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Where Does Lyons Go From Here for the Cardinals?

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Tyler Lyons has improved consistently since entering the league in 2013. But despite pitching strongly in 2015, he did not start a game. He responded by having his best season before its unfortunate end on the Disabled List. What can we expect from him in the future?

Lyons entered the Big Leagues in 2013, and pitched strongly his first two starts. But then his rookie struggles began to rear their head, and he finished the year with a disappointing 4.75 ERA. In 2014, again mainly as a starter, and his rookie struggles seemed ever present early, and he went on the disabled list. However, he was able to right some of his wrongs late in the year, and posted with a 4.42 ERA, still not great, yet an improvement over his 2013 campaign.

In 2015, Lyons acted as both a starter and long reliever, making spot starts for injured rotation pitchers. He finished the season with a much lower 3.75 ERA in 8 starts and 17 appearances, after pitching tremendously in the Starting Rotation.

The Cardinals have a lot of pitching prospects, and Tyler Lyons has always seemed to get left behind. That definitely happened in 2016, where his role became confined to the bullpen. The spot starts that had been his bread and butter of the past three seasons now moved away, and his role in the bullpen grew. Lyons responded with his best season of his career ERA wise, but I think it is more telling looking into how his individual months stack up. Lyons had a better ERA every month than the month prior, until his improvements were cut short with a season-ending injury that will have him miss the beginning of next season as well.

Tyler Lyons, in my eyes, is a starter. One who has not been given the chance to be a rotation player and succeed at the highest level. I think that is a shame. At 28 years old, Lyons’ role seems like it will forever be defined as a spot starter, nothing more.

Lyons will not be in the rotation next season, as he will miss the beginning of the year recovering from his knee injury. Look for him to continue his improvements though. He has always been an above-average strikeout pitcher who is able to adapt to whatever pitching role he is needed to fill. Just look at his game log from this season, 4-5 inning relief roles mixed in with 2 pitch specialist roles. His dynamic ability makes him an underrated piece of the Cardinals.

Even with his abilities in all roles, I hope to see him as a spot starter next season, and look for him to continue his yearly improvements. Should a starter get injured, I would want Lyons to move into their spot. In two years, I think that Lyons will be a capable rotation arm.

There is a difference between what I hope and expect, though. Before this season started I hoped to see Lyons in the role I outlined above, but instead we saw him pitch (albeit effectively) out of the bullpen. What I expect to see is pitchers like Gonzales, Cooney, Mayers, and Weaver to make those starts while Lyons remains confined to the bullpen.

In my eyes, that is a shame. Tyler Lyons is a real talent who could have incredible value in the Cardinals’ rotation in his fifth big league season. He has proven himself capable the last two seasons, but his value will likely be depth for the next several years.

The Cardinals next season will be able to tap into a huge array of pitchers to start the season, of which Lyons will not be on the list due to his injury. Later in the year when he becomes available, that pool of pitchers from the beginning of the season will be the pitchers making spot starts, while Lyons remains in the bullpen. This is completely understandable, but I still believe that the Cardinals have a potential gem, and I hope they see it.

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SPORTS

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