Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Penciling Brett Cecil into the Starting Rotation


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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Last week, John Farrell remarked that Brett Cecil is one of two players (the other being Colby Rasmus) that the club is really counting on to contribute to the team's success in 2012.  

While most fully expect Rasmus to improve on his roller coaster 2011, I'm not so sure the same can be said about Brett Cecil. He may be one candidates to take one of the three remaining spots, but I really only feel comfortable penciling Brett Cecil into the Blue Jays starting rotation.

In my eyes, Brett Cecil is like a left-handed version of Shaun Marcum minus the control; a soft-tosser who strikes out his share of batters with a changeup, but who has trouble leaving pitches up in the zone.

Brett Cecil's starts in 2011 had a "buckle-up, brace for impact" vibe to them. A "plan for the worst, hope to escape out of the fifth inning" quality.

Whenever I sat down to watch a Brett Cecil start, I had no idea what to expect. Suffice it to say, I guess that makes me a poor choice to be the president of the Brett Cecil Fan Club.

John Farrell has lofty expectations for Brett this year, but frankly I feel like we've already seen the best we're going to see out of Brett Cecil. 2010 was a career year for Cecil aided by a favourable win-loss record, but maybe that season was his peak.

I'm in the camp that an eventual move to the bullpen would likely benefit Brett Cecil the most. Working in short stints a reliever rather than long outings as a starter could help keep his control ... under control. Heck, if it worked for Jesse Litsch, why not Brett Cecil?

As time has progressed, it's beginning to become evident why the Blue Jays made the decision to transition Jesse Litsch from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Litsch was seemingly a guy the Blue Jays could count on for 5-6 innings, and that's why the move seemed like a bit of a head-scratcher at the time.

I think the key here is Listch was "okay" as a starter, but he wasn't "great". After Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the Blue Jays could very easily find three "okay" starters like Litsch or Cecil to occupy the back end of the rotation.

In order to be a 90-win team though, they're going to have to raise the bar and rely on "good" starters. It's one thing to have a back-end rotation comprised of innings eaters, but it's another to have starters who can throw quality innings.

That's why if I had to fill out the depth chart for the starting rotation today, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek get my vote ahead of Brett Cecil. There's a huge amount of upside with both of those guys, and I just can't imagine Cecil ever pitching better than he did in his sophomore campaign.

I don't actually mind Brett Cecil in the starting rotation for the interim. Barring any injuries or trips to the minors, the Blue Jays can probably depend on him for 150 plus innings this season. Cecil's experience should also give Farrell a semblance of some familiarity in the back end of the rotation.

That being said, the ideal starting rotation that I envision over the next few seasons does not include  the services of one Brett Aarion (no, that's not a typo) Cecil. The potential exists for Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek to quickly eclipse Brett in the Blue Jays depth chart.

All this may be asking a bit much of the number four or five starter, but frankly ... if the Blue Jays want to make a run in the next few years, they need to know whether Brett Cecil can handle the workload and put forth quality innings.

And if he can't, there are plenty of other starters they could use to fill the void.

12 comments:

  1. Ian,

    Your analysis on Cecil is spot on and why we need another FRONT of rotation starter to go with Romero and Morrow. Cecil's career OPSA splits over nearly 1700 AB's are .611 vs. Lefties and .751 vs. Righties. Given we play in a division with significant depth, most teams can stack a solid righty-dominated lineup out there, making Cecil a 4/5 starter at best, but a potential late inning bullpen WEAPON at best. It seems like we will be forced to wait until July to see either a trade deadline deal for a stud starter if we are in the mix, or a Hutchison callup if we are not. I'll take Hutchison's movement and control over Drabek's stuff any day.

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  2. By the way AA was talking about Hutchison, it sounds like he's very quickly climbing up the ladder and could even be ready to go into the rotation in 2013. I don't know all that much about him, but by all accounts it sounds like he could quickly eclipse Cecil on the depth chart as well.

    With the bevy of high-ceiling starters in the minors, I'm comfortable with moving Cecil to the bullpen and have he and Litsch become the long-relief guys.

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  3. I don't mind Brett Cecil in the rotation this year, as the way I see it, this year looks to be another 'let's see what we have' season. If he flops, no harm no foul, but if he breaks out, well wouldn't that be a nice situation.

    Hopefully one or two of Brett Cecil, Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind, Travis Snider or Eric Thames proves that they can be everyday productive players.

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  4. I agree with you regarding Cecil. In theory the best way to miss bats is to either have velocity or control. Every now and then a pitcher has both... and those become aces.

    Cecil doesn't have velocity and, to date, hasn't exhibited the kind of control that a soft-tossing lefty needs as a starter.

