Having lived more than a decade just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, I followed Jordan Lyles' career from the day he was drafted in the first round in 2008 by the Houston Astros out of Hartsville High School in Hartsville, South Carolina.
When the Astros (remember the really bad Astros? Yeah, those Astros) brought Lyles up to the big leagues just two (!) years later, before he'd even turned 21, I was surprised. If the 'Stros thought enough of Lyles to call him up that early, maybe by the time he hit his prime he'd be something to see, right? So many high schoolers don't pan out at all, yet here was one in the big leagues as a 20-year old.
So imagine my surprise when way back when on December 3, 2013, the Colorado Rockies acquired Lyles, along with Brandon Barnes, in exchange for Dexter Fowler. Wait, I remember telling my Dad after the trade, do you remember this guy? The Astros brought him up way too fast, and then had him learn on the job in the big leagues. That's why his numbers are so bad. But he's going to be good!
In two years with the Rockies, Lyles has been... OK. Decent. Not great. Certainly not terrible. He definitely hasn't transitioned into a key rotation cog, but that's due to freak non-throwing-arm injuries that simply aren't his fault, nor should give you any pause on his future. When healthy -- granted, that hasn't happened enough -- he's been trustworthy, at least relative to the Rockies' expectations.
Lyles is uniquely experienced for his age. He started nearly 100 Major League games before his 25th birthday, and yet he's never thrown more than 141 innings or made more than 25 starts in a single season. He's tossed almost 600 Major League innings with two more years of arbitration still ahead, and yet he's only thrown 175 innings in the last two seasons combined.
Speaking of that, let's combine those two seasons: 32 starts, 175.2 IP, 9-9 with a 4.56 ERA and 4.10 FIP, 120 strikeouts against 65 walks (1.85 K:BB), and 0.7 HR/9 (just 14 homers allowed). That's pretty solid. It's maybe not the best extrapolation for what future Lyles could look like, but if you told me a starter would come up with those numbers for the 2016 Rockies, I wouldn't hate it.
Thanks to bad luck with a hand injury (2014) and a toe injury (2015), Lyles doesn't come into 2016 firmly entrenched in the rotation. He's certainly not coming into Spring Training as an outsider, but let's not ignore the fact that he's going to fight for a job with Jorge De La Rosa, Chris Rusin, Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Eddie Butler (?), Yohan Flande (?!), and whomever else the Rockies sign. Quality of that depth aside -- believe me, y'all, I know -- that's a lot of competition fighting for five spots.
I'm very interested in your opinions on Lyles, and his ceiling in Denver. I'm still of the mindset that he can become a valuable starter. At 25, he certainly has time to put it all together. He threw better in 2015 (3.79 FIP) than what ended up on paper (5.14 ERA), and it follows a strong 22 starts in 2014, thus far the best season of his career.
But -- I can't quantify this, so pardon my feelings -- I still feel like I need to see Lyles throw for an entire year if we're going to pencil him in to the future. The number is random, but wouldn't it be nice to see him start about 32 games in 2016?
It's a relief neither of his injuries were arm-related, so we're not having a conversation as if he were Josh Johnson. But, whoa buddy, 2016 will go a very long way to determine Lyles' future in Colorado. What do you say, Jordan... third time's the charm?