The award is given annually to the top hitting and pitching prospect in baseball. Nominees are determined and voted on by the MLBPipeline.com staff. Players must have spent at least half the season in the Minor Leagues to be considered.
PITTSBURGH -- It may not have gone exactly the way Tyler Glasnow envisioned in the big leagues, but this much is certain: The Pirates right-hander was the most dominant pitcher in the Minor Leagues in 2016, making him MLB Pipeline.com's choice for Pitcher of the Year for the second time in his young career.
It's hard to argue with the choice given how overpowering the No. 8 overall prospect was. Making all but two of his Minor League starts in Triple-A, Glasnow continued to be one of the toughest pitchers to hit at any level.
"It means a lot," Glasnow said after being told of his honor. "I think every Minor Leaguer doesn't dream about being in the Minor Leagues, but it's good to know that working hard, that other people see that, it definitely feels good. The ultimate goal is to be here and stay here, but it's definitely nice to be awarded that."
Glasnow certainly wasn't the only pitching prospect to warrant serious consideration. Yankees right-hander Chance Adams had a fantastic 2016, his first full pro season after being a fifth-round pick in the 2015 Draft. Splitting the season between the Class A Advanced Florida State League and the Double-A Eastern League, Adams finished with a 2.33 ERA, .169 batting average against and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 127 1/3 innings of work.
Luke Weaver of the Cardinals also was deserving of attention. Now in the big leagues, the 2014 first-rounder only amassed 83 Minor League innings, but he was incredible in his 13 starts, all but one with Double-A Springfield. Weaver had a 1.30 ERA and a .206 BAA to go along with 10 strikeouts per nine. He also only walked 1.3 per nine.
In the end, though, Glasnow's numbers were just too much to ignore. In 116 2/3 total innings, he posted a 1.93 ERA and a .176 batting average against (thanks to a hit rate of 5.3 per nine innings). Glasnow struck out 144, or 11.1 per nine. He gave up three or more earned runs in a start just three times, and on eight occasions, he finished an outing with a zero in the earned runs column.
None of that should come as a surprise given Glasnow's track record in the Minors. He has never posted an ERA over 2.39 or a BAA above .195 in his five seasons. In 2014, Glasnow won the MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year award after going 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA, a .174 BAA and 157 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings for Class A Advanced Bradenton. In total, in over 500 career innings, he has a 2.03 ERA, a .172 BAA and an 11.6 K/9 rate.
All of that led to Glasnow getting called up for the first time on July 7 and a second start came on July 23. With Pittsburgh, he didn't have the same kind of success that he had on his way up, giving up six runs (five earned) in 8 1/3 innings. While Glasnow admits that his struggles in the big leagues have clouded his year a bit, he knows he has a lot to feel proud of in 2016.
"Maybe a little bit," Glasnow said, "but my biggest focus this year was trying to be where my feet are. Now that I'm here, I'm just thinking about here. After the season, I think I'll be able to evaluate the season a little bit more."
One thing he can evaluate is his health. Glasnow went down with a shoulder injury that knocked him off of the mound for a while and likely cost him some more big league starts. Any time a shoulder is involved, warning bells can go off, but the 23-year-old dodged a bullet and was able to get back with rest and rehab.
"It's obviously tough, but I guess I can only control what I can control," Glasnow said. "That shoulder injury is behind me now. I'm looking forward to finishing September strong. It was definitely a relief, going in and seeing some guys and finding out it was nothing major. Just some shoulder care and it got better."
One thing Glasnow wants to do is improve his walk rate and overall command. It was one of the few statistical categories that the big right-hander didn't improve this season, as he walked 5.2 per nine in the Minors (up from 4.4 per nine in his career).
"I definitely have to work on the consistency," Glasnow said. "I don't want to lose any stuff, the stuff that got me those numbers. I think I need to be able to go out and do it every fifth day. There's obviously going to be some ups and downs, but it has to be a little bit more consistent than it has been."
Glasnow is well aware that the issues are largely physical. It can be more difficult for a pitcher his size to repeat his delivery, which can lead to the command problems he's had at times throughout his career.
"It's getting mechanics that are comfortable that I don't need to consistently think about and work on," Glasnow said. "My biggest thing this year was going into games and not thinking mechanics, just let the athleticism take over. Sometimes that can be a little difficult, but it's been getting easier and easier as I've been doing it more."
Glasnow also knows part of the obstacle for success in the Major Leagues is a mental one. He clearly has the stuff to get hitters out at any level. But even with the gaudy numbers Glasnow has put up, he hasn't always trusted that and he knows he must do that to stick as a starter in the future.
"And being that athletic, hard-throwing pitcher, rather than trying to nitpick and be a spot guy," Glasnow said. "What I've noticed the most is that it really is the same game. The hitters are obviously better, but when you go out there, you try to calm everything down so it feels like a Triple-A or Double-A game. I've only pitched in two games, but knowing that everywhere you go, it's on you. It doesn't matter if it's Rookie ball or the Major Leagues, you just have to go out and be yourself."