For all the talk about unicorns among the Cubs’ hitting prospects over the last few years, it’s starting to look like homegrown starting pitchers are the real mythical creatures. Enter Dylan Cease, a pitcher whose triple-digit velocity and limited exposure have combined to make him a Paul Bunyan-esque figure in prospect lore.
It’s not as though the organization is doing anything to quiet the hype, though. VP of player development Jason McLeod told CubsCon attendees Cease had “lightning in his arm” and referred to the pitcher as “absolutely one of the more exciting prospects that we have in our organization.”
So how is it that a kid who can throw 100 mph as a starter is still somewhat under the radar for those folks who don’t pay close attention to the minors? Well, Cease hasn’t seen much action since being drafted in 2014 out of high school. Tommy John surgery as a senior hurt his draft stock and cost him nearly two seasons while he worked back to full strength.
While he has yet to play a full season of professional ball, Cease logged all of 24 innings in the Arizona Rookie League in 2015 and 44.2 frames at short-season Eugene last year. It was obvious from the numbers that he was a different pitcher in 2016, walking only nine more batters (25 to 16) but striking out 41 more (66 to 25) than he had in not quite twice as many innings. That’s 13.3 K/9, a staggering mark for a starter.
Despite the improvement in control, however, Cease still has a ways to go before he’s MLB-ready. After all, walking 5.04 per 9 innings isn’t exactly stellar. The Reds’ Brandon Finnegan left all other starters in his wake with 4.40 BB/9 in 2016, and only 25 qualified starters even notched more than 3.00 last season. There’s more than enough time for Cease to dial it in, as he’ll only be at low-A South Bend to open the 2017 campaign.
The Cubs have taken it easy with Cease thus far, and for obvious reasons, keeping the restraints tight in order to sort of protect him from himself. Now, with TJS and the proving grounds of short-season ball behind him, we could be looking at a Harrison Bergeron reboot. Except, you know, without the unfortunate business at the end.
If Cease is able to locate the fastball and keep the walks down, he may not be long for Northern Indiana. In fact, he could move pretty quickly through the next few levels of the system. Not that you should expect to see him in Chicago in the next year, or maybe even two, but this kid has got all kinds of potential. And it’d be pretty damn cool to see spectators doing the tennis-match back-and-forth from pitch to scoreboard to read the velocity numbers with someone other than Aroldis Chapman on the mound.
Is this really a jab?
Derrick Goold, lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted a Mike Matheny quote Wednesday afternoon, which is something people of his ilk do every day. What was notable in this particular case was his four-word commentary and a hashtag.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) March 8, 2017
The part about winning at home could be seen as a dig at his own team, which went 38-43 at Busch Stadium last season. But what’s with the second tier that’s supposedly aimed at the Cubs? Is it because they make a big deal out of creating t-shirts with clever phrases? Is it because they had to win their World Series on the road?
This is either a stretch by Goold or a serious you-had-to-be-there crack from Matheny. Maybe both.
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