With Adam Wainwright's elbow injury leaving the St. Louis Cardinals suddenly a pitcher short, and the free agent market less interesting than it would have been, say, three months ago, the team's internal starting options are about to be put under a series of very large microscopes. Kyle McClellan seems like the top option—this in a year when it seemed like he might finally go an entire February without being put into a fifth starter competition—but Lance Lynn, as the top prospect-in-waiting, seems most likely to catch a wave of March buzz. Ian Snell... well, Ian Snell also exists.
Kyle McClellan throws more than two pitches, doesn't hit 95 on the gun, and doesn't strike out a batter an inning, which means that he's doomed to "look like a starter" for the rest of his career. Coming off the best season of his career in relief he seemed like a fair bet to spend a fourth consecutive year as the Cardinals' set-up man by default, but Wainwright's injury puts a crimp in that bit of bullpen certainty. McClellan's relatively pedestrian peripherals don't give him as much leeway as the average bullpen-starter conversion, but so long as he looks like an option people will want to make him one.
Lance Lynn has spent his entire minor league career in preparation for this moment. He's not a replacement-level starter—at least, that's not the ceiling you imagine for a first-round pick—but he's the ultimate depth prospect, having moved quickly through the system and possessing none of Shelby Miller's fragile star power. Of course, he's earned some star power of his own recently; it was revealed over the offseason that Lynn had traded his boring, dependable sinker for a four-seam fastball, and was now throwing between 92 and 96 miles per hour.
It doesn't seem to have made any difference as to his effectiveness, but it's more fun. And sometimes, when your ace might miss the entire season, fun is all that's left to ask after.