Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is Daniel Lynch.
When Daniel Lynch first made the jump from Triple-A to the big leagues last May, his first start was far better than his second and third. Although he officially gave up three runs and walked four in 4.2 inning in his debut, Cleveland scored two of those runs off Scott Barlow, and Lynch struck out three. But he struggled against the White Sox five days later, allowing a whopping eight runs in just two-thirds of an inning.
Then he gave Detroit four runs in 2.2 innings in his next outing. The Royals lost all three of his starts—Lynch was 0-2 with a ballooning 15.75 ERA (14 earned runs in eight innings) when Kansas City sent him back to Omaha.
After spending close to three months with the Storm Chasers and notching a 4-3 record and 5.84 ERA, the Royals called Lynch back up to Kansas City. The difference was like night and day.
To begin his second stint in the majors, Lynch gained revenge against Detroit, pitching eight scoreless innings and five hits in a 6-1 Kansas City victory. He lost to Toronto in his next start, but his improvement continued when he allowed only three runs in six innings.
From July 25 to the end of August, Lynch went 4-1 with an excellent and much-improved 2.23 ERA. He faltered in September, going 0-3 with an 8.69 ERA, but by season’s end he’d lowered his ERA to 5.69 and finished 4-6.
Will he continue to get better in 2022?
Baseball Reference & FanGraphs projections for the KC Royals’ Daniel Lynch.
Baseball Reference predicts Lynch will have a 6-6 record, 4.79 ERA with 88 strikeouts and two saves in 94 innings.
FanGraphs (Depth Chart Version) believes Lynch will have a 4-4 record, 4.90 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 66 innings.
What kind of season will Daniel Lynch actually have for the 2022 KC Royals?
Both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs have similar assessments of Lynch in terms of ERA. But a stat that differentiates those projections are the numbers of innings pitched. Baseball Reference sees Lynch exceeding his innings from last year’s 68, giving him a solid 94 while FanGraphs sees Lynch pitching 66 innings, two less than last season.
Contrary to both projections, and because Lynch should be considered a viable season-long starter for Kansas City’s five-man rotation, he’ll likely far exceed 100 innings in 2022.
Lynch’s 2021 pitch utilization numbers per Baseball Savant are interesting. He threw his four-seam fastball 40.7% of the time resulting in a .381 BA. He used his changeup 16.3% of the time, and it yielded a .368 BA. On the other hand, Lynch utilized his second-most used pitch—his slider—29.2% of the time with a much better .188 BA, and he went to his sinker 11.6% of the time and limited opponents to a .185 BA with it. (He also threw 27 curves without giving up a hit).
Lynch’s slider is his most lethal pitch by far, for it also has a whiff rate of 41.8% and a put away of 23.4%. And 65% of his 55 strikeouts came off his effective slider. If Lynch lowers his four-seam fastball usage and throws his slider and sinker more often, perhaps he could have a 2022 akin to his successful July-August stint.
Overall, expect Lynch to be fairly successful in his sophomore season in Kansas City with an ERA in the 3.65-4.00 range and over 100 innings pitched.
Daniel Lynch can, and likely will, be better in 2022.