Service time issues forced Jordan Lyles to Oklahoma City after a sterling spring training slate where he clearly out-pitched his competition for the fifth starter slot, but now the one piece of the Astros future that may clearly soon be ready for the bigs will draw his first big league start against the Cubs. Lyles, 20, had compiled a 3.2 ERA for the RedHawks, with a 41:16 K/BB ratio and 1.23 WHIP. His strikeout rate has tumbled a bit from where he was at earlier levels, which should give anyone thinking he’s going to be an ace some pause, but he’s got a lot going for him.
Lyles works with three solid pitches: a decent fastball, an advanced changeup, and a plus curveball. In a lot of ways, you could say that he has “pitchability,” in that while his raw stuff is hardly excellent, he gets good results out of the arsenal he has. The problem with Jordan Lyles, Houston Astro, is that if you don’t miss a lot of bats behind this defense, the results haven’t been pretty so far this year. Brett Wallace and Carlos Lee are butchers, and other than Michael Bourn the Astros don’t have a real plus defender at this point. That could spell trouble on a number of levels, but Lyles could also benefit early from a lack of advanced scouting on his stuff. At least he avoided Wrigley Field in the day, where the ball can really start to carry.
David Coleman over at The Crawfish Boxes filed his take on Lyles’ first start, and it wasn’t exactly optimistic (what is about the Astros these days though?):
That time appears to be Tuesday, as Lyles will join the team this weekend before starting against the Cubs on Tuesday. I’m just not sure he’s ready. As has been pointed out on this site before (by people smarter than me), Lyles has a pretty high hit rate and his strikeout rate has plummeted in Triple-A. His ERA looks good, but that could be an illusion. His home run rate is fairly low, and his batting average on balls in play is slightly below average at .309. He’s also got his highest LOB percentage since he was at Lexington.
Maybe Lyles is just learning how to pitch. He’s not walking batters, which is a good indication. He’s probably going to take some lumps, so I guess the Astros figure it’s time for him to take those lumps at the major league level. For better or worse, we’ll see what the organization’s top prospect has over the next few months. I hope that’s a good thing.
I would add that considering how short Wandy Rodriguez’s DL stint is expected to last, Lyles might not be up for good. It may just be that he was the only RedHawk that could be trusted to give the Astros five innings. Either way, even if Lyles does turn out to be overmatched at the bigs, at least it’s somebody who is actually young being overmatched.
My prediction? 5.2 innings pitched, eight hits, four runs (three earned), three strikeouts, and a walk.