Jordan Lyles (Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports)
Jordan Lyles is a symbol of what we hope is a bygone era of Houston Astros baseball. At one point Lyles was a top prospect, but by last season he had turned into an albatross and was in the starting rotation almost by default.
Lyles was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft out of High School with the 38th overall pick by the Astros. He immediately became a top prospect in Houston’s organization and moved quickly through the minor leagues. The right-hander certainly had success, but by no means did he dominate.
But with the system so barren, Lyles was consistently ranked as one of the top pitching prospects and reached Houston midway through the 2011 season at the age of 20. Lyles pitched in 20 games, 15 of them starts, and recorded a 2-8 record to go along with his 5.36 ERA. He then started 2012 in AAA going 5-0 in seven starts with a 3.54 ERA which earned him a promotion back to Houston.
However, once he re-joined the Astros, his success ended as Lyles went 5-12 in 25 starts with a 5.36 ERA. Last season was another roller coaster for Lyles as he showed promise at times but struggled both with the Astros and with AAA Oklahoma City.
While Lyles is still a talented pitcher, he doesn’t do much that stands out. To say that he has struggled to find his command and confidence would an understatement. But how much of it is that he never should have been a first round pick to begin with, and how much of the blame should fall on the Astros?
I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle here. Lyles still could have a future as a decent reliever or a back end of the rotation pitcher, but he will never be an ace or an All-Star. At the same time, the Astros rushed Lyles through the organization, advancing him and then promoting him to the major leagues before he was ready.
There is still a belief in baseball that Lyles has some value and all is not lost even though he was rushed by Houston. After all, he is a 23-year old former first round pick. But with the news that the Colorado Rockies are likely going to start off Lyles in the minor leagues next season, you have to think he had no place in the majors in 2011.
At the same time though, the Astros didn’t have a choice, as they really had no other options. But they also made a decision, the correct one, that Lyles really didn’t have much value to them at this point and he was expendable in a trade. Right now, Lyles would have trouble making the rotation in Oklahoma City.