Cards Minors Starter of the Year

Springfield's Lance Lynn receives our annual award as the top starting pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system.

Previously named our Cardinal Nation Springfield Starting Pitcher of the Year Premium Article , Lance Lynn has also taken our top honor as having the best season by a starter system-wide. Impressively, this comes in his first full season as a professional. He also took the Cardinals organization's comparable award.

The Cardinals' supplemental-round selection, taken 39th overall in the 2008 draft from Ole Miss seems poised to take over as the organization's top right-handed pitching prospect closest to the major leagues. The 22-year-old had been a compensation pick due to the loss of reliever Troy Percival via free agency.

In his 2008 professional debut with Batavia and Quad Cities, Lynn posted a 1.35 ERA with 29 strikeouts and three walks and was ranked our number 18 prospect in the Cardinals system last winter.

This summer, Lynn actually accelerated that pace by appearing at three different levels in the Cardinals system.

Starting with Palm Beach of the Florida State League, the right-hander posted an ERA of 2.30 over his first five starts at the A-Advanced level. In 15 2/3 innings, Lynn struck out 17 compared to only three walks.

He didn't stay long, receiving the promotion to Double-A Springfield barely one month into the season.

Before the next month passed, Lynn became both the Cardinals organization and our Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May. In his first five Texas League starts, Lynn was dominating. He went 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA, adding 23 strikeouts over 28 1/3 innings.

I asked his Springfield manager, Ron "Pop" Warner, to characterize Lynn in one word. He did not hesitate before selecting "workhorse".

"Lynn got stronger as he went – stronger as the game progressed and stronger as the season progressed," Warner said. "He is a strong kid with a resilient arm. He has multiple pitches he can throw for strikes. He uses his fastball very effectively and his off-speed complements his fastball. He knows he can elevate his fastball if he needs to. He throws inside effectively.

"Lance held runners on really well. He was able to throw off-speed even behind in the counts. He was able to pitch the game plan we gave him and attack hitters according to their weaknesses so he is well ahead of the curve as far as his draft class," Warner noted.

Overall for Springfield, Lynn delivered an 11-4 record and a 2.92 ERA, the latter good for third in the Texas League. He fanned 98 but also walked 51 in 126 1/3 Double-A innings.

Across all three levels, Lynn threw 153 innings in 2009, tops in the system. In other words, as Warner said, the big right-hander was a true workhorse.

As September began, Memphis had to play six games in five days as they came down to the wire in their Pacific Coast League division chase. As a result, another starter was needed, so Lynn was promoted to Triple-A for the September 4 spot start.

Warner knew his pitcher would be prepared for the bigger stage.

"One thing he is not going to do is get scared, get nervous or feel like he is out of his element. He understands the game at his level and is going to take the ball and do his thing," Warner said.

Ready he was. In his Pacific Coast League debut, Lynn pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out nine.

When I asked Warner if we should expect to see Lynn in the Memphis rotation to start next season, he didn't hedge.

"I think he definitely has a chance to compete for a Triple-A job. If I was a betting man, I would say that he has a really good chance of being one of those five starters there next season," Warner predicted.

Lynn's season culminated with a pair of key recognitions.

He was selected as a Texas League Post-Season All-Star and was assigned by the Cardinals organization to compete in the prestigious Arizona Fall League prospect showcase. However, Lynn was pulled from the league just before play began in mid-October due to his heavy 2009 workload.

Congratulations to Lance Lynn, our Cardinal Nation Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2009.

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 Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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