The ace of the future?
The Royals need a pitcher to step up as the ace of this rotation in order to be competitive going forward. Could Daniel Lynch fill that role?
His 2021 showed a variety of highs and lows but gave us all hope for what is to come. Lynch had two stints in the big leagues this season and looked like several different pitchers in each of them. Following a slow start to his career, Lynch was sent down to Triple-A, made improvements, and returned to the show on fire. After several good starts in a row, he began to come back to reality and left many fans unsure of what to think of his season.
His stats are broken down below:
The first stint (May 3 – 13)
Daniel’s first call up to the majors lasted him only three starts. His debut game looked pretty good overall as he only allowed one run while he was on the mound. In the fifth inning against Cleveland, Lynch had runners on first and second with two outs and was then relieved by Scott Barlow, who allowed both of Lynch’s credited runners to score.
Daniel’s final stat-line in his debut was:
4.2 IP 4 H 3 ER 4 BB 3 SO
In his second start, Lynch was completely blown up and could not get out of the first inning before allowing eight earned runs. There were suspicions after the game that he was tipping his pitches, which is very believable as the first-place White Sox were hitting him easier than a pitching machine. Then, finally, in the last game of his first stint in the bigs, Daniel did not walk any batters in 2.2 innings pitched, but did allow 7 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out four. Overall, his first three games showed that his slider, when located properly was a devasting swing and miss pitch, but he still needs to work on several fundamentals of the game, including the control of his pitches and the pace of the game.
The (first part of) his second stint (July 25 – August 28)
After some time in Triple-A to work on his game, Daniel Lynch was recalled to the Majors on July 25. He came out of the gates on fire in his return, holding Detroit to only 5 hits in 8 innings pitched while allowing no runs to score. While he only had four strikeouts this game, he did not walk a single batter. Lynch trusted his defense, pitched to contact, and dealt all night long. In his following six games through August 28, Daniel’s starts lasted between 4.2 and 7 innings pitched, where he allowed 3 runs to score in two appearances and 1 run to score in each of the other four starts. Over this stretch, his slider was looking filthy again and he was getting many batters to ground out. Across the 40.1 Innings pitched, Lynch had only a 2.23 ERA and the team won six out of the seven games he started. If he looks anything close to this going forward, Daniel Lynch could easily be the ace of this deep pitching staff.
The (last part of) his second stint (September 4 – 29)
Lynch began to look a lot more similar to the May version of himself in this last stretch of the season. He seemed to have less control of his pitches as 5 of the 9 home runs he gave up in 2021 occurred in this five-game stretch. He got torn up by two high-powered offenses (the White Sox and the Twins), then left his third game early due to left calf tightness, and finally ended the year off with back-to-back games against Cleveland where he gave up 8 earned runs in 9 innings pitched. Daniel did not finish off the year how he would have liked but was able to show many flashes, even through his worst games.
Daniel Lynch finished off the season with a 5.69 ERA in 68 innings pitched. According to Baseball Savant, Lynch threw five pitches throughout the season: 4-Seam (40.7%), Slider (29.2%), Changeup (16.3%), Sinker (11.6%), and Curveball (2.1%). His opponents batted .381 and .368 respectively against his 512 fastballs and 205 changeups thrown in 2021. However, his opponents only batted .188 and .185 respectively against his 367 sliders and 146 sinkers thrown. Then finally, out of the 27 curveballs thrown by Daniel, zero hits were recorded.
While there were many issues with his performance this year, when Lynch was on, he looked to be the Royals ace of the future. While his season was a mixed bag, overall I would give Daniel a C+ on the year for his willingness to adjust and his remarkable 7 game stretch over the course of July and August. I am looking forward to seeing how he can push himself to the top of the Royals pitching deep staff in 2022.