In less than an hour, Jordan Lyles will make his much-anticipated MLB debut. Ten starts into the Triple-A season, the right-hander has a 3.20 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9, impressive stats, especially for a 20-year-old.
Those aren't the only relevant numbers for Lyles and his team. The Astros appear to have significantly reduced the chances that Lyles will become a super two after 2013 and go through the potentially lucrative salary arbitration process an extra time.
Even if Lyles never sees the minor leagues again, he’ll have two years and 121 days of service time after 2013. That doesn’t figure to be enough for super two status – last year’s cutoff was unusually low at two years and 122 days – so Lyles is only on track for three arbitration years.
But it’s too early to know how much service time will be required for super two status three offseasons for now, because the cutoff date changes most years. And since baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires after 2011, there’s no guarantee that the super two will exist a few years from now (though coming up with alternative that satisfies baseball’s owners and the players’ association will not be easy).
There’s a good chance that the Astros will have to option Lyles to the minors at some point – few 20-year-olds make the big leagues and even fewer thrive instantly at the highest level. If Lyles does return to the minors, the projections could change dramatically, as they did for Brett Cecil, Jenrry Mejia and legions of other pitching prospects who were demoted after debuting in the big leagues.
Everything from the super two cutoff to the CBA to Lyles’ development is subject to change, but here’s what we know: if the rules stay the same, the cutoff falls where we expect it to and Lyles stays in the big leagues from here on, the Astros will have avoided super two status for the young righty and saved themselves millions in the process. That may not be Houston's intention – there's much more to player development than waiting until Memorial Day then calling up your top players – but at the very least it's a pleasant coincidence.