After years of rumors and speculation, the Rays finally pulled the trigger on a Chris Archer trade. In return the Rays acquired outfielder Austin Meadows, right handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow, and a player to be named later.
The headliner of the deal is Austin Meadows, but the second piece of the deal was right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who might overcome some initial disappointing major league results to give the Rays a top-flight pitcher for the starting rotation.
Glasnow entered the league with much fanfare, and it wasn’t hard to see why — it’s not everyday that you come across a 6’8” pitcher with a fastball that touches 100 and a hammer for a curveball — but Glasnow struggled with his control, and everything spiraled downhill in 2017 as his ERA touched 7.69 over a 62 inning sample.
Accordingly, the Pirates have used Glasnow exclusively from the bullpen this year, and it has worked to an extent, but the control struggles persist (as shown by a 14% walk rate).
What exactly do the Rays see in Glasnow?
They see a pitcher who isn’t hitting arbitration until 2020, and still has the stuff to succeed. He’s a high-upside project now in the hands of pitching coach Kyle Snyder.
Note on the Archer deal for the Rays: Pitching coach Kyle Snyder is 6-foot-8 and a savant at helping pitchers understand and control their bodies. Well, Tyler Glasnow is a 6-foot-8 pitcher who struggles with repeating his delivery and throwing strikes. Perfect situation for him.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2018
Snyder has earned rave reviews from those around the game, and from his own pitchers. Glasnow now finds himself with someone who hypothetically should be able to understand and relate to his specific troubles, and that, along with the change of scenery, could help him put it all together.
Of course, reclamation projects are always far from a sure thing, and lets not forget that the Pirates have a strong history of developing pitchers themselves.
But back to the upside:
As a starter in 2017, Tyler Glasnow threw both four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a changeup, and that curve, while as a reliever, in 2018 he relied much more exclusively on his four-seam and his curve, and no wonder.
It’s one of the best curveballs in the game.
The spin rate on Glasnow’s curve has increased over the past two years, and it’s increased quite sharply. So, worst case scenario here is that Glasnow continues to rely heavily on the fastball and curve in a specialized role.
There’s a whole range of outcomes for Glasnow that could provide value below that lofty ceiling of a rotation-leading ace. If Snyder can help Glasnow command his stuff just a little better, the Rays might very well be able to turn him into some sort of an opener or middle-inning multi-inning guy (which is what he’ll have to be in the near future anyway, because he’s not currently stretched out to start).
The ultimate plan here is to use Glasnow as a starter in the near future, but of course, that’ll take some time and the reintroduction of his change-up. He’s essentially ditched that third pitch in the bullpen, but you’d expect the Rays and Snyder to want to get that pitch to the point where he can feature it in games, should he start.
That might disappoint some Rays fans, who wanted a sure-thing replacement rather than a project with upside for Archer, and I understand. This isn’t what some expected.
However, I think the Rays played their cards right, getting a combination of hitting and pitching for Archer, and a third piece that we still don’t know the details of but has “significant” value.
Now it’s just a matter of letting the coaching staff get to work on Glasnow.
I wish Chris Archer the best. It was fun, frustrating, and everything in between. But at the end of the day, he was a staple of this franchise. Now it’s time to embrace the future. In fact, the future might be here already.