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Tyler Glasnow - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

The Rays acquired Tyler Glasnow at the end of July in the Chris Archer trade. Glasnow was only used out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh, racking up 56 innings before the trade. Despite his below average ERA of 4.34 pre-trade, he managed to strike out 11.6 batters per nine innings. Walks were the main issue, as he allowed almost 5.5 free passes per nine.

Once he was shipped to Tampa, Glasnow continued to show his strikeout skills. He sported a 10.4 K/9 and improved his walk rate to a still below-average 3.1 per nine. With the Rays, he pitched to a slightly improved 4.20 ERA, but in came the home run ball. With Tampa, Glasnow allowed 10 home runs over 55.2 innings pitched or 1.63 per nine innings. This is compared to five home runs over 56 IP with Pitt (0.80 per nine).

He essentially traded off some walks for home runs, which isn’t ideal, but if he can keep the walk rate down without allowing so many homers, he’s a star in the making and quite possibly a breakout candidate in 2019.

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Blake Snell 2.0?

What needs to change in Glasnow’s profile for him to be an above-average starting pitcher and earn the attention of fantasy owners? Keep doing what he’s doing. We’ve discussed the walk rate improvement after the move to Tampa; this is a good sign that he’s adjusting to get more outs.

The one stat that catches the eye is his home run per fly ball rate. We mentioned above that the homers came more often with the Rays, but on the season as a whole, he posted a miserable HR/FB rate of 18.3%. The league average is about 10%. With a small sample size of 111 innings, you can almost guarantee that he will begin to post rates closer to the average, improving his ERA going forward.

This is also shown in his xFIP of 3.47 which is much better than his ERA of 4.27 on the year. xFIP filters out some of the HR/FB% fluctuations and normalizes the performance. Assuming his ERA drops closer to his xFIP in 2019, the Rays have another ace behind Blake Snell.


What Glasnow Is Made Of

Glasnow showed an arsenal of mainly three pitches last year, featuring a 97 MPH fastball (70.5% thrown), and supplementing that with a slider (11.4%), curve (16.4%), and a rare changeup (1.8%). As mentioned above, the strikeout skills are there. To further that point, Glasnow posted an above average swinging strike rate of 11.7% (league average is 9.5%). This means that almost 12% of the time, he got the batter to swing and miss at his offering.

Fantasy owners will have to be conscious of his innings in 2019. The Rays began to stretch him out from reliever to starter in August. After his first three starts going three, four, and five innings, he only pitched one game for the rest of the season in which he didn’t reach at least five innings.

He’s clearly not at risk to be an “opener” for the Rays this year, as they’re projected to roll out Snell, Morton, and Glasnow as true starters with the Ryan Yarborough and Yonny Chirinos likely filling the “opener” roles. However, he’s never thrown more than 124 innings in a season (2014 in the minors) so it’s tough to expect the Rays to run him up towards the 200-inning mark.

FanGraphs Steamer projections have him throwing 135 innings in 2019. It may be telling to note that Blake Snell pitched 129.1 innings in 2017 and was ramped up to 180.2 in 2018. This suggests the projections are probably low with the added consideration that the Rays have a good chance to contend after winning 90 games in 2018 and adding some solid pieces this offseason so far.

The addition of veteran pitcher Charlie Morton to the staff could pay dividends for Glasnow, as Morton also has a high-velocity heater and features a curveball as well. Morton may also be able to offer some of the spin rate tips that have made the Astros pitching staff a force in the past few years. Another helpful addition to the Rays was catcher Mike Zunino, who is typically known for calling a good game and has very good defensive skills behind the plate.

The Rays look to have another under-the-radar starting pitcher with the potential to have a massive year. If you could guarantee 170 innings from him (signs point to this being a real possibility), he’d be a surefire SP3 with upside.

Glasnow should not be overlooked in any format and will pay off for owners who take him around his 173 ADP, which would mean he’s being drafted as an SP4 or SP5 depending on league size. I’ll take that potential return on investment every time.

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