On July 13th, 2017 the Chicago White Sox made a trade with the rival Cubs sending then their staff ace Jose Quintana to the Cubs in exchange for four players. Included in that deal were two top-100 prospects in Eloy Jimenez and flamethrower Dylan Cease. The other two prospects included were first-baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete. While White Sox fans knew the trade of Quintana was imminent, the return was jaw-dropping for most. Getting Eloy Jimenez in any trade with the Cubs, especially for the Sox, was unthinkable. Rick Hahn made it happen. While Cease was a great addition to the deal, Jimenez was the centerpiece for a deal that happened quickly.
Cease Era Begins
With plenty to talk about when it comes to the slugging outfielder Jimenez, Cease has quickly made a name for himself upon his arrival at 35th and Shields. On July 3rd, 2019 Cease made his major league debut for the White Sox lasting five innings allowing three earned runs with six strikeouts and picking up the win. Things were an electric bumpy ride for Cease in his debut season finishing with 73.0 innings pitched over 14 starts and allowing 51 runs on 78 hits. Cease earned a 5.79 earned run average and a 1.548 WHIP ( Walks plus hits per inning pitched ) in 2019, numbers he would look to improve upon quickly.
In the 60 game pandemic shortened 2020 season it was hard to see much improvement from 2019. Cease only threw 58.1 innings in 2020, significantly less than the 73.0 he threw the season prior where he made his debut in July. Cease did make some strides in 2020 but with the shortened campaign it would be difficult to see just how much he was progressing. Statistically speaking, his numbers did improve a bit, finishing with a 4.01 earned run average and a 1.440 WHIP. Cease also got his first taste of postseason baseball in 2020 starting one game against the Oakland Athletics and lasting only one inning before being pulled by then manager Ricky Renteria. Watching Cease pitch in 2020 was frustrating at times because you could clearly see the potential for greatness and sometimes he just could not consistently get hitters out.
The 2021 season would arrive with a different feel. A new manager in Tony La Russa, a new pitching coach in Ethan Katz, and altogether a different coaching staff, plus heightened expectations for not only Cease but the White Sox as a team would provide pressure for the young talent on the southside to perform and take the White Sox deeper into the postseason. Cease did make some strides in 2021 under Katz in his first full 162 game season finishing with a 3.91 earned run average and a 1.249 WHIP.
While you can see based on his stats Cease is improving, he still needs to make the jump from thrower to pitcher. Cease tends to get into deep counts frequently and allows hitters to stay at the plate by consistently trying to miss bats and record strikeouts. The strikeout numbers are staggering and Cease led the White Sox with 226 strikeouts in 2021. In fact, Cease finished seventh in all of baseball with 226 strikeouts in 2021. Considering Cease only threw 165.2 innings in 2021 that is an average of a crazy 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
While the strikeout numbers Cease has put up are indeed impressive, Cease needs to get hitters out more quickly when he can and go deeper into games for the Sox to be successful. The pitch repertoire is unmatched by anyone currently on the Sox staff. Cease has movement and currently ranks eighth in baseball in overall spin rate according to baseballsavant.com.
Cease is only 26 years old and seems to have a long major-league career ahead of him. While the spin rate and movement do not necessarily equal outs in baseball, Cease has a real opportunity to break out in 2022 and lead the White Sox staff deep into the postseason. It is no secret that Cease already has the best “stuff” on the staff and with more direction and instruction from Ethan Katz and company, Cease could easily compete for the 2022 American League Cy Young award and possibly win it. While many baseball fans would argue differently, many White Sox fans who watch Cease consistently would agree. While Lucas Giolito remains the Sox number one pitcher for now, if Cease can put it all together Cease will soon be the best pitcher on this staff and surpass Lucas Giolito as the White Sox “Ace”.
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