White Sox Triple-A right-hander Dylan Cease, one of baseball’s premier prospects, is moving closer to his major league debut. While general manager Rick Hahn said Monday that the White Sox won’t “rush” Cease, the executive revealed the hurler’s “not too far away” from jumping to the bigs (via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times).
Now 23 years old, Cease joined the White Sox in July 2017 in what they hope will go down as one of the most beneficial trades in franchise history. The club sent quality lefty Jose Quintana to the crosstown rival Cubs for four players, including Cease and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. Those two no doubt have the potential to wind up as long-term cornerstones for the White Sox.
Cease was a top 100 prospect when the teams swung the deal, but his stock has soared even higher since he changed Chicago organizations. Cease now ranks as MLB.com’s 19th-best prospect, with Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo crediting the former Tommy John surgery patient’s fastball- and curveball-led repertoire and projecting he’ll become an “impact” major leaguer.
So far in Charlotte this year, Cease has pitched to a 4.10 ERA/3.65 FIP with 10.08 K/9, 3.76 BB/9 and an excellent 57.7 percent groundball rate in 11 starts and 52 2/3 innings. Although that’s not a lights-out ERA, much of the damage came Sunday during a start in which Cease yielded four earned runs on two hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning. Hahn called that ugly outing “a really good developmental day for” Cease, whom he expects to learn from it.
Depending on when Cease comes up (assuming he does debut this year), he could potentially have some say in a playoff race. Chicago’s certainly a long shot for the postseason, but at 3 1/2 games out of wild-card position, its hopes aren’t dead at this point. The White Sox would likely have a much better shot if they could’ve found superior complements for budding ace Lucas Giolito in their rotation.
Despite Giolito’s spectacular efforts, the team’s starters rank a lowly 25th in the majors in ERA and 26th in FIP. Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos have each posted horrid run prevention numbers across at least seven starts apiece. Worsening matters, Rodon had season-ending Tommy John surgery a month ago and Covey went to the injured list Sunday with shoulder inflammation.
Of course, the White Sox have had to make do all season without one of Cease’s fellow standout pitching prospects, Michael Kopech, who underwent TJ surgery last September. The hope is Cease and Kopech will eventually provide two more superb options alongside Giolito. Cease just may get his first opportunity to emerge as a legit major leaguer sometime this summer.