Lance Lynn: St. Louis Cardinals 2011 Fifth Starter?

Justin HulseyCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2010

Posted on September 11, 2010 on Rising Redbirds

My goodness…

If you haven’t heard about Lance Lynn‘s start last night, let me fill you in real quick. He was untouchable. In seven shutout innings Lynn allowed three hits, one run, and no walks while striking out… let me triple-check this… 16 of the 24 batters he faced (a franchise record).

His regular season stats weren’t eye-popping, and some viewed his 2010 campaign as a disappointment, but he finished the season with a 13-10 record, a 4.77 ERA, and 7.7 SO/9 (his masterpiece tonight was obviously not included in those numbers). He has certainly come on in the second half though. In his past 15 starts, Lynn is 9-4 with a 3.40 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 82 innings.

The 23-year-old, former first-round compensation pick is a Brad Penny clone who screams upside. His game last night was evidence that he is a very special talent, and a very valuable piece to the Cardinals future success. My question however, is if he’s ready to be looked at for the 5th starting spot next Spring?

Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia are locks for three of the five spots next season. I would bet the Cardinals resign Jake Westbrook, and he would be our fourth starter, but what about that fifth guy?

Blake Hawksworth is always a name to think about, but he has proved his worth as a reliever. In his career coming out of the ‘pen, Hawk is 5-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 82 innings. That is much better than his 5.83 ERA in 8 career starts. I know he’s always been touted as a starter, but I have zero confidence with him being a regular.

Kyle Lohse is signed through 2012, so he’ll be in the discussion, but do we honestly want to see him pitch at all next season? He had a great 2008 when he went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 200 innings, but his past two seasons have been horrendous. If you combine his 2009 and 2010 seasons, Lohse was 8-17 with a 5.60 ERA and 1.567 WHIP in 184 innings pitched. Want more? On the road, in his career, Lohse is 39-60 with a 5.39 ERA in 149 games (138 starts). Umm… Yikes.

Kyle McClellan has always been mentioned as a possible starter in the future, but if the team did not start him at all this year (when the team absolutely needed another starter), then can you really expect him to be given a chance next season? If we weren’t going to use him as a starter this year, then we probably won’t in 2011.

I really doubt Jeff Suppan is brought back next year, so let’s dismiss that idea right now. And I’m having a hard time counting on guys like Brad Penny and Adam Ottavino since both have missed most of 2010 with injuries.

Besides Lynn, Brandon Dickson and P.J. Walters are the only starters in the Minors that I see helping out the Major League team in 2011. Dickson is a 25-year-old right-hander who quietly just had a great season in Memphis. The 6’5″ prospect went 11-8 with a 3.23 ERA, 7.4 SO/9, and a 55% GB rate. Most of us our familiar with Walters, as he has appeared in 13 games with St. Louis, but has shown very little promise. He’s a great AAA starter, but is allowing 11.1 hits and 2.6 home runs per nine innings at the Major League level. His 8.23 ERA and 1.714 ERA don’t help his case either.

That gets us to what I really want to talk about: Lance Lynn. If he has a good Spring Training, what’s wrong with giving him a shot with the big league club? I think the main argument is if he is ready for the next level. Maybe not right now, but next year? Yeah, I think he could be ready. It all depends on how his Spring goes. I have always said ST for position players means very little, but could be prophetic for pitchers.

Also, let’s not forget he spent three seasons with Ole Miss as a starter. I would never suggest promoting a high school arm this quickly, but Lynn has three years of starting in college under his belt. Not to mention, he has 30 career regular season starts in AAA. Kevin Goldstein, who’s in charge of scouting a player development for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN, agrees with me, “Lynn is a command and control guy who change speeds and throws in low nineties. Could slot into back of rotation [in 2011].”

Who knows, maybe the Front Office will target a free agent starter, but what if they don’t? If they’d rather save some $$$ for Pujols, who’s going to be that fifth starter? Why not throw Lynn in there? He’s an impressive, underrated talent who is going to be in the Majors sooner or later. Why not in 2011?

For Lance Lynn’s prospect profile, click here.