I know what I’m about to say may shock you but people on the interwebs aren’t always rational. This has been very evident over the last month when Dylan Cease takes the mound for the boys from the Southside. Listen, I’m not going to say things have gone well for Cease because they haven’t.
But the amount of people hitting the proverbial panic button and claiming he’s a bust and he isn’t ready for the Major Leagues has gotten absurd at this point. I know this goes contrary to narratives that are pervasive on Twitter but the Sox are not the only franchise that has had highly touted prospects struggle initially in the major leagues.
Despite what many would have you believe, Cease’s struggles through 10 starts really aren’t indicative of what he will be even as soon as next season. There are countless pitchers, including All-Stars and Cy Young Award winners, that have struggled mightily through their first 10 starts. If you were looking for some names and numbers for comparison sake, well, you came to the right place.
As you’ll notice above, you see some prominent recent examples that I plugged off the top of my head of quality big league pitchers that weren’t very good through their first 10 starts. When you compare Cease’s numbers, you realize that the biggest thing that is hurting him is obviously the long ball which has been the leading driver of his high ERA.
I take a little bit of solace in the fact that when you compare Cease’s HR/9 rate with Berrios’ and Carrasco’s, Cease is pitching in an era unlike anything we’ve ever seen with regards to HRs. Now, a detractor could say this could be indicative of the future but I for one believe in Cease’s ability to begin missing more bats as he gains experience at the big league level.
When you look at the rest of Cease’s rate stats (K/9, BB/9), he actually compares very favorably with the other pitchers listed. We know Cease has quality stuff with his high spin-rate fastball and curveball combination but the ultimate factor in determining his career trajectory will be his ability to consistently command his pitches. I know I’m not really going out on a limb by making that statement but if Cease is able to develop just average control and command, his raw stuff will allow him to be an above-average pitcher at the highest level.
Things haven’t looked great to this point, but would you as a fan be disappointed if Cease turned out to be Jose Berrios? You know a guy that is going to be starting Game 1 of a playoff series (one that hopefully ends in a sweep) for the Twins in a couple weeks? How would you feel if he turned into Trevor Bauer, a guy who looked like he was in the driver’s seat to win the AL Cy Young Award last year? What about if he turned into Carlos Carrasco? Carrasco is a guy that for the last 5 seasons coming into 2019, averaged 4.2 fWAR per year despite dealing with injuries.
Those two pitchers have been a vital part of an Indians team that coming into the season, was the 3 time defending AL Central champions and choked away another World Series as the Indians are prone to do. Then there’s Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is a guy that from 2014-2018 averaged 3.4 fWAR, won a Cy Young, and was a part of a rotation that won a World Series.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. I don’t know if Dylan Cease is going to be an All-Star or a future Cy Young winner but I think he has the upside to do both. He’s by no means a finished product after 10 big league starts however. I provided four examples above but baseball has been littered with more examples of pitchers that have struggled in their first taste of the show.
I know we are getting antsy with this rebuild and we’re all seeking immediate gratification because the Sox prospects, seemingly, always struggle when they arrive. But there needs to be some patience exercised when talking about the lively righty. Remember how bad Lucas Giolito was in 2018? He’s now one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. Sometimes guys take a little more time to develop and have to take their lumps before everything clicks. Remember folks, development isn’t linear.
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