- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
The Houston Astros announced on Saturday their plans to purchase the contract of right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles, their top pitching prospect, to pitch Tuesday night at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
Lyles was the Astros' first-round selection (38th) overall in the June 2008 draft from Hartsville High School in South Carolina. Lyles, 20, was the Astros' minor league pitcher of the year in 2010. He entered major league spring training on a mission, and despite being one of the Astros' best starters all spring with an ERA of 1.98, he was reassigned to the minor leagues. His first three starts in the minors this year were a disaster as he went 0-2 with a 7.07 ERA. He regrouped and went on to pitch 13 scoreless innings, and in the process turned his season. He's currently 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA along with a respectable 1.2 WHIP.
Lyles, 20, has a smooth, easy delivery along with deception. He has the presence of a veteran on the mound and he's extremely mature for his age. A consistent release point allows him to throw four different pitches average or above with his changeup being the best of his secondary pitches. His fastball velocity is in the 88-92 mph range, but can touch 93 at times.
In the beginning of May, Lyles started putting more conviction on his cutter and quickly the command of his fastball followed. The development of his curveball over the past month has also been key. He's finally throwing his curveball over the plate and down in the zone when he needs to, and he's not hanging mistakes.
Lyles is the Astros' top pitching prospect and despite his youth should be able to compete when he makes his major league debut on Tuesday in Chicago.
SCOUTING GRADES (on the 20-80 scouting scale)
Bottom line: Lyles has the potential to be a No. 3 starter in the major leagues when he fully develops.
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