24. Robert Tyler (237 points, 23 ballots)
It’s fitting that Robert Tyler sits next to Mike Nikorak on this PuRPs list. After all, both are right-handed starters the Rockies spent high draft picks on but who have both struggled and been injured as professionals. Tyler’s injury was shoulder fatigue that kept him from throwing a pitch in a game in 2017.
Entering 2016, Tyler was in the discussion for a mid to late first-round pick and showed flashes in college of becoming an elite starter. The 22-year-old pitched mostly in the rotation for Georgia, but his time in Athens was marred by injuries, including a forearm strain in 2015 that limited him to just six starts. Tyler was healthy in 2016, when he posted a 10.7 K/9 rate and 4.10 ERA in 732⁄3 innings for Georgia, though he struggled with control (5.5 BB/9 rate).
That was enough to command a $1.7 million bonus as the 38th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Tyler was assigned to Short-Season A Boise, where in seven professional innings he allowed 11 runs on 2 hits and (sigh) 16 walks—a downright Nikorakian stat line.
MLB.com currently has Tyler ranked 25th in the system:
As a starter, Tyler can sit in the mid-90s and reach triple digits with his fastball, and on his worst days he’ll still work at 92-95 mph. Besides its overwhelming velocity, his heater is tough to catch up to because it features run, sink and downhill plane. His fading and sinking changeup gives him a second plus offering at times, though he lacks feel for spinning the ball and uses a knuckle-curve as his breaking ball.
The Rockies initially will develop Tyler as a starter so he can have plenty of innings to work on his shortcomings. He has yet to prove he can repeat his delivery and command his pitches, and he has missed time in four of the past five years, so many scouts believe he’ll wind up in the bullpen. As a reliever, he would likely throw even harder in shorter outings and could concentrate on his two best pitches.
Like fellow PuRP Jairo Díaz, Tyler has a 75 fastball/40 control combo with a plus secondary pitch at present. If nothing else, that’s a recipe for a high octane bullpen arm.
2080 Baseball had this to say about Tyler back in February 2017:
Tyler shows a borderline elite fastball, sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s and touching triple digits with regularity while working well downhill. His best secondary offering is an impressive circle changeup that he turns over to get arm-side dive, and the pitch shows good arm speed and pitch-plane deception. The breaking ball is a below-average knuckle curve that Tyler struggles to throw for strikes and lacks consistent shape and bite.
While the Rockies will likely continue to try and develop Tyler as a starter, the profile screams fastball/changeup relief arm. Even if he has to pull back on the effort and sacrifice some velocity for control, Tyler could quickly grow into a late-inning contributor off the strength of his top two pitches.
Here’s some video of Tyler pitching for Team USA in 2015:
Tyler is a high-ceiling, low-floor player due to the contradiction of the explosiveness of the fastball/change combo and his struggle with mechanics and control. At the ceiling, if the Rockies can smooth out his mechanics and improve the control profile, Tyler has the upside of a mid-rotation starter. That seems unlikely at this point. If he stays closer to where he is now developmentally, Tyler is an arm with closer potential but one that has a high flame-out likelihood.
Tyler had a lost 2017 season and still hasn’t made his full season ball debut. The earliest I envision him in the big leagues is 2020, and that’s as a reliever. Still, I’m one of the high votes for Tyler in the electorate by ranking him 17th and giving him a 40+ FV as a potential impact reliever or back-end starter, and I hope that looks low this time next year after Tyler gets some more professional innings under his belt.