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.