Jordan Lyles Rumors
Fowler, 28 in March, wasn't able to replicate his brilliant offensive performance in 2012, but he still enjoyed a strong season. The switch-hitter batted .263/.369/.407 with 12 homers and 19 stolen bases as Colorado's primary center fielder. A sore right wrist and a left knee sprain limited Fowler to just 119 games, but he's only one year removed from a .300/.389/.474 batting line.
Fowler has a strong walk rate and rarely strikes out, but he's not without his warts. Fowler isn't regarded as a strong defensive center fielder, owning negative career marks in Ultimate Zone Rating and Derfensive Runs Saved. He's also done most of his damage at Coors Field, posting an .880 OPS at home in his career compared to a .694 mark on the road. He's owed $7.35MM in 2014 and will be arbitration eligible for the final time before free agency the following offseason.
Lyles, who recently turned 23, has a career 5.35 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers certainly aren't impressive, but Lyles has consistently been one of the youngest pitchers in the Majors after debuting as a 20-year-old in 2011. The Astros selected him 38th overall in the 2008 draft, and he twice ranked on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects. Lyles appeared to be on the road to a solid breakout season, having posted a 4.02 ERA through July 10, but he faded down the stretch, posting a 7.67 ERA over his final 13 appearances. Lyles won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason and is under team control through the 2017 season.
Barnes, 27, batted .240/.289/.346 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases. Though he offered little at the plate, Barnes played outstanding defense in the outfield. He was solid against left-handed pitching as well, batting .296/.354/.437. He's under control through the 2018 season and is not yet arbitration eligible.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Astros will likely be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Houston has an MLB-worst 29-57 record, so the front office figures to entertain offers for Wandy Rodriguez, Michael Bourn and others. Here are the details from Rosenthal and Morosi’s report, which is a must-read item for Astros fans:
- Though owner Drayton McLane would like to complete the sale of his club to Jim Crane by the July 31st trade deadline, the deal may not become official until August. MLB isn’t close to approving the sale, partly because of its ongoing conflict with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
- Crane will likely stay quiet until baseball’s owners approve him, but he’ll influence the team’s direction this summer.
- MLB has not told Crane that he has to agree to move the Astros to the AL West for the sale to go through.
- Carlos Lee, who earns $18.5MM this year and next year, wouldn’t be easy to trade even if Houston picked up significant salary.
- The club doesn’t want to trade Hunter Pence, who is under control through 2013. Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles also figure into Houston’s long-term plans, but the Astros will likely listen to offers on most other players, including Brett Myers and Jeff Keppinger.
- Most baseball people expect Crane to fire GM Ed Wade, but the new owner will likely take his time evaluating Wade’s leadership before conducting a search for a new GM.
- Houston native and current Rays executive Andrew Friedman is “an almost certain target,” according to Rosenthal and Morosi. Another Tampa Bay exec, former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, is also a possibility for Crane. He led Houston to four division titles before joining the Rays.
A few items of note on the club formerly known as the Colt .45s as Albert Pujols smacks a walkoff homer, his second jack of the day:
- The Astros continue to deny any rumors that they've been trying to work out a pre-draft deal with Stanford pitcher Chris Reed with the intent of selecting him at No. 11 overall, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner. Goff predicts the Astros will take Archie Bradley (Twitter link), and ESPN.com's Keith Law writes in his latest mock draft that they'll take prep shortstop Francisco Lindor or Bradley if he's still available.
- The Astros have improved their farm system under GM Ed Wade and his stable of area scouts, according to Goff. Wade's first draft as Astros GM was in 2008, when Houston selected Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles, both of whom have reached the bigs.
- In contrast to their relative improvements in drafting and developing minor league players, Wade admitted that releasing Bill Hall represented a failure in judgment, writes Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
Here's the latest from around the NL Central, with an emphasis Jordan Lyles. The Astros' right-hander debuted against the Cubs tonight and pitched seven-plus innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks....
- Astros manager Brad Mills pointed out that Lyles could be with Houston for two starts or 20 years, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Lyles' debut may be the most anticipated in Astros history since Hunter Pence's 2007 debut, according to McTaggart.
