The Best Player You've Never Heard Of

Justin Goetz
PBR Georgia Assistant Scouting Director

Deep in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits a small scenic town with a population of 772 people, Fairmount, GA. In this great farming community where everybody looks out for one another, lives one of the best athletes in the state of Georgia regardless of sport. The 6 foot 2, 195 pound dual sport beast, Western Kentucky commit CF Zach Lyles. Around town and at Sonoraville HS, most just call him “Big Lyles.” It's a perfectly simple nickname that makes a lot of sense when you find out the numbers he puts up in the weight room - 475 Squat, 310 Bench, 285 Power Clean!

To be 18 years old and in the 1,000 pound club (1,070 to be exact) is an unbelievable feat at 195 pounds of body weight, and gives you an idea of the impact his swing can have on a baseball. With his large, lean muscled frame and long levers, he’s only at the tip of the iceberg as far as strength and athletic potential. Although his impressive raw strength lends him raw power and explosive speed on the diamond, those are only 2 of his 5 tools! I must give a shoutout to PBR Georgia Scouting Director Phil Kerber, for having the foresight to select Zach for Future Games. Not only is Lyles well known as a baseball player, he’s been an All-Region RB/SS the last three years on the football field where the Sonoraville Phoenix have made the playoffs multiple times. His stats this year? 1,010 total yards on offense (676 rushing, 334 receiving) with 15 TD’s (9 rushing, 6 receiving)!! His dad being the RB’s coach this year made the 2022 season that much more special.

Zach’s goal in the game of baseball is MLB, and this is the exact type of person we need in our game for the long term. He is a humble, family oriented, hard working, God fearing human being who sets a great example for the youth in Gordon County. This is a player who will never forget where he comes from, and takes pride in his community. When I asked Big Lyles what he loves most about his county he said, “It’s a small town feel with some big city amenities like the outlet mall, but all of the local businesses take care of you. Everyone knows everyone here and it's close to LakePoint, which I love.” Other than working out and playing sports year round (also basketball), he enjoys working for his dad’s lawn care company, and going to church. Zach Lyles is the definition of hard work and loyalty. This is the same loyalty that's kept him honoring his commitment to WKU after a coaching change, what a blessing Lyles will be for Coach Fournier & the Hilltoppers. They also did a great job of making him a priority.


Despite playing 3 sports year round and never spending a full year on baseball, Lyles has a high level of IQ on the diamond. Pitchers all over the state and in travel ball have been burned by him on inside FB’s since a young age, so their unwillingness to pitch inside has refined his approach at a young age. “When I get in the box I am aggressive. Most pitchers want to pitch me away, so I split the zone in half and work with it.” This has allowed Lyles to develop an impressive inside out swing to consistently punish outer half pitches, focusing on hitting the inner half of the baseball. It’s been a blessing in disguise, allowing him to develop just as much opposite field power as his pull side well before arriving at WKU. When pitchers feel confident enough to try him on the inner half, his elite bat speed, reaction time, force in hands, and ability to turn the barrel in tight space allow him to own big velocity.

Lyles possesses all the intangibles needed in a leadoff hitter, taking what pitchers give him and without trying to do too much and get himself out. This advanced approach combined with rare athleticism & strength will benefit him greatly at the next level and allow him to adjust quickly vs D1 arms. I see Lyles as an immediate producer for the WKU Hilltoppers, and he’s got as good of a chance as any player in the country to be a Freshman All-American. Unsurprisingly, his approach and intangibles make him extremely tough to strike out. During the 2021 baseball season for Sonoraville, he only struck out 9 times. This is a hitter who has the pitch recognition & hand eye coordination to hit for a high average, and the special physical tools to hit for power.

