By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog Writer, @theburghblog_mk
PITTSBURGH – Both Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are consensus impact players for the Pirates whenever they make the jump to the major leagues. The question is not how good they will be (everyone knows they’ll be pretty darn good), it’s which one do Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle give the first shot to?
Now there are a lot of different ways this could play out. They could both be called up at about the same time, which is entirely possible given the starting rotation’s struggles to this point. Both of the Pirates top pitching prospects would be upgrades over the bottom two members of the rotation.
Another way that this could play out is if someone in the rotation gets injured before the Super Two deadline passes, then the Pirates will need a starter and they’d have to choose between one of Taillon or Glasnow or call on someone else to avoid starting the service clocks on them. If they go with a different option than Glasnow or Taillon, the first situation may take place where they both wait until mid-June and come up together.
The last way this plays out, and the most likely, is that only one of the two will get the call in June, and the other makes his way to the majors when an injury happens or rosters expand in August. In this scenario, the Pirates will need to make a decision to go with one of the two uber-prospects. This scenario is the most likely because of the roster and personnel implications of adding two starters at the same time. Finding two players to send o the minors on the current 25-man roster is not easy without potentially losing players on waivers. Jon Niese is not likely to lose his rotation spot given that he is set to be paid $9M this season. Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke are not DFA candidates, so they will likely go to the bullpen. So to get both Tallion and Glasnow into the majors without injury would involve designating two pitchers for assignment out of the bullpen, or designating one from the bullpen and going back to a short bench.
**If both pitchers came up at the same time, the most likely scenario to accommodate the roster spots at this point is that Cory Luebke would be DFA’d and Cole Figueroa would be optioned back to Indianapolis.
To entertain the most likely situation that only one prospect gets the call out of the gate, here is the argument both for and against each option.
The Case for Taillon
Jameson Taillon has done a remarkable job in AAA after missing two entire seasons to injury. Taillon has possessed pinpoint control so far as he owns a 1.04 BB/9. This stat alone separates Taillon from Glasnow. At the major league level there is a whole lot less room for free passes. Taillon also has shown tremendous ability to keep the ball in the park. He has given up just two home runs over the course of his 43.1 innings to start this season. His ERA is stellar too at 2.08, and that is solidified by his 2.13 FIP. Finally, and maybe more importantly than any statistic that there is, Taillon is mature. He doesn’t have any more option years remaining following the 2016 season, so he will be in Pittsburgh for Opening Day next year no matter what, so long as he is not on the DL. He turned 24 over the offseason and has shown patience and resiliency throughout his rehab process. Jameson Taillon is ready to jump to the MLB.
The biggest knock against Taillon at this point has to be whether or not he can stay healthy and whether the Pirates should continue to monitor his innings. Monitoring innings can be done at the major league level, but it is far and above easier to manage at the AAA level. The Pirates will almost certainly Taillon on the active roster down the stretch if they are going to make it to the playoffs, and he needs to have innings left to be able to be on the field. For this reason, the Bucs may consider leaving Taillon in the minors to protect his arm and protect their investment in him.
The Case for Glasnow
The case for Tyler Glasnow to be called up before Taillon is not as cut and dry. Its complicated. On the one hand, you have a pitcher who can strike out anyone on the planet when he commands the fastball and has his best stuff. On the other hand, Glasnow could just as easily have little command and walk tons of batters. Glasnow has amassed 12.81 K/9 in 38.0 IP so far this year. Couple that with his 2.13 ERA, 2.28 FIP, and his 0.24 HR/9 and you’ve got a guy who is putting up the numbers and performance needed to be given a chance at the next level. Glasnow will be the Pirates ace in the not too distant future, and if he can learn to bring his best command to every game, then he will be one of the best pitchers in the entire league. The idea of having an exciting pitcher with the wipeout stuff that Glasnow has is hard to go against.
So the potential for Glasnow to be an immediate impact player for the Pirates upon his arrival is there. The potential for him to dominate hitters at the major league level when he gets called up is there. The problem lies in his development and the long term for Glasnow. Neal Huntington has said many times that to be called up, Glasnow needs to limit his walks, continue to develop his changeup, and get better at utilizing and improving his pick off move to first. Now, these may seem like minor things that could be worked on at the major league level, and they probably are. The problem lies in the fact that the Pirates have another option in Taillon who has already developed most all the parts of his game that he can while in the minor leagues.
**Glasnow’s command was awful in his last start, too. He went just 5.0 innings and gave up six hits and five walks.**
So who should the Pirates call up first should they need to pick just one of the two prospects?
Jameson Taillon is the best bet to get the call. He is more polished, and he has performed better than Glasnow (just barely) to this point in the season. His innings can be managed by working in extra days off and occasionally skipping a start.
While Glasnow is the more flashy, higher upside, more exciting player to watch, he does still need to work on limiting walks at the AAA level. If Glasnow had his command under control, he would be given the edge. He can work on the changeup in the majors, and develop his maturity while helping the big league team. Unless he finds that control over the next few weeks though, he won’t be the first guy the Pirates call on to put into the starting rotation.