Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Bucs Sign Tyler Lyons to Minor League Deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 30-year-old LHP Tyler Lyons to a minor league deal, per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. They were looking for a lefty, and they found a low-cost guy who had a solid resume until injuries derailed him in 2018. He was 9-2-3/3.33 with 174 K in 162 IP from 2015-17 from mostly out of the pen; the converted starter hasn't opened a MLB game since 2015. Tyler also fits into the new model for Pittsburgh pitchers - he's heavily into sliders, with a sinker and four-seamer.

Lyons had spent his entire six-year with the St. Louis Cardinals (he was a ninth round pick in the 2010 draft with a career posting of 4.09 ERA/3.95 FIP), and last year was a disaster. He put up a 1-0/8.64 line (5.02 FIP) in 16-2/3 innings with 27 outings. It's a teeny sample size, caused by a back strain in May, followed by a left elbow sprain in June; both landed him on the DL. He was DFA'ed in July, went unclaimed, and then sent to AAA Memphis, where he slashed 1-1-1/2.49 in 21-1/3 innings and started three of the seven games he got into. Lyons opted to become a FA after the campaign.

Tyler Lyons 2018 (photo Keith Allison/Getty)
His 2018 strikeout rate (23%), swing-and-miss rate (10%) and heater speed (89-90 MPH on his two-and-four seamers) were all around league average. He also had some bad luck, too, as his BABIP was .412. But he walked too many (4.3/nine innings), was susceptible to the dinger (1.6/nine innings) and quite odd for a Bucco target, had a miserable 28% ground ball rate. He's also got a career split, with a .203 BA v lefties and .254 v righties, which isn't glaring except for power numbers: righties have a .450 slugging % and lefties .320, so there's that.

He is interesting as an reclamation project. His best season was in 2017, when he went 4-1-3/2.83 in 54 innings in 50 outings, so he's not far removed from success. And though he hasn't started in the big leagues for a while, he also slots as potential bullpenning opener should the Bucs go that route. In fact, he and Steven Brault, who may bumps heads for a final spot, both project pretty closely to one another: the 2019 Fangraphs Steamer projections have Lyons at 1-0/4.17/1.20 WHIP/23% K rate and Brault at 2-2/3.98/1.40/23%.

It's not a major deal; just the Bucs doing some housework re: the bullpen situation; they're thin there, especially from the southpaw side. Though not noted, we can reasonably expect that he'll be a non-roster invitee to camp. If the minor league numbers are indicative, his health is back, and he responds to a little Uncle Ray massaging, he could crack the Opening Day roster. If not, he'll start out as depth, which the Bucs don't have much of in the upper levels. It's a solid signing to fill the gaps.

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