After missing the entirety of last season due to elbow surgery, what can Cardinals fans expect from Lance Lynn in 2017?
Of all concerns with the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals, consistency and depth in starting pitching were at the forefront. Usually an organization known for phenomenal pitching, stellar defense, and timely hitting, last year’s Cards were sloppy on the mound and reliant on power at the plate. With the acquisition of Dexter Fowler and the imminent debut of the scrappy, explosive prospect Harrison Bader, it seems that the Cardinals have an opportunity to get back to their roots on offense. Can we say the same regarding starting pitching?
The short answer is yes. With the exciting buzz surrounding the Cardinals trio of Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, and Luke Weaver, the answer seems to lie within such youthful potential. With nasty stuff and unlimited upside, it makes sense that most people focus their optimism in the above right-handers. Taking a closer look, however, I would argue that the crux of pitching improvement is a big man with a pedigree.
Enter Lance Lynn. Once an absolute stud for the Cardinals, he became somewhat of an afterthought during the 2016 season, remaining out of sight and, consequently, out of mind for a lot of Cardinals fans. Although it is understandable that fans are attracted to the young guns of the rotation, Lance Lynn deserves to be discussed at a higher rate, possibly being the glue that will hold together the entire operation. Posting 15 or more wins in 2012,2013, and 2014, he is a proven work-horse at the highest level.
After a solid year of rehabilitation and training, I expect Lynn to come back stronger than ever, offering a stoic, durable veteran presence in a group headlined by young stars.
— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) January 4, 2017
A CONTRACT YEAR
Although it is unclear what sort of velocity and overall nastiness we will see out of Lynn, it is pretty much guaranteed that he will have an excess of genuine motivation.
First of all, Lynn is a competitor, a player who has itched to return to the hill since becoming injured. After months of tedious rehabilitation activities, expect Lynn to be locked in, leading the Cardinals with a fiery focus, a genuine hunger to get back on top.
To add to such focus and hunger, it is worth noting that Lynn is playing in a contract year. A free agent after the 2017 season, Lynn has already spoken out regarding free agency, stating that he looks to see what the opportunity has to offer. Especially considering the young talent nipping at his heels, expect Lynn to pitch with a purpose, attempting to prove his worth to teams across the league.
Put simply, Lance Lynn should be motivated, locked in and ready to give the Cardinals the boost they so desperately need.
WHY THE RETURN MATTERS
On a superficial level, Lynn’s return seems simple. A good, solid pitcher, is always welcomed back from injury. It is a positive development for any team. On a deeper level, Lynn’s return could have deeper implications for the Cardinals 2017 trajectory, going beyond solely his individual contributions.
For one, Lance Lynn offers consistency. In 2016, the staff showed flashes of solid performance, however failed to string them together on a consistent basis. Assuming we see a healthy and confident Lynn, he has the opportunity to once again define his game with consistency, leading by example and re-setting the precedent of constant quality starts. Furthermore, Lynn, due to experience and consequent mental toughness, will be helpful in handling rough patches during the long regular season, setting the team back on track with a good start in times of need. Especially given his 6’5″, 280 pound frame, Lynn has both the physical stature and mental fortitude to be the pinnacle of consistency in 2017.
Perhaps more important than consistency, Lynn has an opportunity to influence his younger counterparts. Having gone through both success and failure, good health and bad, Lynn has a phenomenal perspective regarding the life of an MLB pitcher. For the likes of Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes, his presence could pay dividends as they hit some rookie-year turbulence. On a more practical level, too, Lynn is right-handed, thus approaching hitters from a similar vantage point as both Reyes and Weaver. While Lynn’s individual performance will obviously win games for the Cardinals, his off-the-field influence on the Cardinals young righties could seriously expedite their acclimation to Major League ball.
— High Sock Sunday (@HighSock_Sunday) January 1, 2017
A sturdy, hard-throwing right-hander, Lynn’s presence should pay dividends in many ways for St. Louis. If all goes according to plan, 2016’s pitching struggles will begin to make a lot more sense, for fans will begin to understand the value and skill that Lynn provides. Even further, Lynn should serve to improve those around him, providing meaningful influence upon the young stars. Expect to be hearing a lot about Lance Lynn in 2017, reminding us to never let him slip our mind again.