Rick Hahn seized a golden opportunity Thursday, ceasing relations with Jose Quintana after trading him to the Cubs for Dylan Cease and more. I see a lot of bad puns already.
Of course, Eloy Jimenez, the #8 prospect in all of baseball, is the headliner of the deal, but Cease is the all-important second piece that truly completes the trade. Cease is the Michael Kopech to Yoan Moncada and the Reynaldo Lopez to Lucas Giolito. Ranked number 63 on MLB Pipeline’s top prospect list, Cease has potential to be a mid-rotation starter for a long time with the White Sox. Part of the reason I say mid-rotation is because I see at least two of Carlos Rodon, Kopech, Lopez, or Giolito forming a deadly duo at the top of the rotation, as Cease’s ceiling is probably a #2 starter.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 Amateur Draft by the Cubs, Cease is still progressing in Class A ball, now with the Kannapolis Intimidators. He stands 6’2″, weighing 190 pounds. He entered the draft straight out of Milton High School in Georgia, and so he’s only 21 years of age. Unfortunately, Cease injured his elbow during his senior season of high school and underwent Tommy John surgery, but after taking a chance on him, the Cubs have cautiously brought him back to full health.
Similar to the majority of the White Sox’s other right-handed pitching prospects, Cease can throw heat. Touching triple digits in the past, Cease’s fastball sits somewhere around 96 miles per hour. Meanwhile, his curveball is rated above-average by MLB Pipeline, but it isn’t as secure as his fastball. Baseball America had this to say in March of this year:
“His curveball is erratic at times, which is the case with many young pitchers. But he has much less work to do than he once did.”
Not a prospect evaluator myself, I’ll let Baseball America also elaborate on MLB Pipeline’s 45 (slightly below average) grade for Cease’s changeup:
“Cease still slows his arm sometimes when throwing his changeup.”
After years of watching baseball and a few months of struggling at MLB The Show™ 17, I know that an elusive changeup is integral to keeping hitters off balance. Cease will definitely need to cement his arm motion and build confidence in his changeup if he wants to develop that all-important third pitch.
Statistically, Cease exhibits a lot of promise. After 13 games started this season with the South Bend Cubs, he sports a 2.79 ERA, a 1.258 WHIP, and a dizzying 12.9 K/9 IP ratio. Again mirroring other White Sox prospects, Cease has problems with control and shows it with an ugly 26 walks surrendered in 51.2 innings pitched. Back to the encouraging stuff, Cease excels at limiting the long ball with his 0.3 HR/9 IP rate this campaign. Take it with many grains of salt because it’s the minor leagues, but it’s way better than Jose Quintana’s 0.8 careers HR/9 figure, and Q is considered to be an above-average home run limiter.
Cease is projected to reach the majors by 2019. After three years of limited progression due to his injury, the next few months are important to Cease because it will demonstrate how well he can hold up to the rigor of a full season. If the White Sox’s talented pitching instructors can improve Cease’s changeup and control, he has all the goods to make an immediate impact with a contending South Side squad. Considering the plethora of arms in the Sox’s system, Cease would also be a great option out of the bullpen if he can’t totally correct his flaws. Time will tell.
As is typically the case in deals like this, the throw-in prospects offer some very intriguing tool, but an underwhelming overall profile. That’s definitely the outline for Rose, a first baseman who has bombed 14 home runs in 66 games with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach this year. Other than the power that stems from his 6’4″, 195 lb build, Rose doesn’t offer much with a .224 batting average and a .276 on-base percentage. He’s somewhat old for Class A at nearly 23 years of age so the next couple seasons will determine if he’s a perennial minor-leaguer or, with surprising strides, the next Adam Dunn. Our friends at FutureSox offered this on Rose: “He has good plate discipline but has a long swing that has led to high strikeout rates early in his pro career.”
This being his fifth year in the lower ranks of the Cubs system, Flete broke out with a .306 batting average and a .786 OPS in 71 contests to date. He is 24 years old, and so Rick Hahn’s interest in Flete surrounds the slim chance of Flete keeping up the hitting prowess. Left off the Cubs’ and White Sox’s top 30 prospect list like Rose, it’s unlikely he will ever see the majors, but you never know. He’s a versatile defender, playing middle infield with outfield capabilities, and if he somehow maintains a decent bat, Flete has utility man written all over him.