TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #6: Lance Lynn

Will the dependable reliever ever return to starting? If so, will it be in 2012 or 2013?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
3 RHS 5/12/1987 6-5 250 R R 2008 1s

School: University of Mississippi

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 7 3 3.84 12 12 0 75 79 33 2 25 64 0.93 0.279
StL 1 1 3.12 18 2 1 34.2 25 12 3 11 40 1.46 0.203

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (6): "Chicks dig the long ball," as the saying goes. However, pitchers don't. Fortunately for Lance Lynn, he made a lot fewer women happy in 2011 than in 2010. He reduced his home run rate (per nine innings pitched) by nearly 80% between the two years while pitching his way to an important (but brief) role with the World Champion Cardinals.

Lynn was a durable, injury-free, innings-eating starter in the minors until last year but what was different in 2011 was that he kept the ball in the park. That change allowed him to raise his profile in the organization and show that he was ready for the majors.

How the Cardinals use Lynn in 2012 will be one of the more interesting story lines of the year for me. Lynn seemed to thrive in his role as a reliever with the major league club. He increased his strikeout rate and simultaneously showed better control than he did in the minors.

But Lynn's durability as a starter is hard to ignore. He has the frame, mechanics, and arm to be an innings-eater starter. How the Cards ultimately see Lynn (as a starter or reliever) will most likely determine his destination to start 2012. The Cards have traditionally liked to have their "sixth starter" building arm strength in Memphis rather than toiling in the major league bullpen. Thus, if they view Lynn in that role, I think he will go to Memphis to open 2012.

Only if they ultimately see him as a relief arm and another pitcher steps forward to be seen as the sixth starter for 2012 (can you hear me Shelby Miller?) can I imagine him in the big league bullpen.

Message board community (5): For the second day in a row, the prospect is one already known to those who followed the Cardinals in their run to the World Championship last year. Lynn was the community's fifth prospect, down from fourth last year. He had his first votes at 4 again this year.

Lynn came into last year considered mostly as a durable starter. A 2008 draftee, he had reached Triple-A for a single game in 2009, staying there in 2010. Through June, that continued to be his M.O. He started 12 times, going 75 innings. He went at least six innings in all but one start. He was extremely effective vs. right-handers (OPS of .535), but not so much vs. lefties (OPS of .823).

Then the Cards' pen had a need, and he got the call. Without Lynn, there would have been no World Series run. In his two MLB starts, the OPS of hitters against him was .702. As a reliever, it dropped to .541. In 38 at-bats against him as a starter, he fanned eight. In 85 at-bats against him as a reliever, he fanned a remarkable 32. That's a small N, but it is one sign of how much more effective he was out of pen.

A question is what his future will be. My guess is that he is a setup guy in 2012, continuing to work into the big leagues as a reliever. The rotation seems set, and I'd think that any replacements would come from Triple-A. But the rotation opens up in 2013, and my money is on his stepping in then, with a good chance of being at least a number three-type starter (albeit behind Wainwright, Garcia, and Carp in the Cards' rotation). - Gagliano

Brian Walton (7): In what may seem a bit of surprise given how well Lynn pitched in St. Louis, he dropped three spots on our top 40 after two consecutive #3 placements here. In my view, that is more an assessment of the overall improvement of other players at the very top to the prospect pecking order than any problems with or concerns about Lynn.

It seems odd to me even having Lynn in this countdown. He just feels like a major leaguer to me who won't be looking back down I-55. He handled coming right off the disabled list into the National League Championship Series while nary missing a beat. Lynn appeared in a total of ten games in the LCS and World Series, picking up one precious win in each series. He tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings at Milwaukee before having a tougher time against Texas (four runs in 5 2/3 frames).

As I say that, however, Lynn is one of a bullpen group that comes into spring camp numbering one more contender than there are seats. Like the others, he has minor league options, so a bad March could change his direction.

Lynn's biggest open question - one for which there is no clear answer - is whether he will ever be asked to start again or should prepare for a career as a reliever. I can certainly envision a 2013 scenario in which he is given a shot at a rotation opening, perhaps in competition with Shelby Miller. Excelling in 2012 is required in the interim, of course.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

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