Where Are They Now? Houston Astros Trades Part 3; 2013

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Jordan Lyles, Brandon Barnes – This deal didn’t take place during the season and barely squeezed itself into 2013 but right before the calendar flipped the Astros and Colorado Rockies swapped underachieving top prospects, outfielder Dexter Fowler and a PTBNL heading south from Denver to Houston and Jordan Lyles as well as outfielder Brandon Barnes going north to Colorado.

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the 2009 season Baseball America ranked Dexter Fowler as the 14th best prospect in the game one slot below Buster Posey and one above Giancarlo Stanton –know then as Mike– if you’ve heard of either of them.

Prior to the 2011 season, Jordan Lyles was ranked 42nd by BA, sandwiched by Yankee prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. Lyles made his debut as expected that season at the age of 20 and has been one of the youngest pitchers –and players– in baseball since.

It didn’t really sound like a great move at the time, but the Astros were pre-Luhnow bad and also pre-Luhnow and searching for something to fire up the fan base by calling up their prized youngster, picked 38th overall in 2008, at the end of May.

From that fateful debut to the date of his trade to the Rockies, Lyles had an ugly, ugly 5.35 ERA and even a change to the hitter-friendly as it gets Coors Field was in the best interest of all parties.

Brandon Barnes came on the scene as an impressive 26-year old rookie in 2013, playing a lot of center field very well for the Astros and hitting lefties very well to a tune of .296/.354/.437 (he hit .240 against righties). Barnes also hit eight homers and stole 11 bags. He is under team control until 2018, giving the Rockies a flexible and productive platoon player in their outfield while they develop a new wave of outfielders like Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson and soon Raimel Tapia in the wake of giving up on Dexter Fowler for a young pitcher they hope to turn around.

The 2014 Colorado Rockies have been no stranger to trying to turn around the careers of young starting pitchers, most however coming internally. Tyler Matzek and Christian Friedrich hoped to fulfill their former status of heralded prospects in the Rockies system, while Lyles from Houston and Brett Anderson from Oakland attempted to do the same.

Barnes has been a high energy role player just as Colorado intended and Houston was forced to overuse in 2013 by default of (lack of) assets. The numbers aren’t flashy or great or even that good but he’s had several good games in a very rotational Rocks lineup and at a price you can’t complain about, $501,000.

Jordan Lyles fell to the fate of so many pitchers this season. No, not Tommy John Surgery luckily but alas he was injured in early June and hasn’t pitched since, currently residing on the 60 Day Disabled List. His injury is a fractured left hand.

Before he got hurt though, he was having easily his best pro season. Through 69 innings he had allowed 64 hits, struck out 49 batters, walked just 26 and possessed a 3.52 ERA with a 5-1 record for the Rockies, who at the time for playing great baseball in large thanks to a rejuvenated 23-year old Jordan Lyles. Lyles has never finished a season with an ERA under 5 (5.09 in 25 2012 starts).

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Lyles is on track to return from the 60 Day DL when first available on August 4th and just threw 3.2 scoreless innings in a rehab start at high A Modesto. He threw 70 pitches but his stuff looks ready to go in about a week and no matter the struggles he experienced in his very short, once promising career as a Houston Astro, it will be nice to see him come back strong and finish 2014 in the same manner.

The PTBNL has yet to be named but the biggest potential value of the deal was surely center fielder Dexter Fowler, where in his 4th full pro season in Major League Baseball had a monster campaign. He hit an even .300 with 18 doubles, 13 home runs, 11 triples and 12 stolen bases.

In 2013 he played just 119 games and suffered setbacks all across the board. With a handful of young outfielders the team had it’s eyes on and a hole or six in their five man pitching rotation, the Rockies made the considerably bolder end of this trade to acquire Barnes and Lyles.

So far for his new American League squad, Fowler has had some bright moments in 2014 but the injury bug that loomed large in 2013 followed him to the Space City. On Jul 1st the team put Fowler on the Disabled List with a back strain. As of July 30 the news remains grim on Fowler’s injury and return outlook.

MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that Fowler, sidelined with the intercostal strain, has “a long way to go” before returning to the Astros lineup. In his  (and right now also George Springer’s) stead Robbie Grossman, Marc Krauss and Enrique Hernandez will see more playing time.

Before the injury, Fowler was hitting .270 with six home runs and stolen bases apiece in 334 PA where he has also drawn a healthy 47 walks already this season, but plate discipline has never been a bugaboo for Fowler.

The team’s long term plans for the switch-hitting 28-year old remain in the air, but the general thinking is that if they can get him healthy and producing they hope to flip him for more than they gave, if that isn’t really the name of the trading game.

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