It might not be long before we stop referring to Jordan Lyles as a prospect and start referring to him as a bona fide member of the Astros' starting rotation.
For now, however, Lyles is, indeed, a prospect -- and a highly regarded one, at that.
MLB.com revealed its annual list of the Top 50 prospects in baseball Tuesday, and Lyles, ranked No. 31 overall, is the lone representative from the Astros' system. Lyles ranked No. 10 among right-handed pitchers.
As this Houston team goes through a youth movement, Lyles is the most intriguing name that will soon get Major League consideration.
"He's pretty special," manager Brad Mills recently told The Oklahoman. "I'm looking forward to what he's going to bring to the Major League club on a very, very, very short time period."
Pretty high praise for a guy who just turned 20 in October.
Lyles will be in the Astros' spring camp as a non-roster invitee and could find himself in competition for the club's fifth starter's spot. More likely, he'll begin 2011 at Triple-A, where he pitched the last month of the 2010 season. Lyles began the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he went 7-9 with a 3.12 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts), striking out 115 and walking 35 in 127 innings. After the move to Round Rock, he went 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts.
The 38th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Lyles has gone 17-26 with a 3.54 ERA in 68 appearances in his professional career.
Lyles' quick leap to the Triple-A level has him on the cusp of a big league break-in. And he's ascended to this point thanks to a polished three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He doesn't have overpowering velocity, but he's developed a reputation for impeccable command.
Mills and his coaching staff will get a first-hand look at that command next month in Kissimmee, Fla. And if Lyles lives up to his potential, Astros fans will soon see it, too.