- Lyles' promotion represents a victory for assistant GM and amateur scouting director Bobby Heck, according to Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner.
- I examined the service time implications for Lyles earlier tonight.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he hasn’t had talks with the Mets. That means speculation linking the Reds to Jose Reyes is unfounded at this point (though the Reds could have had internal discussions about the shortstop).
- Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit has fractured his left ankle and will miss at least a month, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Doumit, a potential trade target, would have a few weeks to re-establish his value before the trade deadline if he makes a speedy return. But his $5.1MM salary could clear waivers, which would enable the Pirates to deal him in August.
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.
Teams like saving money and extending their control over top young players. Why wouldn't they? Having impact players on affordable contracts simplifies a GM's job. As a result, teams call top young players up strategically every season to control their service time and, in doing so, delay their free agency and/or limit their earnings.
Though service time is a consideration all season long, it's most evident at two times: in April and again midseason, around early June. If teams wait until a few weeks after the season has begun to call a prospect up for his MLB debut, the player doesn't collect a full year of service time, which delays his free agency by a year.
The precise date until which teams must wait before calling prospects up varies each year and according to whether players are on the 40-man roster. Now that we're nearly three weeks into the season, even prospects on the 40-man roster can be called up, since they have spent the requisite 20-day period in the minor leagues.
None of the following prospects have big league service time, which means that their teams can call them up at any point and keep them through the 2017 season, if not longer: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.
On the other hand, Michael Pineda, Zach Britton and Brandon Belt are now in the majors, picking up service time. Because those players are now on MLB rosters, they're currently on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season. However, if their respective teams option them to the minors for 20 days or more, their path to free agency could be slowed as well (that's an immediate possibility for Belt and a long-term one for the pair of impressive rookie hurlers).
That may sounds complicated, but it's the easy part. Later this spring, in late May and early June, the guessing game begins. Teams do not (and can not) know exactly when future cutoffs for super two status will be, so if they want to play it safe and ensure that prospects like Montero and Ackley only go to arbitration three times, they'll want to wait until at least the middle of June before calling them up.
- ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick examines an unheralded Astros rotation and one of the keys to its success: pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.
- Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com places Jordan Lyles atop his list of Astros prospects and says the right-hander will arrive in Houston at some point this year, even if he starts off in the minor leagues.
- Cincinnati VP Bob Miller told readers at MLB.com that the Reds have one of the deepest rotations he has ever seen. “While some will argue that we don't have a true No. 1 starter, I feel we have the potential for three or four guys to become true No. 1s,” Miller said.
Links for Sunday, as Opening Day inches a little closer....
- Ken Fidlin of The Toronto Sun spoke to Lyle Overbay, who said several teams showed interest in him this offseason, but "Pittsburgh was real aggressive." Overbay joined the Pirates on a one-year deal worth $5MM.
- Jeremy Accardo told Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun that the Orioles made it obvious how highly they valued him when they pursued him this offseason. "I'm happy to get a new, fresh start, a fresh look, a fresh mindset," said Accardo. "I think I stumbled into something pretty special here."
- The Twins are high on Scott Diamond, their Rule V Draft pick, and could swing a trade with the Braves to keep Diamond but send him to Triple-A, tweets Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
- Jordan Lyles could win the Astros' fifth starter job out of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Lyles, just 20 years old, was selected 38th in the 2008 draft -- a supplemental pick for losing Trever Miller to free agency. His main competition includes Nelson Figueroa and Ryan Rowland-Smith.
- Jason Giambi may have been joking when he informed Troy Renck of the Denver Post that he was going to try to stick around until teammate Troy Tulowitzki's contract expires in 2020. However, Giambi told SI.com's Jon Heyman that he does plan to play for as long as he can (Twitter links).
- After his two-year extension with the White Sox was announced, Matt Thornton spoke about the deal and expressed a desire to finish his career in Chicago. Scott Reifert has the details and quotes at MLB.com.
- In his latest Indians mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discusses the signings of Orlando Cabrera and Chad Durbin, as well as the possibility of a Fausto Carmona trade.
- One of the minor leaguers the Marlins acquired in last summer's Jorge Cantu trade saw his first game action today since returning from Tommy John surgery, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.