The Triple-A Indianapolis Indians rotation takeover is in full effect in Pittsburgh. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect Tyler Glasnow is expected to make his major league debut tomorrow afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Glasnow, a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 by the Pirates, has had a ton of hype while pitching in the minor leagues. However, in regards to buzz surrounding a debut, where does Glasnow’s highly anticipated first major league appearance rank among other Pirates stars?
5.) Gregory Polanco, right fielder
On June 10, 2014, top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco made his debut. Just like any other debut, a various amount of reports surfaced in the days leading up to his actual call up. Fans in the city of Pittsburgh were incredibly excited to see a prospect of his caliber join an outfield that was already shared by center fielder Andrew McCutchen and left fielder Starling Marte. Polanco was the third piece to the outfield puzzle.
Before being called up to he majors, Polanco was hitting .350 with six home runs, 46 RBIs and 14 steals in only 55 games with the Indianapolis Indians. That stat line, and the fact that he was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball according to Keith Law, are what considered him major league ready.
Once he made his major league debut, Polanco didn’t disappoint. After going 1-for-5 in his first game against the Chicago Cubs, Polanco continued to hit. The rookie hit in 11 consecutive games, a Pirates record for longest hitting streak to start a career. He also compiled five multi-hit games during that span, including a five-hit game where he hit his first big-league home run against the Miami Marlins on June 13, 2013.
Fans obviously knew about Polanco’s success in the minor leagues, and the excitement filled a city that was hoping to head to the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Polanco did have some struggles throughout his first season but has since become one of the most reliable players in the Pirates lineup and one third of arguably the best outfield in baseball.
4.) Jameson Taillon, pitcher
In 2010, Bryce Harper was the consensus No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Nationals in the MLB First Year Player Draft. Harper was a once-in-a-lifetime talent and has lived up to the hype. The Pirates held the second overall pick, and they chose a high school pitcher from Woodlands High School in Texas. That pitcher was Jameson Taillon, who has since battled his way through the minor leagues en route to his MLB debut.
The road to the majors wasn’t easy for Taillon, which is probably why his debut created such a buzz. He has experienced a ton of injuries since being drafted, undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and hernia surgery last season.
Despite these setbacks, Taillon still put up stellar numbers in the minors, compiling a 20-23 record with a 3.49 ERA in 85 games and 417 strikeouts in 443.2 innings. This season at Indianapolis, Taillon regained his form, compiling a 4-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 10 starts.
Taillon’s big league debut on June 8, 2016, against the New York Mets was arguably the most highly anticipated pitching debut for the Pirates since Gerrit Cole made his debut in 2013. In his debut against the Mets, Taillon allowed three earned runs on six hits while walking two and striking out three in six innings.
Overall, Taillon has pitched well since being called up, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.86 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in five starts. Taillon was recently hit with the injury bug once again, being placed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. However, it’s likely a designed tactic to keep him fresh and keep his innings count down going into the second half of the season.
3.) Tyler Glasnow, pitcher
Despite only being a fifth-round draft selection, Glasnow’s debut in the major leagues has been anticipated for years. Some had doubts whether it would happen this year, but it will. With Glasnow’s start, he becomes the last member of the Indians’ original rotation to make his major league debut. Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Wilfredo Boscan and Steven Brault have all made their debuts this season.
Glasnow, the No. 8 ranked prospect according to MLB.com, has put up huge numbers in Indianapolis. In 96 innings this season, Glasnow is 7-2 with a 1.78 ERA and 113 strikeouts. He has also held hitters to a .176 batting average in 17 starts.
With the injury woes that have surrounded the Pirates’ starting rotation, fans have been hoping for Glasnow’s debut to be sooner rather than later. Glasnow is just one of the many starting pitchers that were a part of the pitching depth within the Pirates minor league system, and the big league club is finally using that depth to their advantage.
Tomorrow’s debut is one a ton of fans will be tuned in for and could compete with Taillon for most highly anticipated debut of the 2016 season.
2.) Gerrit Cole, pitcher
When Gerrit Cole made his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants in 2013, the city of Pittsburgh was unlike anything I had ever seen. The Pirates were in the midst of a season where they were trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 1992, and Cole was just going to add to that dynamic.
Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft out of UCLA, was highly regarded during his minor league days. In fact, he flew through the minor league ranks, only pitching 43 games for three different teams. In those 43 games, Cole compiled a 17-11 record with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.
On June 11, 2013, PNC Park was flooded with fans excited to see Cole pitch in his first major league game. He didn’t disappoint on that day, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while striking out two in 6.1 efficient innings. Cole also picked up his first major league hit in his first at-bat, a two-run single that put the Pirates ahead 2-0. That moment had fans on their feet, and Cole’s debut had fans excited to see what was in store in the future.
That start was indicative of what Cole has been able to do over the course of his big league career. He has become the undisputed ace of the Pirates staff and their most reliable starter. Cole was an All-Star last season and has accumulated a 45-24 record with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 85 major league starts. He has also compiled 495 strikeouts in 531.2 innings.
Cole is currently on the disabled list with a triceps muscle strain, but he made a rehab start in Indianapolis on Tuesday, giving up two hits and striking out six in three innings. Cole will likely be back after the All-Star break and will lead some of the younger pitchers as the Pirates attempt to make it into the postseason for a fourth consecutive year.
1.) Andrew McCutchen, center fielder
It could be argued that Andrew McCutchen helped save baseball in the city of Pittsburgh. The talent the Pirates have had in the last few seasons has been built around him, and, despite struggles this season, he has been the franchise player since he debuted.
McCutchen, the 11th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, was the Pirates most exciting prospect when he played in the minors. The difference between McCutchen’s debut and some of the others on this list is that he debuted when the Pirates were in the midst of a 99-loss season. He was a sign of hope for the organization, and fans were excited.
After hitting .286 in 511 minor league games from 2005 to 2009, McCutchen made his major league debut. On June 4, 2009, McCutchen went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and a stolen base in debut against the New York Mets at PNC Park. The then-rookie went on to hit .286 with 12 home runs, 54 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 108 games in 2009.
That was only the start for McCutchen, who has a .293 average in 1116 career major league games. McCutchen has since helped lead the Pirates to three postseason appearances, won a National League MVP award, a Gold Glove Award, four Silver Slugger awards and has appeared in five all star games.
It’s hard to argue that McCuthen’s debut didn’t have the most hype surrounding it and that he shouldn’t top this list. He helped bring winning baseball back to the city of Pittsburgh and has lived up to the hype that surrounded him during his debut eight years ago.
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