There are a lot of young pitchers with potential upside in baseball today.

While the AL East is generally not a good place to go searching for such pitchers, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil could be an exception to the rule. He was solid in his rookie campaign and it could be just the beginning.

Before we get into what could be, let’s look at what he did in 2010:

15 Wins
172.2 Innings
4.22 ERA
1.33 WHIP
117 Strikeouts (6.1 K/9)
54 Walks (2.8 BB/9)
.298 BABIP

The strikeouts may not be impressive off the bat, but he showed a lot more potential in the minor leagues. While it was a relatively small sample size (228.1 innings), he posted a K/9 of 9.0.

Granted, the majority of that was spent in the low minor leagues (only 90.2 innings at Triple-A), but it still does show that there is room for improvement.

I wouldn’t call it a lock by any stretch, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 24-year old lefty take a step forward in the strikeout department. With a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a K/9 of 7.0 or better is realistic.

If that was all we were banking on, then there certainly would be a lot of skepticism.  However, Cecil has the potential to bring the trio of abilities that fantasy owners should look for.

First of all, he already has shown that he has solid control. A 2.8 BB/9 is similar to his minor league mark (2.9), showing that it is very much for real.

Secondly, he has the potential to be a very good groundball pitcher. You may not know it from his 2010 success, as he had a 44.2% mark. However, if you look at his minor league numbers, the potential is there for him to be significantly better.

Over his minor league career, he had a groundball rate of 59.7%. Obviously, you can’t compare that number to what people did in the Major Leagues, but in 2010 there were just three pitchers who posted groundball rates of better than 57%:

  • 1. Derek Lowe – 58.8%
  • 2. Justin Masterson – 59.5%
  • 3. Tim Hudson – 64.1%

Seeing him improve in this department would not be a surprise. When you couple it with a potential improvement in strikeouts and the solid control that he has already shown, there is an awful lot to like.

Of course, there are two big ifs in that equation, making Cecil a sizable risk: It is no guarantee that he improves both the strikeouts and groundballs; he could improve on one and not the other. Of course, he could improve on neither all together.

Throw in the fact that he pitches in the toughest division in baseball and there are reasons to be skeptical. He pitched well against his division rivals in 2010, but can we really expect him to duplicate these types of numbers:

  • Orioles – 2-0, 2.51 ERA, 14.1 innings
  • Rays – 3-1, 4.60 ERA, 29.1 innings
  • Red Sox – 2-1, 3.86 ERA, 18.2 innings
  • Yankees – 4-0, 2.67 ERA, 33.2 innings

The rewards certainly outweigh the risks, which is why I would absolutely endorse selecting him late in your draft. He’s not a pitcher to draft in a position that you are going to depend on him, but to get him late and see if he can take that next step, you have nothing to lose.

Maybe he will develop, maybe he won’t. However, with his potential, he should be a late round target in all formats.

What are your thoughts on Cecil? Is he worth drafting? Do you think he can take the next step in 2011?

Make sure to check out our early 2011 rankings:


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