Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Cecil: A Second Chance at Starting?


Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This off-season there have been numerous articles covering the conundrum the Blue Jays face with respect to their bullpen.  The bullpen is considered one of the Blue Jays greatest strengths/assets from which Anthopoulos can draw from to obtain rotation help and/or fill the perceived hole at second base.

Instead of over paying for a back of the rotation talent which would weaken the bullpen, why not give Brett Cecil another shot at starting.  Losing an All-Star caliber arm from the bullpen would surely leave a large hole, but one would hope the depth of the current group would make filling the void some what easy.  It would be very difficult for Cecil to repeat last season, so a decline can be expected.  Conversely, this holds true for the other bullpen arms that had career years.  It is also possible for surprises happen again, maybe not to the degree that we experienced with Steve Delabar and Cecil.  The scenario of moving Cecil to the rotation was discussed last season but it was decided he was more valuable in his current role.

Drafted 38th overall in 2007 as a closer out of the University of Maryland, Cecil was converted to a starter by J.P. Ricciardi.  Cecil shot up the minor league ladder and made his first major league appearance in 2009.  It is my opinion that it was this meteoric ascent to the majors and the increased innings ultimately was too much for his body.  Oh J.P., I can remember him saying that Cecil could be a future closer, although I can’t seem to locate the article.  His ceiling was predicted as a top of the rotation talent and even drew comparisons to Francisco Liriano.

At 27, Brett Cecil is still young enough to find success as a starter and I think it is time to give him one more shot.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Cecil is the savior or even that he is the answer to all the questions surrounding the Blue Jays starting rotation.  As starter, Cecil wasn’t lights out and I remember being frustrated with the high number of home runs he would give up.  In three years as a starter, Cecil surrendered 57 home runs over 390 innings (HR/9 of 1.6).

Anyone who has followed Cecil’s career has seen his struggles with conditioning that led to weight gain, injuries, and a drop in velocity, his struggle with his mechanics and not being able to consistently repeat his delivery.  All signs point to Cecil learning from these struggles and that these issues are a thing of the past and that it is time to take the next step.

In 2013, Cecil was able to bring his HR/FB (home runs to fly ball ratio) to a respectable 9.3%, which he only bested in 2010 with an 8.7%. His other two years as a starter saw him average 14%, which is just terrible.  Cecil’s success in 2013 can be attributed to his ability to induce ground balls at a higher than league average rate of 51.3% (league average 44%).  Let’s just think about that for a minute….If only 9.3% of your fly balls leave the yard and you’re able to get >50% of all balls put in play to be grounders, then a successful season you will find.

When a pitcher moves from the pen to the rotation, the stats and success he had in the pen don’t normally follow.  Maybe Cecil’s best role is indeed in as a LOOGY, setup man, or even as a closer, but with possibly two open spots at the back-end of the rotation I think that 2014 would be the ideal time for a move back to a starter.  The expectations would be low. If the move fails it wouldn’t be the end of the world, we would just move him back to the pen.  Having Cecil in a starting role would enable Anthopoulos to hold onto guys that might not have made the team otherwise. There are a lot of guys out of minor league options that are competing for a limited number of spots. Losing anyone from this list would be a terrible use of resources: Dustin ( Humpty Dumpty) McGowan, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Sergio Santos, Jeremy Jeffress (breakout candidate), and Luis Perez.   I don’t think Anthopoulos will let that happen and we can expect to see moves like the Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen deal. 

This is a low risk, high reward gamble, which I think Anthopoulos should make.  After all what is the worse thing that can happen?

For a good laugh give Cecil thighs a read.

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  • Andrew van Laar

    I think Cecil should stay where he is for this year. I personally don’t think that as a starter, he will be much improved over the other guys trying to land the last rotation spot. As well, they have to watch innings on him and when you take someone like him out of the pen, you have less quality guys to eat up those innings.

    • Ryan Mueller

      Andrew,
      I would think that he would be much improved over the last time he started and I wouldn’t move if out of the pen if he were to have another successful season in the pen. You are very right about having to monitor his innings if he were to make a move to the rotation. I do think that AA will leave him in the pen because of how well he did and because he is a lefty.

  • Governator88

    He’s so versatile out of the pen that I’d be too reluctant to move him. He can be the set up man, the lefty specialist, the get out of a jam guy, the closer if needed. There suddenly is a lot to his game and I think moving him away from that role would really hurt his value. If anything a long arm/a spot starter, like a Carlos Villanueva type role would best suit him but I think he quickly became a face of our bullpen and would be a hard to replace lefty.

  • CashGameND

    If we were going to give anybody another chance is rather it be McGowan or Jansen. Both have said in the past they’d like another opportunity at starting, and both have earned it. And both are in contract years so giving them this opportunity with the team may make them want to stick around if things go well seeing as they jays took a chance and have them that one last opportunity. They could comeback as a starter or reliever for cheaper money because the jays did right by them. Both have been class acts in the organization and Jansen especially deserves the shot if he still wants it (as he did 2 years ago).

    Cecil on the other hand has actually said he is happier in the bullpen and would rather not change mid season. Sure we could try starting him but if things go wrong and we need to move him to the bp he’s going to be unhappy. Plus he’s only had the one good year there, the best year he’s ever pitched for the jays likely, if he’s happy there why ruin a good thing

    • Ryan Mueller

      I agree with McGowan being given another chance, but Janssen has been such a good closer that I would be even more reluctant moving him than I would moving Cecil. You are right about not wanting to mess with a player that are happy in their current role, but I thought Cecil would be a good candidate to improve the state of the Jays rotation.

  • bob l.

    humpty dumpty? come on, give the guy a chance. every article i read recently refers to mcgowan as oft injured or something equivilant. ever think the arm injuries are a thing of the past? mcgowan will hopefully be in the 5-hole sooner than later and will prove his critics (mostly harsh ones) wrong.

    • Ryan Mueller

      Bob,
      You’re right that may have been offside. I really hope that Dustin remains healthy for the rest of his career and finds success with the jays in either the pen or better yet as a starter.

  • malna

    no

  • Justin Jay

    I haven’t seen a starter benefit from that Delabar program yet and Cecil suffered from elbow inflammation down the stretch on less innings pitched, shutting him down for the season. There’s no guarantee he throws 95 MPH when he gets stretched out and the elbow inflammation should heed warning. Delabar went on the DL too. It’s too early to start predicting failure on the unknowns. Cecil should only come out of the pen if the Jays are desperate and don’t like what they see so far.

    • Ryan Mueller

      Very good point Justin.