Prospect of the Day: Jordan Lyles, RHP, Houston Astros
In late May of 2008, Jordan Lyles was a high school pitcher from Hartsville, South Carolina, with a strong commitment to his home state college squad, the South Carolina Gamecocks. Most teams saw him as a great athlete, interesting and projectable with a mid-to-upper-80s fastball, but likely headed to college. However, the Houston Astros followed him more closely than most teams, saw his fastball get up to 90 MPH in pre-draft workouts, and had a better read on his signability. They selected him in the supplemental first round of the '08 draft, 38th overall. Three years later, he's about to make his major league debut.
After a solid '08 rookie ball performance, Lyles posted a sharp 167/38 K/BB in 145 innings with a 3.24 ERA for Low-A Lexington in '09, earning strong reviews for his command. He jumped directly to Double-A in 2010 and didn't skip a beat, posting a 115/35 K/BB in 127 innings with a 3.12 ERA. He had some problems in six Triple-A starts (5.40 ERA, 48 hits in 32 innings but a 22/11 K/BB), but at age 19 that was understandable. He's had no problems there this year, with a 3.20 ERA in 10 starts for Oklahoma City, with a 41/16 K/BB in 59 innings.
Lyles doesn't have exceptional velocity, working at 89-93 MPH. However, the fastball works well due to the contrast with his slider and changeup, both of which are excellent. His command is very sharp, and his strong overall level of athleticism helps him repeat his mechanics and stay healthy.
While Lyles isn't going to be a power-armed rotation anchor ace in the mold of Roger Clemens or Roy Halladay, he projects as a consistent strike-throwing efficiency expert in the mold of a Jon Lieber or Brad Radke. He's come a long way in three years and while some adjustment problems are possible, Lyles should have a long and successful career assuming continued good health. I rated him as a Grade B+ prospect, ranked Number 17 on my pre-season Top 50 Pitching Prospects list in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book.