It seems like every contending team in baseball, has a flame-throwing starting pitching prospect that they put into their bullpen and can’t figure out if he will start next year in AAA or be a big-league reliever. Sometimes the need of the big-league team outweighs the development of the player in another role. Neftali Feliz and Joba Chamberlain come to mind in recent years and now Lance Lynn may end up being that guy for the Cardinals in 2012.
Lynn is a former first round pick in 2008 and according to Baseball America, is the sixth ranked prospect in the system. Lynn never had over a strikeout per inning in the minors, however he was a consistent winner at the minor league level, winning 32 games in a four year span. In the majors, he ended up posting a little over a strikeout per inning posting 40 in 34.2 innings.
The Cardinals rotation right now stacks up as one of the best rotations in the NL this side of Philly and San Francisco. As it has been, the rotation will be anchored by Chris Carpenter, who was as always the ace of the staff and was the best pitcher in the post-season. Adam Wainwright will be a little over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and is going to need to build up some arm strength. Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse will be the third and fourth starter.
The wild-card spot will be the fifth spot in the rotation. Veteran Jake Westbrook is right now the fifth starter. He did finish 12-9 with a 4.66 ERA. He does only have this year left on his deal. The Cardinals did just add Carlos Beltran for $13 million a year for the next two years. Yes some of that money was earmarked for Albert Pujols, however they may need to cut payroll somewhere, as was rumored to happen if they were to re-sign Pujols. They could possibly, eat some of Westbrook’s contract and trade him to another team if they like Lynn enough to make him fifth starter and save some money.
The other spot could be as a middle or long reliever. With a new manager in Mike Matheny, he’s going to have a different philosophy than Tony La Russa which could open a spot for Lynn in the bullpen. IF he likes Lynn better than Mitchell Boggs or maybe wants to keep Eduardo Sanchez in the minors, maybe Lynn can steal a spot that way.
I fully believe that Lynn will be a part of the Cardinals in 2012. I have a feeling that Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse could get dealt which could open a spot for Lynn or Shelby Miller in the rotation in 2012. If the spot doesn’t go to Lynn, I can see him in the bullpen. Lynn’s experience in the playoffs and during the 2011 regular season will help him and he will continue to develop and contribute in 2012.