KC Royals 2023 Projections: Isn't Daniel Lynch bound to improve?

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Evidence proving the KC Royals had one of the worst pitching staffs in the major leagues was in long before the club ended another bad season early last October. Some may dig deep and dredge up a peripheral or two to bolster claims that things weren't as bad as they seemed, but the hard truth is this: much of the blame for the Royals losing nearly 100 games lies at the feet of their pitchers.

And much of that blame rests with the starting rotation which, without most of Brady Singer's 10 wins (four more than any other starter), probably would have pushed Kansas City over the 100-loss mark. But comprehensive examination of the rota's flaws and faults is beyond the scope of today's discussion, which focuses solely on one member of that shaky group.

Daniel Lynch.

Lynch first appeared on Kansas City fandom's radar when the Royals included him in the potential-packed, talent-rich group of pitchers they collected in the 2018 draft. He was the 34th overall selection; of the hurlers the Royals drafted, only Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar preceded him in the order, while Kris Bubic, Jonathan Bowlan, Austin Cox and Jonathan Heasley, among others, followed.

The lefthander debuted with the Royals in May 2021. Unfortunately, though, he came backed by little professional experience: after the draft in 2018, he pitched 12 times across Rookie and Low-A ball and went 5-1 with a 1.58 ERA, then made 20 starts and went 6-2, 3.08 in a 2019 campaign split between Rookie ball and High-A. The lost minor league season of 2020 followed.

Then came 2021. Suddenly fast-tracking him, the Royals decided he'd skip Double-A and start the season at Triple-A Omaha. But before he threw even a single pitch for the Storm Chasers, he found himself headed for Kansas City and a May 3 big league start against Cleveland. He pitched decently that night, but after the White Sox bombed him for eight runs and chased him out of the first inning a few nights later, and he didn't last three frames against Detroit five days after that, the Royals sent Lynch and his 15.75 ERA back to Omaha. He returned to KC in July and finished the season 4-6, 5.69

And last year? Save for a pair of injury rehabilitation starts at Omaha, Lynch spent the entire campaign with the Royals but with disturbing results. He was 4-13 in 27 starts (those 13 losses tied Bubic for the second-most on the club behind Brad Keller's 14) and he posted an unacceptable 5.13 ERA (80 ERA+). Neverthless, he'll probably start this season in the KC rotation.

Given his 2022 numbers, isn't he destined to improve?

How do FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference see Daniel Lynch's KC Royals 2023?

FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) predicts Lynch will start all of his 18 appearances, pitch only 89 innings, and go 5-6, 4.52. Baseball-Reference, though, predicts Lynch will pitch more, and not exclusively out of the rotation: it sees Lynch going 6-11 with a save and 4.67 ERA over 133 innings.

How will Daniel Lynch actually perform for the KC Royals this season?

Considering the sheer number of Royals who'll be vying for starting spots when the Royals' pitchers and catchers open spring training Wednesday, new manager Matt Quatraro may use Lynch in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Regardless of role, however, look for Lynch to improve.

Why? Last season wasn't good, but it gave Lynch another year of experience, an especially valuable commodity for a young big league hurler with so little minor league prep time. He'll also be under the watchful eyes and tutelage of widely-acclaimed new pitching coach Brian Sweeney and assistant pitching coach Zach Bove. Also there to help will be Zack Greinke, who by all accounts developed strong mentoring relationships with his younger colleagues last season and is back for another year.

And not to be overlooked is that, per Baseball Savant, Lynch's pitch velocities, K% (20.4) and BB% (8.4) all improved last season, which bodes well for 2023.

Look for Lynch to spend most, if not all, his time in the rotation. His improvement will be noticeable but not overwhelming as he begins to turn the corner. He should win around 8-11 games, lose around eight, and finish with an ERA between 4.20-4.40.

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Expect Daniel Lynch to improve this season.