By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog Writer, @theburghblog_mk
PITTSBURGH – The current Pirates pitching staff has left a lot to be desired. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the young pitching prospects in AAA Indianapolis. At this point, Jameson Taillon looks to be the first pitcher in line to get the call. From there, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl only have a little bit more to do at the AAA level. So when will these guys come up and what will their impact be on the major league roster?
Taillon’s case is pretty cut and dry. He is absolutely the most ready prospect of the entire group. He has now pitched 86.1 innings at the AAA level. Taillon has a minuscule 0.91 BB/9. This number is likely to rise in the majors, but it is by far his lowest walk rate in his career to this point. Pair that number with his 1.82 ERA and his 1.93 FIP, and you have an elite pitcher at the AAA level who’s talent is ready to translate to success in the bigs.
The 24 year-old right hander has had a stellar start to this season, and figures to give the Pirates rotation a big boost.
Call Up Date: June 9, @Rockies (make-up game) – This game wasn’t originally on the schedule for the Bucs. They are currently in the middle of a stretch of 31 straight days of playing. This would not normally happen, but because of the game earlier this week with the Rockies having to be made up, the Pirates are on an extended streak of games without a day off. Another reason for this date would be that Taillon would be pitching with an extra day of rest.
All of this not to mention that the Pirates can send him ahead of the team to prepare for the start. The game is in Colorado and is right in the middle of a home stand. So, the Bucs will be flying out to Colorado, playing one game, then making the trip back to Pittsburgh. Denver is not the really the best place to introduce a new pitcher to the league, but because the game is likely passed the Super-Two deadline, and Taillon starting would help the rotation, it seems the most likely spot to have him inserted.
Big League Impact: It is hard to know exactly what to expect from any of the prospects as they move to the big leagues. There is no way to know how a prospect will perform when he makes the jump. At the same time, expectations need to be held in check when considering the potential impact of a top prospect. In Taillon’s case, he looks to be the pitcher in the minors with the most likely chance of helping the team in the biggest way this season.
For one, he will be the first one up, so that extra time is an advantage for him. Expect him to be fairly good out of the gate, maybe the equivalent of a number 3 starter. As the year progresses though, teams will likely make adjustments to Taillon’s game, and he may struggle a bit at times.
Taillon will be coming up at the same time of the season that Gerrit Cole came up when he was promoted. This gives Taillon the possibility to pitch anywhere from 100-120 innings for the Pirates this season. Look for him to put up an ERA in the 3.50 range good for about +1.5-2.0 WAR.
It may be hard to imagine, but Tyler Glasnow has more pitching experience than Jameson Taillon at the AAA level. Glasnow pitched 41.0 innings last year for Indianapolis. He has 50 to this point in 2016. People seem to want to see Glasnow first because he is flashy, with more strikeouts, and more hype, but the simple fact is that he just isn’t ready. Glasnow’s changeup is not a major league pitch. It is getting there, it just has not reached that level yet. He will be ready this season, it just may take a bit longer than most people hoped it would.
Call Up Date: July 1 – July 5, @Athletics or @Cardinals – The date range listed here make the most sense for the Pirates to call up Tyler Glasnow. First, they will be well clear of Super-Two concerns. Second, as opposed to Taillon, Glasnow would get an extra 30 or so innings at the AAA level before he makes the jump. These will be vital innings for Glasnow, and if he doesn’t perform well by either walking a lot of batters or by continuing to have trouble developing the changeup, this could get moved back even further into the season. The last reason for this specific set of dates is that if Glasnow comes up during this time, he will get two starts before the All-Star break. This will give Ray Searage about a week to work on adjustments with Glasnow if any need to be made before he takes his third start.
The key for fans waiting for Glasnow to come up is patience, because as much as he can potentially help the Pirates, Neal Huntington is not going to sacrifice future value for this season when it comes to Glasnow.
Big League Impact: If Glasnow is going to come up during the dates listed above, he will likely provide +1.3-1.6 WAR. His ERA or FIP is going to be higher than a lot of people may expect. It’s likely that Glasnow will put up an ERA/FIP somewhere in the 3.75-4.00 range. He could do much better and he could do worse, but this seems to be about where he should land when it comes to ERA/FIP. The biggest problem Glasnow is going to face when he gets to the big league club is managing walks and working through games when he does not have command over the fastball.
The hope is that Glasnow will be a major impact as soon as he gets up, but again with prospects, people need to manage expectations as players make the transition to the Major Leagues.
Kuhl is a guy that a lot of Pirates fans may not know about, or may just not be giving a whole lot of attention. To this point, Kuhl has been just as productive as the aforementioned prospects in AAA. This season is his first in Indianapolis, and he has made the best of it. The 23 year-old sinkerballer has crafted a 0.99 ERA and a 3.28 FIP over his first 45.2 innings pitched in Indy. Needless to say, that is really impressive. Kuhl has increased his strikeout rates and decreased his walk rates at every level in the minors to this point. Right now, he projects to be a number 4/5 starter in the majors. With the least experience in AAA, and the most success this season, Kuhl is in a very unique spot.
Call Up Date: ~ August 25, @Brewers – Unfortunately for Kuhl, there just is not going to be enough room for him at the major league level without injuries occurring. This is going to make it difficult for him to crack the rotation, which is why he is the most likely to be added to the bullpen as a long reliever down the stretch. If the Pirates add him to the 25-man roster before September, he will be eligible for the playoffs. Kuhl has a profile that would work well as a long-reliever, and with Taillon and Glasnow in the rotation along with Liriano, Cole and one of Locke/Niese/Nicasio, the rotation does not look to be an available option for Kuhl as it stands this season.
Big League Impact: There are people with a very optimistic view of Kuhl’s outlook for this season and his career. The expectations for Kuhl should be kept quite low though. As he is likely to see time out of the bullpen, his value to the club this season will drop due to lack of time spent on the field. +.5-.8 WAR is about where you should expect Kuhl to be when the regular season ends. He will be effective from the bullpen and will have a shot at starting in the rotation Opening Day 2017.