KC Royals: Jordan Lyles will start, but what will he bring?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Don't expect new KC Royals pitcher Jordan Lyles to be the club's ace. He won't be. He's a mid-rotation starter, a pitcher who typically gives his employer some, but not a lot, of wins and chews up innings in the process. And he can be valuable, as the key role he played in Baltimore's resurgence last season proves: he led the Orioles in wins with 12, a career-best-tying total.

Lyles winning a dozen games this season would be just fine with the Royals, who signed the big (6-feet-5, 230 pounds) righthander to a two-year deal last December. But that might be difficult for Lyles, whose other 12-victory campaign, a 12-8 effort in 2019, are two of the only three double-digit victory years he's had in 12 big league seasons. And 2022 was only his third winning campaign, which explains why he brings a 66-90 record to the Royals.

And as his career 5.10 ERA reflects, he tends to give up too many runs to be an ace. Only four times has he recorded ERAs under 5.00,

Despite those less-than-stellar career stats, Lyles improved with the Orioles in 2022. The 12 wins were better than his 11 losses, his 4.42 ERA was far better than his career mark and the 5.15 he posted in 32 games for Texas in 2021, and his control (2.61 BB/9) was decent.

The Royals are banking on that kind of performance from Lyles this season and next: that's why they're paying him $17 million.

Will he deliver?

How FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference see Jordan Lyles' KC Royals season

FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) projects Lyles will go 8-13 with a 4.93 ERA this year; Baseball-Reference predicts he'll finish 10-11, 4.66.

How will Jordan Lyles actually perform for the KC Royals this season?

Although Lyles boasts a good bit of bullpen experience (107 of his 321 career appearances have been in relief), Kansas City signed him to start, something we suggested as a possibility a month before he signed. He'll begin the season as the club's third or fourth starter.

That Lyles is coming off one of the best two seasons of his career (that 12-8 2018 campaign is the other) and was better in the second half last year (6-3, 3.91) than the first (6-8, 4.76), bodes well for his first Kansas City campaign.

But the 2023 Royals probably won't be as good as the Orioles he pitched for last year: going 83-79, as the O's did in 2022, is too much to ask. And pitching for a good club had much to do with Lyles winning 12 games.

Lyles won't self-destruct in KC, but he won't win the Cy Young, either. Look for something along the lines of 9-9 with a 4.75 ERA instead.

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