    My other issue is with Morrow. He simply does not have the consistency that should be required from a 2nd starter. In a perfect world Romero is the '2' (meaning that the Jays acquire a legitimate 'ace') and Morrow is the '4'. If we had one pitcher better than Ricky and another a step beyond Morrow this would be an interesting season.

    Then again... perhaps Cecil comes to camp throwing 92- 93 instead of 87- 88, Alvarez continues to throw strike 1 and develops a killer breaking ball, and Drabek rediscovers the strike zone. The wild card would then be Dustin McGowan who has always been one of those pitchers with great stuff and questionable stats.

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  5. I'd be shocked if we have (more or less) the same 5 starters all year. If I had to predict:
    - Drabek starts the year in AAA
    - McGowan begins the year as a starter, but is likely to get shut down at some point during the year.
    - So Cecil and maybe Laffey will compete to break camp in the rotation. I wouldn't be shocked to see Laffey at start of year, but with a short leash to be replaced by Cecil or Drabek from AAA.

    But who the heck knows really.

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  6. Peter, there's nothing wrong with keeping Cecil in there for the time being. Who knows ... maybe if Brett puts together a good year, that will make him an attractive off-season trade target for other teams.

    Kevin, considering Cecil doesn't really have the velocity, that's why I was hoping he would develop into a lefty version of Shaun Marcum. But Marcum has the command, and Cecil hasn't quite figured it out. Morrow is a bit of an enigma as well, but if he stays healthy then I think he should hopefully crack 200 innings this year.

    Sporkless, anything can happen! McGowan is out of options, so they'll probably at least begin the year with him in the rotation, but I can't see him being durable enough to last the whole season. One thing's for sure, there are lots of options to fill out the back end of the rotation!

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  7. I hear you Ian. Cecil doesn't exactly fill me with tons of faith, but might be decent as a number 5 guy. At least he's better than Jo Jo Reyes...

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  8. Jeez, 2 years ago as a rookie he was a smooth lefty with ice water in his veins. He won 15 with a team nowhere close to what will be behind him this year.
    The guy just got fat and lazy. The way Farell talks, between the lines, he had better come to camp in great shape. He knows that he will be gone if he isn't.
    I like him in the 4 hole, with McGowan trying to finish the comeback in the 5 hole.
    It's a great story, and I love the guy's courage, but no way McGowan gets more than 20 starts. The guy I wanna see if either guy fades, is Hutchison.I see him as a Marcum clone who throws maybe 5 mph faster. Not much chance of it, but wouldn't it be great if he reminded us of Greg Maddox?
    I'd settle for a RH version of Jimmy Key. Great command with no imposing velocity, and smarter than every guy who came up to try him on.
    He hung comfortable O for 4's on lots of guys, they didn't feel like they had a bad day, he was so smooth.

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  9. I'm not super excited about any of the starting pitchers the Jays have. Like with the Marcum deal, if I'm AA and some other team overvalues one of them, I move the guy in a heartbeat. Except for Morrow, none of them seem to have electric stuff, and Morrow strikes me as being in the Edwin Jackson or AJ Burnett mold of pitcher - he lacks the start to start consistency to be an ace.

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  10. Jeremy, very good point ... Cecil > Jo-Jo.

    Anon, I'm not sure what happened over the course of those two years, but Brett has definitely put on some weight. It's good to hear he's getting back into shape, but that's something we've heard many times before. The proof will be in the pudding.

    Steve, welcome back sir! Morrow is still a bit of a work in progress. The raw talent seems to be there, he has the repertoire to overpower hitters, but he needs to locate.

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  11. I agree with your thoughts. We will likely see Cecil start out in the rotation. However long term and likely as early as next year he will be competing with Hutch McGuire and Jenkins for a spot. It's how most people are writing off Drabek that shocks me: mid 90's velocity with a plus curve and decent change does not grow on trees. It may take a bit of time for him to figure it out, but when he does he is the front of the rotation type guy that we long for. I seem to recall another Jays pitcher who was having trouble and went down to the minor. That worked out just fine.
    Given what we have coming up, this year Cecil is last years JoJo. I.e It's likely that we are showcasing him for deadline deal. I think a 2013 rotation of Romero, Morrow, Alvarez (if he gets a breaking ball), Drabek and Hutchinson looks pretty darn good and gives balance and different styles/ looks. The only downside is the one lefty.

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    Replies
    1. I'm cool with keeping Cecil in the rotation for 2012, but as you indication I just think there's a wealth of talent in the minor leagues that could very easily eclipse Cecil. They will have some tough decisions to make as early as next year of Hutch develops as quickly as the Blue Jays are hoping.

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