Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.
When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.
Today, I’m wrapping up the series with a look at Astros swingman Xavier Cedeno.
Xavier Cedeno had a big year between Double-A and Triple-A for the Astros this season, striking out basically a batter per inning at both levels. That earned him a brief look in the majors, where the 25-year-old lefthander was greeted rudely, allowing five runs on seven hits (including two homers) while recording just five outs. Cedeno was designated for assignment and outrighted to the minors following the season, so perhaps he’s the least relevant pitcher on this entire list (White Sox reliever Shane Lindsay was DFA’d and outrighted as well, so maybe it’s a tie?). Still, in light of Cedeno’s minor league success, he bears mentioning.
Even in relief, Cedeno wasn’t overpowering anybody, as he worked at just 87-90 mph. Relatively slight of build to begin with, Cedeno gets little help from his lower half in his delivery, so it’s a wonder he even throws that hard. He sensibly eschewed the fastball to a large extent, throwing it under half the time.
His best pitch is a mid-70′s curveball that he threw nearly as often as the fastball. It’s a big breaker–the sort of pitch that can fool most minor league hitters but needs to be impeccably placed in order to miss a MLB player’s bat. He also has a fringy changeup.
Cedeno uses two release points, an overhand angle and a low-three-quarters angle, to try to get more deception on his offerings to counteract his lack of velocity:
You can see that in both release clusters, he consistently releases the breaking ball higher than the fastball, which is a deficiency he’ll need to correct if he’s going to get by with this sort of arsenal.
To his credit, Cedeno understands where to locate the ball. Yes, it’s a small sample, but this location chart is pretty convincing to me:
Guys with less velocity, movement, and understanding of the strike zone than this have gotten a few hundred specialist innings, I’d say. Heck, Josh Spence fits all of those criteria, and he just turned in an effective rookie campaign with the Padres.
Given Cedeno’s track record in the minors, I’m not going to let one really bad MLB inning (all five runs he allowed were in one appearance) sway me into thinking he can’t have a career. Obviously, though, he’s a very limited pitcher, and there are lots of guys like this who occasionally find their way into a big minor league year but remain unfit for the majors. The thing Cedeno has going for him is that he seems to understand that he needs to go down and away, which lends hope that he can avoid throwing a bunch of hanging meatballs–anything he leaves up is basically just batting practice, after all.
If everything breaks right, Cedeno could be the next Joe Beimel. Now that he’s been outrighted, he’ll need to put together a big 2012 to stay on the map; his lack of stuff will further marginalize him the second he slips up in the minors.
I’ve really enjoyed bringing this series to you over the past couple of months. I certainly learned a lot in doing all the research for it and presenting my findings, and I think it’s a neat way to sort of get “final thoughts” in on the players I covered. After all, as a minor league writer, I’m not going to get a chance to write about these guys much more, at least not here on S2S. I felt that this series did a nice job of putting these young pitchers into as much clear-cut context as possible before they’re proverbially “sent off” to the major leagues.
I intend to come back with periodic looks at some of the 2012 rookies during the next season, so I’ll probably revive The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of sometime around late April, as the starting pitchers who break camp start to accumulate some serious innings. I’m hoping that it’ll dovetail nicely with Wally’s Breaking Through pieces. We’ll see how it goes.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
For more on the Astros, check out Climbing Tal’s Hill.