2012 Fantasy Baseball Analysis: Is Astros' Jordan Lyles a Sleeper?

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Lost in all the massive huge news that Brett Myers will be moving to the bullpen is that this opens a spot in a somewhat crowded, albeit pedestrian, Astros pitching rotation. In turn, this has greatly increased the chances Jordan Lyles will break camp with the big league club.

Lyles, the #42 rated prospect by Baseball America heading into the 2011 season, received very little hype upon his promotion last year and is off radars this season (he isn’t even mentioned on Mock Draft Central and is typically ranked outside the top 100 starting pitchers).

Of course, people look at his 2011 line and see nothing special: 5.36 ERA, 6.41 K/9, 1.41 WHIP. However, that was just 94 innings, he had a solid 2.58 K:BB rate and his FIP (4.53) and xFIP (4.13) showed a young pitcher with promise. The reason for the stark difference between ERA and FIPs was a poor strand rate (65%) likely the result of poor bullpen work and a slightly higher than average HR/FB rate (12.2%).

Throughout his minor league career, Lyles limited the free passes, posting impressive walk rates. In addition, until he hit AAA, he routinely posted outstanding K/9 rates. It’s hard to know what happened with his punch-outs when he got to AAA (other than his BABIP being slightly elevated), but it was just 94 innings. Rather than focus on that small sample, look at how well Lyles performed at AA and A. In addition, his FIP in the minors was never above 3.86.

While Lyles posted slightly below average swinging strike rates last season, he showed promise in posting a contact rate below league average. Lyles is by no means overpowering (89.8 MPH fastball last year), but he does exhibit great command of three above average pitches.

Quite simply, Lyles’ command and control will play in the majors. Over the last three years, just 47 starting pitchers have a 2.58 K:BB rate or better. Of those 47, just 11 have an ERA above 4.00 and just seven have a WHIP above 1.30. In addition, this group has averaged 156 K’s a season.

Last season Lyles posted a 2.49 BB/9 rate, which was consistent with his minor league track record. Among qualified pitchers over the last three seasons, just 34 starters equaled or bettered that walk rate. Those 34 averaged a 3.73 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Additionally, 19 pitchers had a BB/9 rate between 2.40 and 2.58. This group averaged a 3.89 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Fantasy owners should expect Lyles to post a 6.9 K/9 rate, a 4.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He has good upside on the ERA and slight upside on the WHIP and K/9 rate.

Lyles is a good target in NL-only, 20-team and keeper/dynasty leagues. 

(March 9, 2012 - Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images North America)

Written by Albert Lang exclusively for

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