Jordan Lyles on MilB.TV tonight

Update: Overall impressions below the jump.

Just a quick note where people will see it: Jordan Lyles is pitching for the Hooks tonight (7:05 PM CDT, 4/27), and the game will be broadcast on MiLB.TV.  The online service is $6.95 monthly, so it might be worth the price of a meal at Subway for some of us to see him pitch.  Obviously, the video quality is not great, and I know a lot of us will be watching the big league game, but this is a rare chance to see Lyles pitch without driving down to Corpus Christi, so I thought I'd give everybody a heads up.

If anyone else will be watching Jordan's start with me, we could also use this thread to discuss the game in the comments.

Jordan's final line: 6.1 IP, 7H, 3 ER, 9 K, 2 BB

My impressions

Watching the game, I thought Lyles pitched better than the 3 ER you see above.  Two of the earned runs came off a series of three groundballs (a clean groundball single, a misplayed infield single, and a misplayed ball up the line which turned into a triple.)  The other one came after he got sent back out for the seventh inning with 96 pitches and gave up a triple and a single; I had thought he would be out of the game at that point and was surprised to see that he had come back out after I turned off the broadcast.

That kind of thing is bound to happen sometimes, though, and really it's immaterial.  He looked great out there.  His control, when it was good, was outstanding.  There were a short stretches where he was missing his spots, but for the most part he was making perfect pitch after perfect pitch with fastballs on the corners.  According to the radio announcer, his fastball was sitting at 91-92 MPH, which if true is a notable improvement over last season.

The first couple of innings he relied almost entirely on his fastball, but as the game went on he seemed to mix in his curve and changeup more and more.  It was very hard for me to tell the changeup from the fastball without velocity listed on the screen, but occasionally I could tell because batters would swing out in front of it and it would have just a little extra sink toward the end.  I'd say the fact that I struggled to tell the difference is probably a good thing, because maybe batters will struggle too.

His curve flashed its potential, too.  He threw about ten curveballs out of those 96 pitches.  About a third of them were the kind of big looping curve I've heard described.  Not terrible, but perhaps below average.  However, in those situations it reminded me a lot of Roy Oswalt's curve, as the speed difference was huge between it and his fastball, and that seemed to freeze batters in their tracks.  Another third of the time, it looked quite good, average, maybe even above average; he got on top of it and it had late 12-6 movement rather than looping in.  The rest of the time it clearly didn't break like he planned, but all of his misses were up out of the zone, so no harm was done.  He did flash the ability to locate his curve, as at least half of them were thrown for strikes, and maybe three of those hit his spots on the corners.

Overall I was very impressed with what I saw.  Lyles could probably be an effective back of the rotation starter in the big leagues right now, but of course he needs to spend more time in the minors rather than being rushed up at the tender age of 19.  He still has some things to work on in terms of his consistency (particularly with his breaking ball) and improving his feel for his secondary pitches in general, but the potential seems to be there, and it seems like a fairly safe bet that he'll meet it.

The biggest concern has been about his stuff.  Can he be a top of the rotation starter with his velocity?  Can he sustain the numbers mentioned today, 91-92MPH, or even improve on them?  It's hard to say, but assuming he stays healthy (always have to watch that attrition rate with pitchers), I think it's safe to say he will find a place in the big league rotation at some point, even if it's just as a middle or back rotation starter.  His ceiling ought to be considered higher than that, though.

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