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The Road to The Show™: Daniel Lynch

With increased velocity, four-pitch mix, Royals lefty on the rise
Royals southpaw Daniel Lynch is MLB Pipeline's No. 54 overall prospect and ranks eighth among left-handed pitchers. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
December 7, 2020

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Kansas City Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Kansas City Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

For a pitcher, there's really no substitute for velocity.

Great command and great movement can help, of course, but the margin for error is always smaller when a batter has more time to react. Which is why the sudden rise of Daniel Lynch's fastball has helped turn him into one of baseball's top left-handed pitching prospects.

When he pitched in the Cape Cod League in 2017, Lynch featured a heater that sat between 88-92 mph. (He nevertheless thrived, going 4-0 with a 2.37 ERA in six starts for Orleans.) Returning to the University of Virginia for his junior season, the 6-foot-6 southpaw began throwing 92-94, even while relying heavily on his off-speed offerings. The uptick led to Kansas City making him the 34th overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

The Royals encouraged Lynch, then 21, to use his fastball more in his first professional outings that summer. The results were outstanding -- in three Appalachian League outings, he fanned 14 over 11 1/3 innings and quickly earned a promotion to Class A Lexington in the full-season South Atlantic League.

Lynch was even better with the Legends, going 5-1 with a 1.58 ERA with 47 strikeouts and six walks in nine starts to help Lexington win the Southern Division second-half crown. In the playoffs, he yielded only two unearned runs over eight innings as the Legends won their first Sally League title since 2001.

Last year, the Virginia native opened his first full season by stepping up to the Class A Advanced Carolina League, where he got off to a slow start with Wilmington. Lynch's ERA stood at 4.76 after seven starts, but he turned things around on May 15 with a career-high nine strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against Frederick. That was the start of a 22 1/3-inning scoreless streak that ran through his next two starts into June. What was the difference?

"I tend to lean toward the side of a thinker. I would say I'm a pretty cognitive person, but the biggest thing for me so far this year is learning to separate that," Lynch told "When I step on the mound and the hitter's in the box is to be in the moment and compete. I sometimes start to lose my full potential as a competitor if I start to think too much and not just be in the moment."

By this time, the lefty was sitting between 93-95 mph with his fastball. With a slider that could turn into a plus pitch and a curve and changeup that are at least average, Lynch wields a true four-pitch mix that bodes well for his role in a starting rotation.

His streak was cut short by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for seven weeks. After rehab outings in the Rookie-level Arizona League and with Rookie Advanced Burlington in the Appy League, he returned to Wilmington in mid-August, just in time for the stretch run. He fired six scoreless frames at Lynchburg in his final regular-season start, then fanned 13 in two postseason starts as the Blue Rocks won their first Carolina League title since 1999.

While earning championships in the Minors ranks second to player development -- pitchers may be told to practice secondary pitches or batters may be encouraged to use the opposite field, for example -- winning in MiLB has a way of translating to winning in the Majors.

Many of the Royals who won the World Series in 2015 -- players like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain -- played on the Kansas City affiliates that won the Double-A Texas League (Northwest Arkansas) in 2010 and Triple-A Pacific Coast League (Omaha Storm Chasers) in 2011. That the wave of Royals prospects now reaching Kansas City is familiar with winning together is a rare advantage.

As Lynch said of his stint on the injured list in 2019, "I missed my teammates. I didn't get to see them and they're out there getting to win and compete and I was sort of missing out."

Lynch was one of four first-round selections the Royals made in 2018. All of them were college pitchers and two -- Brady Singer and Kris Bubic -- made their Major League debuts in July of the truncated 2020 season. Lynch and former Lexington and Wilmington teammate Jackson Kowar are right behind them, currently ranking third and fourth in the Royals system, according to MLB Pipeline. Both are 24 and should be ready to compete for starting roles in the spring.

Where Kansas City's last title team was led by homegrown position players, the front office is looking for its next one with a fearsome set of drafted hurlers. With Lynch continuing to gain velocity and confidence, he'll likely play a big role as the Royals try to return to the postseason.

John Parker is an editor for