While Brett Anderson struggled against the Yankees on Saturday Night at Wrigley Field, Dylan Cease was taking care of business at Class-A South Bend. I was there to enjoy that second one. It was much more enjoyable.
Making his sixth start of the season, the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect (69th overall), according to MLB Pipeline (and third overall in the BN Top 40), threw five innings of stellar ball against the Clinton Lumberjacks. Cease allowed one run on three hits, striking out six and walking one in five innings of work. However, it wasn’t his final line that stood out the most.
For starters, Cease threw with ease using an effortless delivery looks repeatable. Outside of two probably fluky readings (a 101 in the first and a 102 in the fifth), Cease sat in the mid-to-high 90s – touching 98 at times. He also showed a curveball he was able to throw for called strikes and miss some bats. It’s an impressive offering when it’s on. His changeup is clearly still a work in progress, but having two pitches he can throw confidently for strikes is a good starting spot.
Cease was definitely fighting it on the mound as he dealt with the elements. But so was everyone else out there, with temperatures in the mid-40s. After allowing a first-inning run, Cease cruised rather effortlessly through the next four innings, save for the constant blowing into his hand in an attempt to keep warm.
Beyond the pitches, Cease also showed some athleticism and ability to field his own position, turning a few bunt attempts into outs. Some of the attempts had me wondering whether or not Clinton hitters thought their best way to reach base was by bunting. In the end, only three reached base via hit, one by walk, and a third courtesy of a hit by pitch.
In reality, Cease is a long way from being Major League ready. MLB Pipeline has his ETA set for 2019, while Baseball Prospectus has it at 2020. Either way, as Luke pointed out on Twitter, there is no reason to rush someone through the system who already has a Tommy John surgery under his belt.
As it stands, Cease has limited opposing hitters to a .179 average, posted a 1.88 ERA (2.72 FIP), 1.15 WHIP, and 37.4 K% (43 strikeouts in 28.2 innings) in six starts this season. However, he hasn’t gone past six innings in any of his starts and his 13.9 BB% needs to be trimmed.
Still, I’m looking forward to following Cease as he goes after his next challenge. Because by the looks of things, he might not be long for South Bend.