Better: Starting pitcher Daniel Lynch
FanGraphs Projections: 26 starts, 6-9, 4.69 ERA, .7 WAR
Royals starting pitcher Daniel Lynch is a fringe rotation member right now, competing with the likes of Kris Bubic and Jonathan Heasley. But Lynch will surpass both those and more when the 2023 season is all said and done.
The Royals mercifully moved on from Cal Eldred after the 2022 season and revamped their pitching coaching staff altogether. They added pitching coach Brian Sweeney and assistant pitching coach Zach Bove, who emphasize pitch design and strategy. MLB.com's Anne Rogers detailed how Sweeney and Bove have both positively impacted Lynch this spring training already. Royals fans were optimistic about the new coaches' immediate effect on the pitching staff, even before pitchers and catchers reported. A great barometer for their impact will be Lynch, who posted a 5.13 ERA across 27 starts and 131 2/3 innings in 2022.
"“I got so wrapped up for a while, like when baseball wasn’t going well, I didn’t care about anything else,” Lynch said. “I thought that’s what I had to do to be good. Caring about other things and trusting that baseball is going to be fine helps me way more.”"- MLB.com's Anne Rogers
Other than new pitching coaches, experience will be another factor in Lynch's favor. 2020 was a lost season for many prospects, yet Lynch jumped from High-A in 2019 to Triple-A in 2021. Lynch ultimately made 15 major league starts in 2021, hardly a full-season workload. 2022 was the first season fans could call Lynch a full-time major league player, and he rightfully had his struggles. Lynch has had an offseason of knowing what to do differently, how the schedule feels, and what he can improve on for the next season. Experience does have immense value, but it usually takes time to learn. Lynch now has that experience in his arsenal.
Lynch has a lot to like heading into his 2023 season. Several of his numbers improved from 2021 to 2022, such as strikeouts and walks per nine innings. He even had a notable improvement in August 2022, when he pitched 32 innings with a 3.94 ERA. Lynch has had significant stretches where things work, followed by significant stretches where the wheels fall off. That was the same for many Royals pitchers in 2022, with Eldred and former coaches being a common denominator. Now that they are gone, fans will see how Lynch does with more experience and a better coaching staff.
It is hard not to be optimistic about the 26-year-old pitcher ahead of this season.