The Colorado Rockies probably feel like both men are capable of pitching as the 5th starter in the rotation. If they’re being honest with themselves, the team should probably also feel like both men have a chance to get roughed up in that spot.
Both Morales and Lyles have shown promise in Spring Training. Both have also dealt with some consistency issues. It seems likely, then, that the tiebreaker will come down to circumstances outside of either player’s control.
Morales is out of minor league options, Lyles is not. Morales can pitch as a starter and out of the bullpen, while Lyles will (presumably) be used exclusively as a starter. All of this seems to point to an Opening Day rotation where Morales at least gets the first shot at the 5th spot, having almost nothing to do with the fact that he thrived in a start Monday against the Kansas City Royals.
There is a certain measure of flexibility afforded the Rockies with this move. If Morales struggles (which would not be shocking) and the club feels the urgency to make a change in that spot, they can slide Franklin into the bullpen and try Lyles. If Morales holds the fort for the month of April, then he is still able to be the one to seamlessly leave the rotation for the ‘pen when Jhoulys Chacin returns in May.
All the while, Lyles would be left chugging along in the minor leagues waiting for his chance. That’s a bummer for him, but I bet the Rockies like the cohesion of that plan.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Morales acquitted himself so nicely in one of his final appearances of the spring, but all things being equal he was likely to get the initial crack at the rotation anyway. Now it will be up to him to outperform expectations and force the Rockies to make difficult decisions when Chacin and then Eddie Butler are ready to claim a spot later this year.