Swing Mechanics

What I love most about Lyles swing is how natural and non-manufactured it is. It’s very simplified with absolutely zero wasted movement, and he repeats it extremely well. I can’t understate how important it is for a hitter to build a repeatable swing year after year. Zach has had a good swing his whole life, and never changed the absolutes that make him who he is at the plate. Over the last 3 years of PBR videos, I see very intriguing & subtle adjustments to his swing. I typically start my hitting evaluation at the hips, but we’ll go from the feet up. It’s an athletic base just outside the shoulders, and he’s noticeably gotten the legs more involved in the swing, with a slight bend in the knees putting a constant pressure on his largest muscles in the lower half. This allows the hips to be the engine of the swing and take effort out of the upper half, creating big time explosiveness from the ground up.

His weight distribution over the last 3 years has improved remarkably - Lyles has gone from more of a front side dominant hitter who’s head followed the stride some, to more backside dominant. He’s gone from 60% front side, 40% backside at landing to a much more balanced 45% front side 55% back side at landing. This keeps his head extremely quiet, allowing him to track pitches very well and use all of his torque and strength instead of wasting some before the swing as he did in the past. It’s been a big part of his advancement in barreling offspeed pitches more frequently, as well as his ability to decelerate/slow down the body+hands (without pause) to get on time with quality breaking balls & changeups. The pace of his hips & leg kick are perfect for matching velo, but the forward move doesn’t happen too quickly to slow down either. He gains aggressive but controlled ground in stride, creating lower half momentum and allowing him to do damage in front of the plate.

He creates a fluid, quiet rhythm in the hands in one compact spot, allowing him to feel the stretch in his perfectly timed hip/shoulder separation much better. It also simplifies the load and the hands don’t stray far from the hitting slot. The load is short & simple, and he’s in optimal launch position at landing (barrel overhead, knob to catcher). His linear connection is textbook as the hands are thrown (hands+back elbow+back knee+hip in vertical line) creating a knob led path that allows the core & largest muscles in the lower half rotate at the exact time and pace of the swing. He works down to the baseball with a short, quick path that levels out at the right time with good lag & late barrel angle created by the top hand. His raw strength allows the top hand to stay palm up thru contact, and creates UNREAL force in the hands.

Defense & Baserunning

One of the most intriguing parts of Zach’s game are the tools & intangibles that play every day, regardless if he gets a hit or not. Defensively, he has good instincts and extremely fluid hips due to his years as a strong safety in football. They allow him to react properly and quickly to the flight of the ball, with precise routes that separate him from most CF’s his age. He has zero fear roaming the outfield grass, as he will sacrifice his body in all situations to lay out for balls in the gap or bang into the wall to rob hitters of XBH’s and HR’s. In the rare case a hard hit ball does drop in Lyles no fly zone, he has an absolute cannon to ruin would be doubles, triples, and runs scored. Up to 89 on the mound this summer, he has an easy 90 mph arm that I feel will be very impactful in college baseball. It would not be surprising to see him pitch for WKU in the future. On the basepaths, his insane reaction time & explosive acceleration make him nearly impossible to cut down on stolen base attempts. As a 6.7 runner, his speed plays even better in game due to instincts, aggressiveness, and initial burst.

Scouting Report

Future every day CF with legit 5 tool potential who will be a plus defender at a premium defensive position. He brings elite makeup and toughness to the table with his explosive tools, and will lead a team both by example and vocally. Offensively, he’s a bat you can count on to make hard contact, wear down pitchers with lengthy AB’s, and willing to take walks to let his speed create runs. This is a player with an endless motor that will go hard from the first pitch to the last.

Future Tools (based off MLB scouting scale)

Hit - Solid Avg (Old school hitter w/ elite bat speed, line drives to all fields, tough to K).
Power Production - AVG (plus Raw Power in BP, XBH’s, 15 HR, 20 SB type).
Run - Plus (could end up top of scale).
Field - Plus (adv. defender with plus range & instincts)
Throw - A/AVG (efficient OH AA creates backspin on throws allows them to carry with accuracy, good footwork).

Comp - Darin Erstad (less hit).

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