Monday, August 18, 2008

Prospect Smackdown: Brett Cecil vs. David Price

Hey everybody, sorry for the long lapse in posts. I took a bit of a vacation up to the North Carolina mountains, and then I had some family business to tend to, but it's time to get back to business, so let's get to it. For today's post I want to take a look at Brett Cecil -- one of the most overlooked pitching prospects in the minors -- and compare him to David Price, the most hyped pitching prospect in the minors.

I think most people would be very surprised to learn that not only has Cecil matched Price's stats, but he's done so at a younger age and has generally outperformed Price. To get things started, let's just look at the basics.

I don't want to spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting scouting reports or opinions about the 2 pitchers that are bouncing around the internet, but I would like to take a detailed look at each pitchers' stats and performance records over the last year or so.

For the record, Price was at advanced A ball earlier this year, which is a bit more difficult than regular A ball. But it's pretty obvious that Cecil performed very well, and perhaps even better than Price. The 18 months difference in age is quite significant as well.

The above AA ball stats are probably the best numbers to use in comparing these 2 pitchers. AA ball tends to be fairly uniform in terms of difficulty, and both pitchers had 50+ innings while at that level. Once again, the age difference between Cecil and Price is fairly significant, indicating that while their stats seem relatively similar, Cecil is in fact on a more advanced developmental curve than Price. Another interesting point to make is the difference in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is an adjustment of ERA that takes into account a team's fielding percentage, park factors, and luck. Cecil's FIP was over a point lower than Price's, suggesting that Price wasn't nearly as dominant as he looked.

I'm not going to spend much time on AAA stats since both pitchers have under 20 innings at this point. Their numbers are a bit skewed, but the general trends are still apparent. Cecil continues to strike out more hitters at a younger age, while also inducing more ground balls. His control isn't quite as good as that of Price, but it's still very good for his age (speaking of his A and AA ball walk rates, and not so much his AAA stats). While their respective ERAs are very high, their FIPs indicate that they've both been a bit unlucky, and their allowed run totals should drop back to about 3 runs per game.

I don't really have much more to say about these 2 pitchers, except that while they are both very good, Cecil is the more talented of the 2. He has some very good comparables, including Roger Clemens and Phil Hughes, and his future looks very bright. I'll try and come up with some projections for him this week, but he easily ranks as one of the top 5 pitching prospects in the game right now, and will likely surprise a lot of people over the next few years.

...Read more


Anonymous said...

It's hard to compare pitchers in the minors. Price hasn't dominated as much as some people thought, but he's still been very good, and he still throws very hard for a lefty and has that plus slider that just falls off the plate.

I know you're not a huge fan of his, but I am. I just think he's got too much going for him not to be a dominant pitcher. Right now, his problem is the Rays want him to work on his changeup, and it's simply not that good of a pitch right now. If they let him just throw strictly his slider and fastball, I think his numbers all around would be better, although it wouldn't be good for his development.

Adam G said...

Thanks for the comment.

Before I respond, let me say that it's not that I dislike Price, I just don't think he's as fantastic as 98% of the world thinks he is.

You make a good point about the change up. The Rays really want Price to work on it, with the assumption that they'll throw him in the starting rotation next spring. However, the fact that he's almost 23 and his change up is such a weakness only accentuates the fact that he just isn't as great as everyone thinks he is. Every minor league pitcher (and most major league pitchers) are constantly working on their pitches, and it's just part of their developmental curve. Even if 2 years from now Price has a devastating change up, he'll still be 25 years old with 4 to 5 years max before his skills taper off due to age.

If Price is able to perform at peak levels through his mid-30's then he could be a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. But, very few pitchers are able to extend their best years past the age of 31 or 32, so we can only assume that Price will do the same until he proves otherwise. I'd much rather take a pitcher like Brett Anderson who is 2 years ahead of Price, and will essentially have 2-3 more peak years.

Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion and you certainly make an excellent argument. That said, learning a changeup past the age of 23 isn't impossible. Some of the best pitchers in baseball were late bloomers. Roy Halladay when he first got called up, got lit up, was sent to the minors, and reinvented himself as a pitcher. He added a sinker to his arsenal, which although took some MPHs off his originally mid-90s fastball, had much more movement and was tons more harder to hit. Randy Johnson didn't make his debut until he was 25, and didn't really learn to harness his craft until around age 28. Guys like Brandon Webb were mediocre in the minors and dominant in the majors. Sandy Koufax was a mediocre pitcher when he first came up and took years to learn his craft.

That's why I think age, although important in hitting prospects, is somewhat overrated with pitchers. Some hit a peak early and never improve, while others are late bloomers and don't truly figure it out until their mid to late-20s. Pitching is one of the toughest things to do in all of sport, and it can take years to master it. Some never do.

Adam G said...

I definitely agree with everything you said. My problem is that the majority of pitchers (and hitters for that matter) do not improve past the age of 30. For every player like Randy Johnson that improves into their mid-30's, there are 10 or 12 players that for physiological reasons, see a rapid decline in their skill level in their early 30's. Males in general go through rapid changes in their hormone levels, lean muscle mass, and ability to repair their bodies once they get past their 20's, and it's just a fact of life. The steroid era kind of made us forget about all of that.

Like I said, Price could be the exception and be a great pitcher into his late-30's, but I have to apply general rules to his projections until he proves to be on a different developmental trend.

Anonymous said...

Nice Article. I have been following Cecils career so far and Cecil offers a devastating slider. He worked with BJ Ryan on learning how to back door in on right handers. He also is commanding his curve and change well. This bodes well for his career IMO. I think a little more command out of Cecil and the Jays will have a real winner.

Joel L said...

Hey Adam good post. However, I am a little confused as to how you measure the FIP. This is the first time I've heard of this.

I like both of these pitchers as well, and you add Brett Anderson and MadBaum to the mix and you have four of the best young arms and they're all lefties. Definitely a good time to be a baseball fan.

Anonymous said...

Funny to look back at this and kind of depressing as a Blue Jays fan