WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#37: RHP Connor Lunn
23 years old
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2019 draft
The Cardinals minor league system used to be built from the ground up by consistent pitching. A lot of the time, that would mean that pitchers would have Minor League success, yet never make it to the major leagues. Thinking critically about it, I think this tells us just how crafty and in command of one's stuff that a pitcher has to be on the top of their game to rise through the Minor League grind. Even with tremendous stuff, 99% of the time a pitcher can't be one-dimensional and make it to the next level. Of course, now I'm all of the way gone on a tangent.
Starting over. In 2021, that pitching foundation that the Cardinals organizational success was built upon for 20-ish years felt completely absent. There were few pitchers in the system - even in the Major Leagues - that were consistently effective from start to finish. There were some relief pitchers that worked consistently effective, and there were some pitchers that started in relief and then moved into the rotation (or vice versa) that were consistent. However, there wasn't a starter in the system that was more consistent than Connor Lunn.
There are a lot of things to like about this young man. Lunn works quickly and is aggressive. He throws strikes, but not so many directly over the middle of the plate that it disguises itself as good types of strikes. Lunn spent a great deal of time in the USC bullpen before being moved into their rotation, and I am not surprised that his relatively untaxed arm had a lot of success in 2021. I am also not surprised, specifically because of his USC background, that Lunn was as good as he was in 2021. I am not too proud to admit - as the second gif states - That I never give Lunn the credit that he deserves for being as good as he is capable of being.
Lunn Is not the type of pitcher that is going to be able to blow the ball by hitters. He is going to live with a fastball in the low 90s that can touch the low to mid 90s. It's evident that his fastball has some really good late cutting action, as well. One thing that sticks out to me about Lunn's fastball is that he is very good at getting swings and misses up in the zone with it. That tells me that it gets on top of hitter's quickly. It also tells me that he repeats his motion and tunnels the rest of his arsenal very well off of the fastball.
I also think that Lunn throws a breaking pitch that is criminally underrated. It looks more like a curveball to me than anything else, but I think that it's *technically* called a slider. I'll go one step further and say that it's one of the better curveballs on the farm. In college, Lunn threw a more traditional slider as his secondary offering (and we'll get to that in a minute), but this pitch has definitely taken a step ahead of that slider. It isn't the sharp cutting kind; it's a loopy kind, and that's why it looks to have more curve action than slide action. You can tell that the pitch works off of the fastball very well by how hitters react to it. He just needs to continue to find consistency with it, as it seemed to hang a little bit more down the stretch than it did for the first half of the season.
There are some questions about Lunn's third offering, but I'm not as worried about it right now. You see, Lunn is one of more than a few right-handed pitchers in the organization that profiles really well as a potential bullpen option down the road. I definitely want Lunn to continue to work on that third offering. As you'll see in the 2nd pitch of the gif below, his more traditional slider can have some terrific late bite, especially when thrown to lefties and paired with a couple of fastballs. What I know is that he seems like the bulldog type with more refinement than someone like “Baptist Dick” Seth Elledge, and I think his fastball would play up in a relief role like it did in college. I bring up Elledge specifically because I think that Lunn is who we wanted Elledge to be. There's a potential MLB future in here, no doubt.
I also wanted to include a gif that showed the slider working on it's own. So, here ya go. You're welcome. PRAISE ME, FREAKS.
Another reason why I really like Lunn is that the kid just throws strikes. On the season, Lunn threw strikes 69% of the time, at a time when strike throwing in the organization seemed tougher than ever. As I mentioned, he's more "pitch to contact" than anything else, even though his stuff is good enough to get more than the 24.6% strikeout rate that he put up during the season. The real beauty of how Lunn pitches is that he only allowed a 4.1% walk rate on the season. That's the kind of "command-first" pitcher that this organization desperately needs. Aside from a six start-ish span right in the middle of the season, at a time when nearly every pitcher in the system was begin to show some type of fatigue, Lunn might have been the best pitcher on the farm.
Another thing to like about Lunn, he limits damage by lefties. Lunn faced 98 of us second-class citizens during the 2021 season, and he held them to a somewhat misleading batting average of .269, but a very telling OPS of .684. Neither of these numbers are going to blow you away, but Lunn has the type of arsenal, understanding of his body and his stuff, and attack-mentality that is needed to vanquish us left-handed monsters. If he can carry those numbers up the ladder then he'll be on the cusp on the Majors in no time. Right now, I'm wagering that he does.
Even though it feels like, right now, Lunn’s most likely long-term role is in the bullpen, it does not make sense to give up on his starter potential in the immediate future. To circle back around, it is not like the Cardinals are pitching-rich right now, anyway. Looking at it as objectively as I possibly can, there were few pictures in the system that were as effective, while filling as many important innings, a Connor Lunn was for Peoria. this young man almost deserves his own award for that.
As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!