Springfield Cards Starter of the Year: 2009

Workhorse right-hander Lance Lynn emerged as a top prospect this season and is our selection as the Cardinals standout Double-A starting pitcher for 2009. His manager, Ron "Pop" Warner comments.

In his just his first full season as a professional, Lance Lynn became a key member of the Springfield Cardinals rotation and as such receives our nod as the organization's Double-A level starting pitcher of the year.

The now-22-year old right-hander was taken in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft. This season, he was promoted to Springfield on May 2 after just five appearances at the A-Advanced level with Palm Beach.

Less than 30 days after his Double-A arrival, Lynn was named both the Cardinals organization and our Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May. He went 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA, adding 23 strikeouts over 28 1/3 innings of work in his first five Texas League starts.

Count his Springfield manager, Ron "Pop" Warner, among those who were surprised how quickly Lynn adapted after what many believe is the most difficult step for a pitcher.

"Lynn is one of those guys who we figured it was his first full season so coming to us there would be a lot to learn. But he has a great aptitude and picked up on things very quickly. He knows what he is doing," Warner observed.

Boy did he ever. Overall for Springfield, Lynn posted an 11-4 record and a 2.92 ERA. The latter was third-best in the Texas League. He fanned 98 but also walked 51 in 126 1/3 Double-A innings.

"We asked him to do a lot of things when he got to this level and in his first year, we didn't know how he would do. He passed with flying colors," the manager said.

While Lynn is big, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he can't throw 100 miles per hour like a Joba Chamberlain, sitting more like 87-91 mph. Warner isn't all that concerned.

"Lance is not going to light up the radar gun, that's for sure, but he knows how to pitch," the manager explained. "The tools are there and that is something you need in a starting pitcher. He is one of those guys who goes out there and he doesn't have his good stuff that day, he is going to find a way to keep you in the game. There is a lot to be said for that."

As his strong season came to a close, Lynn had arguably his best showing and most disheartening outing back-to-back despite not taking a decision in either.

After a standout spot start in his Triple-A debut with Memphis, Lynn returned to Springfield. Their first-round game two starter was battered by Northwest Arkansas for seven earned runs on six hits and four walks in just 4 1/3 innings as the Cardinals would be swept three straight.

While Lynn's season was successful by every measure, like all prospects, there is room for improvement. Warner offers a very educated perspective.

"Command of his pitches would be the most important. But I would probably say that about everybody," Warner admitted. "With the progress he made on being able to hold runners, pitch to a game plan, I would say to polish up his pitches, to be able to locate his fastball a little bit more frequently than he did."

Don't be mistaken as to where Warner sees as Lynn's ultimate destination.

"When Lynn gets to the big leagues, he is going to need to be able to locate his fastball anywhere he needs to," he said.

I am pleased to name Lance Lynn our Scout.com Springfield Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2009.

Other contenders: Serious contenders for this award included Trey Hearne and Brandon Dickson. Hearne was co-ace with Lynn and finished second in the league in ERA at 2.82. He 12 wins tied for tops in the circuit with Lynn was right behind at 11. Dickson's total of 112 strikeouts was the fourth-highest total in the Texas League and he led the staff in innings at 147 2/3 despite having spent several weeks in the bullpen.

Note: To follow our entire series of Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, check back here at The Cardinal Nation daily. To see the roster of winners and article schedule, click here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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