in a single season earlier this month, which was 134 by Will Inman in 2006, and is among the leaders in all of the minor leagues in strikeouts. Not many expected to see that kind of production from the former University of Portland commit, but Johnson said with the work Glasnow has put in this season the development has been pleasant to watch as a coach.
"Early in the year we just tried to let him go a little bit," Johnson said.
"We'd give him a lot of information and just let him figure some things out on his own. That was pretty frustrating for him. Finally he kept begging me so we started some basic, foundational delivery stuff - knowing what to do when you're over the rubber, how to get the ball out of your glove on time - little things he could work on every day and over time we've added on a little bit here and a little bit there as he's started to grasp some things that we've talked with him about. It's been a slow, natural progression to try to give him a big boy delivery that can hold up for 200 innings. That's a process and the changeup was a big part of that. A curveball at 19 years old is too hard to throw over the plate consistently so the changeup was a big pitch for him. It's really good so that's been a big thing he's done this year."
Glasnow credits his work with Johnson as a big reason he has developed into a top-tier prospect.
"I've never learned so much in one year in my life," Glasnow said.
"The amount of stuff I've learned - mentally and physically - is all due to JJ."
Glasnow should get at least one more start prior to the end of the regular season but is not currently listed as one of the upcoming probable pitchers for West Virginia, which only goes through the end of this homestand on Thursday.
* * *