The Pirates drafted Tyler Glasnow in the fifth round of the deep 2011 draft, and was viewed primarily as an interesting project at that point. The team gave him a bonus of $600K to keep him from attending the University of Portland, although he did not pitch in his draft year. He was assigned to the Pirates' rookie level affiliate in 2012, making his professional debut in mid-June. Over his 11 appearances there, he struck out 40 batters, walked 16 and allowed just 19 hits over 34 innings pitched. Promoted to their short-season affiliate in State College, Glasnow made one final start there where he struck out four and walked one over a four-inning outing. His overall performance that year moved him onto the prospect radar, with Baseball America ranking him as their #19 prospect in the system and Baseball Prospectus putting him all the way up at #8.
The Pirates sent him to full season ball for the 2013 season, and anyone who didn't have him on their radar was practically forced to put him on the radar at that point. He made 24 starts for Low-A West Virginia, striking out 164, walking 61 and allowing just 54 hits. He would have won the ERA title (2.18) in the Sally League that year, but only threw a total of 111.1 innings. The walk total was concerning, but if he's not allowing hits and striking out that many batters, you'll take that.
Moved up to High-A Bradenton last year, Glasnow went out and showed that the performance was no fluke. While throwing more innings (up to 124 in Bradenton), he maintained similar strikeout, walk, and K:BB ratios (11.4, 4.1, and 2.75) and still wasn't allowing many hits (just 74). The Pirates sent him to the Arizona Fall League to get some more innings, and he made four starts there with another 9+ innings with 13 strikeouts and six walks. So far in 2015 Glasnow has made two starts at AA Altoona, allowing one run in 11 innings pitched with 13 strikeouts and just 4 walks.
Glasnow is an imposing figure on the mound, standing at 6'8" and weighing 225 lbs. Looking at him physically, he just looks like a big guy, complete with long arms that help his pitches appear to come from closer to the plate than they already do. He has an easy, smooth delivery that he repeats fairly well, although he has shown struggles with his release point and can have issues keeping everything synced up from start to finish. Overall his build bodes well for a starter's workload, and can potentially be a 200+ inning starter each year.
His three-pitch mix can make Glasnow a potentially elite starting pitcher for fantasy owners. His best pitch is his fastball, an elite offering that sits in the low-to-mid 90's and is capable of touching as high as 99 at times. The pitch can get late movement, and overall can simply overpower hitters at the minor league level. His ability to command the pitch can suffer at times, but this seems to be more an issue with his release point and potentially trying to reach back for a little more velocity. Here's a nice example of one he located well on Friday night:
His second-best offering, a nasty curveball, is thrown in the high 70's to right around 80 MPH and has some rather evil downward break. When he commands the pitch well, it can be absolutely devastating in combination with the fastball (see below). There have been concerns about his ability to throw the pitch consistently for strikes, as opposed to being a chase offering. This is something that the Pirates have had him working on, and early reports seem to be positive from both the Arizona Fall League and his first two starts. Overall, it rates as a plus offering that should be a high strikeout potential pitch.
His third pitch, a changeup, lags behind the first two in terms of development, and actually didn't seem to throw very many during his start on Friday (hence the lack of any video of it). If it develops into the average offering that many believe it can be, it can make him that top-tier starting pitcher. Reports on the pitch have improved with each year, and I'll be very curious to see how it is used as the season progresses.
Glasnow will likely stay at AA for most of the season, but could see time at AAA if he pitches well and it would not surprise me if he was brought up toward the end of the season to be used as a power arm out of the bullpen down the stretch. Even with that a possibility, I think that unless he goes out and dominates as a starter this year, he likely returns to the minor leagues in 2016, but is the first call should the Pirates need a starter then. The team has Liriano and Morton under contract for 2016 already, with Cole, Locke and Worley all under team control as well. Add in the potential for Jameson Taillon to return to AAA soon as well, and a clear path for Glasnow next year isn't there just yet.
There are still things for Glasnow to work on, but the future is very bright for him and his fantasy owners. I can see a potential starting pitcher who provides 200+ strikeouts, 200+ innings pitched with a solid ERA and decent WHIP. There is risk to his WHIP depending on how well he can limit his walks, but with the upside he has in strikeouts you likely take the good with the bad there. I think he is established in the majors by the 2017 season, and helping Taillon and Cole lead the Pirates' rotation.