The Royals had another intrasquad scrimmage this evening, a scheduled five inning contest which manager Mike Matheny dubbed as the “veterans” vs. “the pups.” (It ended up being six due to it being a tie game). Much to the satisfaction of baseball-starved Royals fans, the Royals not only streamed the contest live on Twitter, but they also posted a replay of it on YouTube for Royals fans who maybe missed out on watching it on Friday evening.
On the hill for “the pups” squad was no other the left-handed pitcher Daniel Lynch, one of the top prospects in the Royals system who is rated as the No. 39 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, and the No. 61 prospect in baseball according MLB Pipeline. While shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr. is generally seen as the Royals’ best overall prospect, and right-handed pitcher Brady Singer is seen as the closest to the Majors, Lynch may be the most electrifying, with perhaps the biggest upside and potential of the Royals “Core Four” pitching prospects (Lynch, Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Kris Bubic).
And honestly, it is easy to see why. At 6’6, 190 pounds, Lynch poses an intimidating presence on the mound, and will at times remind some of a young Madison Bumgarner. He doesn’t have the raw intensity or gamesmanship of Bumgarner or even Singer, but he’s still a competitor and has proven this since debuting in professional ball in 2018, shortly after being drafted 34th overall in the MLB Draft.
Metrically, Lynch impresses in a myriad of ways, as he not only has posted high K/9 rates at almost every stop in the Minors (11.1 and 10.6 in 2018 with Burlington and Lexington, respectively; 8.8 in 2019 with Wilmington), and he has also displayed stellar command as well (7.00 and 7.83 K/BB ratios with Burlington and Lexington; 3.35 with Wilmington in 2019, but did so in double the innings of 2018). Furthermore, he has an impressive four-pitch repertoire, with a fastball and slider that’s rated as a 60 on the 20-80 scale, a changeup that’s rated as a 55, and a curveball that’s rated a 50. MLB Pipeline said this about Lynch’s pitch mix and approach in their most recent scouting report:
Lynch operated with a breaking-ball-forward arsenal and average velocity with the Cavaliers, but he’s quickly developed into more of a power pitcher in the pro ranks after the Royals suggested that he throw more fastballs. The new approach helped Lynch unlock more velocity, as he now sits around 94-96 mph consistently with his fastball and has even reached the upper 90s in shorter stints. Lynch’s plus slider in the mid-80s is his go-to secondary pitch and plays nicely off his fastball with its big depth and sharp bite, and he’ll also flash plus with a changeup that improved during his first full season. An average curveball rounds out the 6-foot-6 lefty’s four-pitch mix, and he repeats his clean delivery well enough to project him for above-average control.“Royals Top Prospects” No. 2: Daniel Lynch; MLB Pipeline
If those accolades weren’t enough, Lynch continued to boost his stock this fall after putting up a pretty strong appearance in the Arizona Fall League, pitching for the Surprise Saguaros. In 4 appearances and 14 innings in Surprise, Lynch posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.43 ERA, which are not exactly impressive traditional metrics. However, he turned heads with his impressive, upper 90’s stuff, as well 12.2 K/9 and 4.75 K/BB ratio. Fangraphs posted video of his performance in the AFL this fall, and while he was a bit streaky and erratic at times in Surprise, overall he impressed and does generate hope to Royals fans that he could be a dependable top-of-the-rotation option for the Royals in the near future.
While there is a lot to be excited about, Lynch is far from a finished product, as he still needs to refine his approach in terms of working counts and getting ahead more consistently. That being said, despite his need for refinement and work (which the Royals player development staff seem to be on), he still truly displays the stuff and potential to be a starter in the Royals rotation in the year or two.
And that was on further display on Friday evening at Kauffman Stadium.
Lynch pitched two innings in the scrimmage and did the following against Royals hitters, as displayed in the hand-written play by play below posted on Twitter:
Yep, four strikeouts in two innings with only one walk and one hit allowed in the two innings of work. Furthermore, to strike out veterans like Brett Phillips and Humberto Arteaga was also impressive, even if they tend to be strikeout prone at times based on their history with the Royals.
But it wasn’t just his numbers that impressed, it was his composure, which is easy to notice in the scrimmage video above. He looks natural out on the mound at Kauffman Stadium. He displays great confidence for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched above High-A yet. And he he worked hard against hitters, as his four strikeouts and two base runners allowed demonstrated. Singer is obviously (and rightfully so) the projected first in line of the “Core Four” to get a shot in the rotation. But Lynch may be next one up, which is a surprise considering that Jackson Kowar pitched more innings than Lynch last year and also pitched in Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
However, it’s hard to ignore Lynch’s rising stock when Royals fans see quotes like this:
It will be interesting to see how Matheny and the Royals continue to use him not just during the duration of this “Summer Camp” but also on the Taxi Squad once the games begin. In Spring Training as a Non-Roster invitee, Lynch flashed some potential at times, as he struck out three in 2.2 IP. However, he also displayed his “youth” on the hill, as he walked 3, hit 1 batter, and gave up 3 hits as well. It will be intriguing to observe how much simulation work Lynch will do on the Taxi Squad, and how going against the “other” remaining 30 players not on the active roster will help his development over the course of 2020. While Lynch has been impressive since the fall, he still is not a finished product yet, and it seems unlikely that he will start the year in Kansas City or even sniff it at the end of the year, even if the Royals bottom out and finish near the bottom of the Central as predicted.
That being said, it’s performances like tonight that hint that Lynch may be further along than we think, and it seems like Matheny and perhaps even Dayton Moore may be exploring him to be a part of the Royals rotation sooner rather than later. While 2021 seems to be the most likely projection for Lynch, Royals fans figured it would be toward the end of 2021 when Royals fans would see him. Now, it seems likely that it could be actually toward the middle of 2021, maybe even beginning, depending on his development and health of course (he did lose some innings due to injury in 2019).
Royals fans won’t see Lynch on the Opening Day roster in a couple of weeks when they begin the 2020 season against the Cleveland Indians. But make no mistake: Lynch will be in this rotation within the next 365 days.
And when he does arrive, his presence could be the start of something special in Kansas City, especially if Singer is already up with the Royals waiting for him.