It’s been a long and mostly rocky journey since Brett Cecil emerged in 2010 as a potential future member of the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation with a 15-win, 2.6fWAR season, and with the team having undergone a significant overhaul over this off-season, the role for the left-hander has considerably diminished.
In fact, diminished may be an understatement. With a loaded bullpen that recently saw the return of Darren Oliver as its left specialist, Cecil will likely have to have a good showing in Spring Training in to hang on to a major league job in 2012.
Though the fact that he is out of options helps him in this regard, Cecil can’t afford another mess that was last season, where he’d shown up in Florida with diminished velocity, lost his starting job in Spring, and was bounced to the minors before finally returning to the big leagues with a show of ineffectiveness. The Blue Jays eventually moved him to the bullpen, and any amount of leash that Cecil had is all but used up headed into this season.
So yes, I suppose you could say that Cecil will be coming into this season with something to prove.
Fortunately, his transition to the bullpen may yield positive results yet. Cecil has not shown the skill worthy of being a starting pitcher in the bigs; in fact, with his 5.73 ERA stint as a reliever last year, you could probably even say that he shouldn’t even be a reliever.
A big part of that has to do with the fact that he simply gets smashed by righties. Right-handers have owned a .287 batting average against Cecil in his career, good for a 5.25 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.
Against lefties though, Cecil is simply a different story. With a .230 BAA against LHB in his career, Cecil has a much more palatable 3.60/1.13 ERA/WHIP split when working against lefties. Take out his rookie season in ’09, and that batting average drops to .208 over the last three years.
That’s not just good – that would make Cecil a dominant LOOGY.
Sure, lefty specialists aren’t a glamorous role, and it’s not going to get him back to being a starter, but hell, that Cecil could provide above-replacement value for the team after the last two seasons should be considered a win for both parties. That said, whether the team will use him in that role in 2013 remains to be seen; it’s a most logical thing to do, but if Adam Lind is going to get full time ABs, anything can happen.
Cecil’s career may be on the down, but he’s not out yet.
Not even with a Blue Jays team that will be looking to contend in 2013 with little room for error, and not as long as he can still get lefties out.