Though he is technically listed here the Sox #4 starter in their 2020 rotation, the reality is the front office (and us as blog writers and fans) see Dylan Cease as at least the #3 starter of this team going forward. If that’s going to happen, however, there are a few things that need to happen both with his delivery and the results associated with them. While there were a few bright spots and moments of dominance for Dylan Cease in 2019, there were also times when his command disappeared for long stretches, leaving his fastball very hittable.
If Cease is to take over the 3 spot in the rotation, the year to state his case (hopefully) is this one. He’s been working in the off-season with Lucas Giolito to hone the control of his fastball (which worked wonders for Giolito this past year), and now has a new weapon behind the plate in Yasmani Grandal which should snag him a few more strikes each start. Honestly the more I write about the pitching staff, my level of happiness with the Grandal signing goes up. Will it be enough to break Dylan Cease out this year? Let’s take a peek.
14 starts 73 innings
5.79 ERA 5.19 FIP
9.99 K/9 4.32 BB/9 1.55 WHIP
45.7% GB-rate 68.1 LOB% 21.4% HR/FB
128 ERA- 0.7 fWAR
Last Week On Nitro: Man, those are some unsightly numbers, aren’t they? Looking at those, you’d think that 2019 was a total bust for Dylan Cease and that all hope was lost, right? WELL FUCK THAT SHIT. Granted, 2019 was definitely not the season that Cease was hoping for when he was called up to start on the 3rd of July. Sox fans hoping for some early fireworks were sort of let down. He went 5 innings, giving up 3 earned runs while striking out 6 and got the win so all good! Except he also walked 4 guys and hit two of them. The start was also against the Tigers, which is basically the baseball version of the Red Wings.
His next 4 starts were all losses, with him never giving up less than 4 runs and him only making it out of the 6th inning once. He got back in the win column again almost a month later (against the Tigers) but was still having issues with his control. Then came the start against the Rangers on August 23rd, and we all got a taste of why Dylan Cease was so highly regarded as he was. The first inning was more of the same, 32 pitches and a 3 run bomb by Willie Calhoun off a fastball that just spun at the top of the zone instead of slicing out of it.
Sox fans had seen this show plenty up till this point, but Cease flipped the script. Those 3 runs were all he was giving, and suddenly the fastballs were unhittable and the curveballs were dropping out of the bottom of the zone. The Rangers had no answers for him, and the Sox bats came alive and reminded Lance Lynn that he was, in fact, Lance fucking Lynn by dropping 7 on his head. Cease struck out 9 and only walked 1 in 5 dazzling innings after the first clunker.
One inning per start seems to be the one that prevented Cease from achieving a solid rookie year in the bigs. One inning where his command abandoned him, and his fastball failed him and his curveball hung there, waiting to be pummeled. The rest of the year was consistently inconsistent. Cease followed up his gem against the Rangers by getting tuned up by the Twins for 8 runs. Then he went 7 against the Tribe while striking out 11. The last 3 starts of the year were positive steps, as he only gave up 1 in each of them, leading us to wonder which Dylan Cease will show up this year?
Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Dylan Cease is he becomes Lucas Giolito Redux and breaks out this year in a ginormous way. If he’s able to control his fastball at the top of the zone, there aren’t too many hitters outside of Aaron Judge and Mike Trout who have the bat speed and eyes to catch up to it. Combine that with his spike curveball which, according to Statcast, has the 5th nastiest movement in all of MLB. Seriously, just look at this big bowl of filth.
Throw all those things together and you get a recipe for a big ole Breakout Pie. In what will (in theory) be a shortened season there is hope that Cease can K around 100 hitters and keep his ERA a respectable 3.70. He also won’t have any innings limits, so Renteria can feel free to let him off the chain. More importantly, he learns to avoid the Big Inning and is able to go deeper into games, averaging around 6+ innings per start. That’s a hell of a number 2-3 starter for a team with contention aspirations.
You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worse case scenario here is he actually stays the same as 2019. The Big Inning continues to plague him, he can’t get out of the 5th inning and each start proves that instead of a number 2 starter, his ceiling is actually that of a number 5. Without that bullet in the chamber, the Sox are forced to rely on Carlos Rodon coming back healthy to round out the rotation.
Instead of having a glut of starters and potential trade pieces down the road the Sox are left with merely 5 starters, two of which are coming back off of major elbow surgery. I don’t believe this is going to happen, as the Cease we saw against the Rangers and the Indians is far closer to the one we will get than the guy who got the tar pounded outta him by the Twins. You can’t discount the possibility, though.
Bah Gawd, That’s Dylan’s Music!: I think once Dylan Cease is able to take the mound this season we will all see an improvement over his inconsistencies of last year. The Big Inning will not totally disappear but the 2nd half of his season will be a little closer to what we see. There will still be burps and hiccups where he’s not able to get out of the 4th inning, but he’ll be going deeper and deeper into games the more he pitches. A 4.15 ERA with (more importantly) a 1.21 WHIP is not out of the question, with an increase in his K/9 to 10.55 and a decrease in his BB/9 (which at 4.5 last year wouldn’t take much to be considered an improvement) down to 3.30.
He’s going to be helped quite a bit by Yasmani Grandal, but hindered as well by the defense behind him. The other thing to remember is this is a kid who has all of half a season under his belt, so inconsistencies aren’t surprising in the slightest. All told, this second step in his career as a starter will be considered a success, with his status as number 3 starter of the future cemented. A 40+ home run left fielder and a number 3 starter with upside, all for Jose Quintana. Rick Hahn gets a gold star for this one, as the future continues to be bright for the Sox. Now if we could just have some baseball to look forward to…