Brett Cecil Can Be The Closer Blue Jays Need


The Blue Jays need bullpen help; that’s no big secret. Last year, Toronto relief pitchers combined to allow a below average rate of 4.23 runs per game while two positive contributors to that record, Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan, could be leaving via free agency this offseason. When also taking into account that past contributors such as Steve Delabar and Sergio Santos cannot be counted upon this season either, there is clearly a lot of questions surrounding what will happen during the late innings in 2015. Despite all the uncertainty, there is one notable name has been a steady presence in the pen for the past couple of seasons and should be considered to step up and fill an important position if necessary.

Brett Cecil has had an up and down career since his debut in 2009, but he has certainly solidified his role as a reliever. That was also the role the left-hander held when the Jays drafted him out of the University of Maryland in 2007. He started his professional career as a starter though and, after some success in the minors, he became a promising prospect in the organization. However, after struggling with inconsistency and declining velocity Cecil found himself back in the pen.

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Cecil has arguably been the Blue Jays’ best relief pitcher since regained his velocity and converted back into the role full-time during the 2013 season. That year, he earned an all-star appearance after racking up 55 strikeouts over 46 innings during the first half of the season, and he set a franchise record by facing 38 consecutive batters without allowing a base hit. He struggled somewhat during the second-half due to injuries, but rebounded with a strong showing last year as well. Although there was no all-star appearance to boast about, Cecil was more consistent throughout the course of the season and actually even more impressive during the second-half when he collected a 1.50 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 24 innings. Overall, Cecil has posted a 2.76 ERA and an 11.5 K/9 ratio over his two seasons has a reliever.

The success has not come solely against same-handed hitting either. Cecil was originally penciled in as the team LOOGY, but he has proven he can dominate right-handers as well. The majority of his strikeouts actually came against right-handed hitters last season, and the two measly homeruns he did allow were to left-handed hitters, not right-handed ones. The only real issue with Cecil has been is inability to limit walks. He allowed them at a rate of 4.6 BB/9 last season, but this issue is minimalized somewhat since he is a reliever. Steamer projects his BB/9 to plummet back down to a more respectable rate of 3.03 next season, and if that is true he will certainly be a very valuable asset.

A lot if made about players needing a “closer’s mentality” to take over the 9th inning job, but as a factor it is nearly impossible to quantify. That being said, Cecil owned the closer’s role during his college career and unquestionably succeeded in that regard. As long as he maintains his current success and, maybe, continues to improve on his few flaws, he should be a perfect candidate for the closer’s role in Toronto next season. Having Cecil to take the reins would also allow the front office to stay out of the expensive and volatile free agent market for closers, because they clearly have other holes in the bullpen that need to be filled first.