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Tyler Glasnow brings a new toy to the Rays pitching staff

Tyler Glasnow is bringing a brand new slider to the Rays pitching staff. The question is how will the Rays let him use it?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

In the great content producing moment that is the last day of the Major League Baseball trading deadline, the move that easily drew most of the attention was Chris Archer being dealt away to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a package that included a few recognizable prospects. The reviews on this deal seemed mix from the Rays point of view. Some thought they garnered a package that was less than expected, and could easily be matched by an assortment of other teams.

I think I happen to be bullish on the Rays side of things in this one. It might be easy to forget that not too long ago Austin Meadows was one of baseball’s elite prospects, putting up monster numbers at every level until he reached a ballpark where hitting stats go to die for Pirates prospect at AAA Indianapolis. He’s looked more than serviceable in his short look at the major league level and still easily figures to have the ceiling of a very productive player.

Analyzing the second piece in this deal is where we get to the fun. Like Meadows, Tyler Glasnow was once one of the higher prospects in all of baseball, likewise dominating basically every stop of the minor leagues. He’s suffered from some prospect fatigue, but on the flip side has severely struggled in 17 starts with the Pirates and he may simply never have the control to use his plus-arsenal to it’s full potential as a starter.

The Pirates have seemed pretty devoted to letting him work out some of his developmental flaws in the big league bullpen this year, rather opting to call up starters from AAA to fill spots in the rotation. Whether this was a short-term or long-term plan for him, I don’t know, but fully maximizing his potential as a reliever had to be strongly considered with recent breakout performances along the lines of Josh Hader, Jordan Hicks, and Edwin Diaz.

The early returns on Glasnow in the bullpen have been good for the most part. In 56 innings he has a 4.34 ERA, with an even better 3.62 FIP, held up by a 29.6 percent K-rate and 56 percent GB-rate, but hampered by a 14 percent BB-rate. What really started to draw my focus was a slider he started throwing back in mid-April. The main reason this is interesting has to do with him actually never throwing one before. He was a fastball, curveball, changeup guy in the minors and stuck with that for his first two stints in the majors. He started throwing this new offering on rare occasions in April, only a 2.2 percent clip, but the progression on the usage of the offering has steadily climbed since.

And the early returns on the new slider have been terrific. Out of 356 pitchers with at least 25 results on the pitch, here are the ranks

  • SwStr%: 20th
  • Exit Velocity: 126th
  • Launch Angle: 19th
  • wOBA: 2nd
  • xwOBA: 7th
  • Spin Rate: 7th

Coming out of a large 6’8” figure, the combination of perceived velocity and spin on the pitch has made it unhittable.

The location on it has been intriguing, as it has a higher average vertical position than only three pitchers in baseball. He ranks in the top fifth of baseball in percentage of sliders thrown down and out of the zone. A lot of that has been natural movement with the pitch, as no pitcher in baseball has generated more vertical movement on their slider than him.

How the Rays utilize Glasnow should be interesting. With the Pirates, if there was ever a multi-inning stint needed, he was their guy, showing plenty of success in that role. With that, you’d figure he fits well with how the Rays operate their pitching staff. He’d seem to be the ideal pitcher to take the ball at the start and go two innings with it.

There might not be a better fit for Tyler Glasnow than the Rays. He’ll likely never become close to the innings eater Archer was, but with a new pitching coach, a new plus-offering, and a likely new role, watching him develop in this new situation should be plenty interesting.


Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.