Despite demotion, Daniel Lynch IV could have a breakout season for the KC Royals

The club sent Lynch down Wednesday, but that doesn't mean he's out of the picture.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals prioritized pitching during the offseason by bringing in some new hurlers, and some other impactful moves will be adjustments made by hurlers who were with the club last season, including Daniel Lynch IV. But after being sent to the minors Wednesday, will Lynch return to the team and capitalize on improvements he made during a 2023 season hampered by injury?

How Daniel Lynch IV performed for the KC Royals last season

Lynch began the 2023 campaign with an 8-19 record in 42 career starts and high ERAs of 5.69 in his rookie 2021 season and 5.13 in 2022. He pitched only 52.1 innings last year and, although there were signs he was figuring things out, he'll need to utilize the skills he unlocked last season to post consistently good work.

Spurred by a lower walk rate and a hard-hit rate that ranked in the 91st percentile, Lynch lowered his ERA last year to a career-best 4.64 and was clearly on his way to posting far more wins than he had in his first two big league seasons. Should he continue to limit damaging contact at an elite rate, he could ultimately become Kansas City's pitching surprise of the year.

How FanGraphs projects Daniel Lynch's season for the KC Royals

FanGraphs (Depth Charts) projects Lynch will have a 4.78 ERA with a 5-6 record across 89 innings. His 7.48 K/9 would represent a significant improvement over last season's 5.85, his projected 3.24 BB/9 would be a regression from the gains he made in 2023 (he had a career-best 2.75), and his 1.28 HR/9 would be lower than last year's 1.55.

How Daniel Lynch will actually perform in 2024

There's little doubt, if any, that Lynch will get back to Kansas City this season. He'll have more opportunities to show he deserves a more solid spot in the rotation when he returns, especially after facing the uncertainty of his injury-riddled 2023 season. His progression as a starter will hinge on his ability to baffle hitters into weak contact because he doesn't profile as a high strikeout pitcher.

Lynch believes he will be more prepared for this season; as he told's Anne Rogers soon after spring training started, "It’s probably the best I’ve felt in two years. Last year going into camp, there were some underlying things that turned into bigger things. … Things that I thought were normal and going, ‘Well, I’m just building up, it’ll go away.’ This year, I don’t feel any of those things. I feel like I’m strong."

Although he doesn't overpower hitters, a full season could give Lynch the insight necessary to see how to progress as a starter. He had a remarkable discrepancy in his performance against lefties (.333 batting average) and righties (.230). He told Rogers he is positioned differently on the mound to "maximize my arsenal," especially his approach against lefties.

With a healthy season fueled by suppressing opponents' contact and improved results against lefties, Lynch could finally find a groove in the majors. He doesn't need to be stellar to bolster the back end of the Royals' rotation, so a 4.50 ERA might convince the Royals he deserves 15-20 starts this year. After being optioned to the minors, he will have to wait for an opportunity with the big league team, but the strong impression he made this spring (2.77 ERA in 13 innings) should give him the chance to prove himself as a solid rotation option early this season.

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