Jordan Lyles' 2016 campaign was up-and-down. The 26-year-old started the season on a high note by landing a spot in the Rockies' rotation. Things went south quickly, however, as he was shelled in his first few starts and was promptly sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque for more seasoning. Following a bit of time shuttling between the majors and the minors, Lyles found his stride as a reliever over the summer with Colorado, posting a solid 2.88 ERA and a stellar 0.5 HR/9. The right-hander scuffled at the end of the season to bring his season ERA up to 5.83, but he did manage to show that he could pitch effectively at the major league level. That being said, his strikeout ability still didn't come to fruition (4.91 K/9), which hurts his already low value. To make matters worse, many Rockies pitching prospects are knocking on the door of the major league rotation, which could force Lyles into the bullpen for good, and given his low K rate, it will be tough for him to carve out a high-leverage role if that is his fate.
Lyles has a good chance of making the Opening Day roster due to the fact that he's out of minor league options, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. Lyles broke camp last season with a rotation spot in hand, but he was simply atrocious in five starts (8.55 ERA, 2.05 WHIP). However, the right-hander picked things up after he rejoined the major league squad as a long reliever in June, posting an improved 4.42 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. He doesn't strike out enough batters to warrant much excitement if he does make the team as a reliever, but a roster spot is better than being designated for assignment and could also lead to a few spot starts over the course of the year.
The Rockies have agreed to terms with Lyles on a one-year contract and avoided arbitration. Lyles has a career 5.17 ERA in 611.1 innings, and was even worse than that last year, posting a 5.83 ERA and 32:28 K:BB over 58.2 innings, mostly in relief. He has very minimal fantasy value as a starter, and essentially no value as a reliever, which will be his likely role in 2017.
Manager Walt Weiss said that Lyles "has earned an opportunity to get higher-stakes outs late in games," Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post reports. Lyles' overall numbers are not impressive whatsoever (5.00 ERA, 4.7 K/9), but the right-hander has been one of the most consistent arms in an otherwise awful Rockies bullpen. Since being called up on June 20, the 25-year-old possesses a sparkling 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 34 innings as a reliever. His strikeout numbers haven't improved, but his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (even at Coors Field) has kept him in high regard with the Rockies brass. He may not get save chances, but the vote of confidence from Weiss is certainly a good sign for Lyles heading into the end of the season.
Lyles holds a 2.63 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 13.2 innings pitched since being promoted to the majors on June 20. After a putrid start to the season where the he allowed at least five runs in four of his five appearances, Lyles has completely turned things around as of late. His strikeout numbers are still lackluster at best since the promotion (5.3 K/9), but his stellar 1.3 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 are allowing him to hold his own in the big leagues. The right-hander's role may be in question in the coming days, even with his recent success. Chris Rusin (shoulder) is expected to come off the disabled list this coming week, which could put Lyles' job as the Rockies' long reliever in jeopardy. How the Rockies plan to handle this situation will likely become clearer as Rusin's activation comes nearer, but in the meantime, Lyles will look to continue pitching like he has over the past month, a time in which he's lowered his ERA from 8.55 to 6.15 on the season.
Lyles was recalled Monday. Lyles last pitched for the Rockies on May 23 when he gave up four earned runs in 2.1 innings of work, bringing his ERA to 8.55 and WHIP to 2.05 on the season and leading him to be optioned to Triple-A. Lyles will now try to help the Rockies' rotation that has lost Tyler Chatwood and Chris Rusin to the 15-day DL.