BY RYAN ABER
Jordan Lyles couldn’t have done much more in Spring Training to earn a spot in the big leagues with Houston.
In five appearances for the Astros, Lyles threw 13 2/3 innings, with a 1.98 ERA, allowing 11 hits and walking two while striking out 9.
But being just 20 years old and having struggled in his six-game stint at Triple-A Round Rock last season, the Astros chose to give the fifth spot to Nelson Figueroa and give Lyles some more time to develop with the RedHawks.
Figueroa has a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings this spring. But the 36-year-old has plenty of experience in the majors.
It isn’t likely going to be a long stint for Lyles in Oklahoma City, though. Sending him down not only gives Lyles a chance to prove himself during the regular season against Triple-A competition but helps Houston control Lyles’ rights for an additional season. That’s a precious commodity for a team with a renewed emphasis on building from within. As Houston works to restore what was a depleted minor-league stock, it’s no surprise that they’d gives Lyles some time in Triple-A, especially since Figueroa has had a solid spring.
“I think I opened some eyes this spring,” Lyles told MLB.com’s Bryan McTaggart. “I know they haven’t seen me before, but now they have. Whenever they need a guy to go out there on the mound for them during the season, maybe I’m first in line.”
Last season, Lyles was a combined 7-12 with a 3.57 ERA between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. He was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA after moving up to Round Rock. He earned Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors.
Now, Lyles gives the RedHawks their first big-time prospect of the Astros era. Houston is the team’s Triple-A affiliate after a nearly 30-year affiliation between Texas and Oklahoma City ended after last season.
Lyles is the consensus top prospect in Houston’s system and ranked No. 31 on MLB.com’s Top 50 prospects list.