Glasnow no sure thing for Pirates' rotation in 2017

Elite prospect must compete for a big league job in Spring Training

Glasnow no sure thing for Pirates' rotation in 2017

PITTSBURGH -- What's the plan for Tyler Glasnow?

The Pirates' top prospect made an up-and-down Major League debut this year, posting a 4.24 ERA in seven appearances (four starts and three relief outings) with 24 strikeouts and a 1.50 WHIP over 23 1/3 innings. He didn't stick in the Majors until mid-September, and even then his role was uncertain and his performance was uneven.

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The 23-year-old right-hander is still one of the game's top young talents; he ranks eighth on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. The Bucs desperately need better starting pitching in 2017, but Glasnow isn't guaranteed a spot in the Opening Day rotation.

So, where does he fit?

"The ceiling is so high, but there's clearly some work that remains," general manager Neal Huntington said at the General Managers Meetings. "If he pitches the way he's capable of, that's a very exciting addition to the rotation. He's absolutely in the mix."

Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are set atop the rotation. Chad Kuhl has the inside track on another spot. That leaves two openings, one of which should be filled by an offseason addition.

That would leave Glasnow competing for one spot with right-handers Drew Hutchison and Trevor Williams and lefty Steven Brault, among others. That will change if Pittsburgh adds more than one starter this winter, or the competition may yield two starters if the Bucs don't add a qualified mid-rotation arm.

"We'll see where all of these young guys go in the offseason, what's their development, what's their maturation, what's the next step in their career," Huntington said. "That's why we feel good about the number of young arms that we have."

Glasnow's Major League debut

It's entirely possible Glasnow will begin next season in Triple-A, hammering out the flaws that put a damper on his brief big league stint. His unbelievable Minor League numbers -- the 2.03 ERA, 5.3 hits and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings -- belie the room still left for improvement.

With bad habits leading to a longer delivery, Glasnow's command was occasionally shaky, and his control of the running game was lacking. But there were also signs of the 6-foot-8 righty's tremendous potential, particularly in his final start. He held the Cardinals to one run on one hit while working five innings on 79 pitches on Sept. 30.

"It's only one outing, but looking back, the bad habits I got into before and slowly working out of them toward the end of the season, I think each outing was a little better," Glasnow said. "It was good to get closer to back on track."

Glasnow pitched well out of the bullpen, but don't expect to see him there again anytime soon. Huntington shot down the idea of Glasnow becoming an Andrew Miller-type reliever, pitching multiple-inning stints and overwhelming hitters with strikeout stuff.

"While we are believers in higher-leverage roles than maybe traditional approaches would be, you have that guy that gives you 200 innings -- he's becoming the exception now," Huntington said. "You have that guy that's a horse and can give you 200 quality innings and a chance to win every fifth day, there's incredible value in that.

"We're looking forward to Glas being able to be one of those guys that can anchor a rotation. That's our plan."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.