Dylan Cease Looking, Sounding Impressive Through Two Starts
This has been a pretty fun year covering minor league for my own web site and Cubs Insider. However, I ran into some disappointment last when the MiLB.TV link did not work just as Dylan Cease was scheduled to make his season debut. I had to suffer through two hours of Boise radio as Cease went 4 IP with 2 Ks, 1 BB, and 1 ER. I did get a couple small glimpses through Steve Jackson though, so all was not lost. So my anticipation was high as Cease’s second start came up. And then the same MiLB.TV problems occurred. I had to get it through the radio again, but it was worth it to hear the Eugene feed gush over the young starter.
Cease was drafted by the Cubs in the sixth round in 2014. He easily had first round talent but Tommy John surgery caused him to drop. The Cubs took advantage of the uneasiness surrounding his surgery and paid him handsomely to have his services.
I first became aware of Cease at the Under Armour Classic at Wrigley in 2013, and you can get a sense from the footage below of how his max-effort delivery pushed the limits of what a radar gun could do.
In 2015, MLB Pipeline ranked him as the #11 Cubs prospect. They said of his potential:
Cease had a 91-95 mph fastball that topped out at 97 before he got hurt, and he worked at 94-97 and reached triple digits in his first games back after his elbow reconstruction. He also has a three-quarters breaking ball in the mid-70s and a changeup with fade, both of which have the potential to become solid offerings but lack consistency.
Cease isn’t very physical and generates his premium velocity with athleticism and arm speed. There’s some effort in his delivery but he repeats it well and throws strikes.
Last summer, Cease was restricted to three innings or 50 pitches in Rookie League in Arizona. He pitched in 11 games and logged a total of only 24 innings, posting a 2.63 ERA with 25 K’s, 16 BB’s and a mere 12 hits allowed. Opponents batted a paltry .145 against him. Bill Mitchell of Baseball America ranked him as the #2 prospect in the league at the conclusion of that brief campaign.
Heading into 2016, MLB Pipeline bumped Cease up to #8 in the Cubs system and I, for one, thought he would skip Eugene and head to South Bend in late May when the weather was warmer. That did not happen.
Dylan Cease is very, very good. He can reach 95-100 mph with a plus curve and a changeup that he still needs to get over for strikes. I think that the hype and the hope are the same as the reality in this case.
I did not really have any heading into these recent games. Cease was going to throw what he was going to throw. In the 1st inning of his second start, he came out and threw 24 pitches as a lot of the at-bats went to deep counts. His fastball was around 92 to 94 mph and he struck out two batters while hitting another.
In the 2nd inning, his best of the game, the fastball got up to 98 and curve was clocking in at 76 (that kind of velo difference in two plus pitches is just…whoa). At one point, he had 10 straight strikes.
Cease struggled a bit in the 3rd as he got into those big counts again. The fastball was still live and he did shake off the catcher once. The next pitch resulted in a double, soon followed by a single and that gave Spokane a 1-0 lead.
The 4th inning was more of the same, though he made it out of the without giving up a run. An infield single was all Spokane could muster, and Cease’s seventh strikeout ended the frame. It’s might not be fair to say that he was starting to labor pitching, but he was having to go deep counts to get out of several innings. He fell behind early and had to play catch up. It was almost as if the 2nd inning was an anomaly.
In all, Cease went four innings and gave up one run on three hits and a hit by pitch, striking out seven. What I found impressive was that Spokane did not get a lot of hard hits off of him, except for the double. I also found the 2nd inning to be impressive as he was very efficient. The other innings were more of a struggle, but sometimes that’s okay.
I would like to see him get to the 5th inning very soon. However, when a team is 3-for-16 (.188) off you, you’re doing a good job. To date, Cease has a 2.25 ERA in his two starts.
While it is OK to be excited about Cease, I think one needs to not expect perfection. I liked that he struck out seven in four innings, but I would like to see him get deeper into the game. It is only his second “official” start of the year, though, so there is still a lot to be excited about.
I think you will see him in South Bend in August now that the Cubs qualified for the playoffs. As Vogelbach, Almora, Bryant, Schwarber, and Torres before him did. The Cubs want to imprint that winning culture on a prospect if they can. If you’ll notice, all of those players are bats, as the Cubs have yet to produce an impact arm from their vaunted system. Dylan Cease won’t be pitching in Chicago anytime soon, mind you, but he’s got the potential to make all kinds of noise when he does.