Brett Cecil – Cecil grew up right where I live and pitched for my high school’s big rival: Dematha (a school that produced David Aldridge, Keith Bogans, Mike Brey, James Brown, Adrian Dantley, Joe Forte, Paul Rabil, Brian Westbrook and others). Cecil has the chance to be the best baseball player to ever come out of the school.
In 2007, the Blue Jays made Cecil the 38th overall selection in the draft. He pitched a bit in A- ball for the Jays in 2007, showing some promising signs: 10.15 K/9 rate, just 1.99 BB/9 and a 1.27 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 13 starts.
In 2008, he split time between A+, AA and AAA, pitching quite well at each stop. The majority of damage came at AA. In 18 starts, he posted a 10.08 K/9 rate, 2.67 BB/9 rate, 2.55 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
It surprised no one that he would start 2009 in AAA. However, his success, or lack thereof, was surprising. His Ks went way down (5.88), his walks went up (3.49) and his ratios suffered: 5.69 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. However, the Jays, one of the smartest organizations in the American League East (and therefore baseball), realized that his strand rate (52.6%) was ridiculous, so they brought him up to the show for the majority of 2009.
While his season would look ugly (5.30 ERA, 5.37 FIP and 1.65 WHIP), he got his K-rate up to 6.65 and his walk rate was at 3.66. Meanwhile his BABIP (.338) and HR/FB rate (14.8%) seemed to suggest he was just darn unlucky.
The Jays and some fantasy owners expected a good step forward in 2010 and we got it. While his Ks went down a tad (6.10), his swinging strike percentage went up to 9.2%, his line drive rate went down and his ground balls went up. Not surprisingly, his BABIP (.293) and HR/FB rate (8.7%) got closer to normal. At the end of the year, Cecil had a 4.22 ERA, 4.03 FIP and 1.33 WHIP spread across 28 starts.
This is where we are reminded that baseball is rarely a linear game. If you expected Cecil to take another step forward in 2011, you were dead wrong. He gave up five or six runs in three of his first five starts and had a 6.86 ERA at the end of April.
Cecil was dispatched back to AAA. While his Ks returned (7.21) and his walks went down (2.75), they weren’t exactly reflected in his ratios (5.26 ERA and 1.44).
Still, either the Jays believed in the underlying numbers or really needed an arm as Cecil returned to the majors on June 30, and promptly gave up six runs in 6.1 IPs against the lowly Pirates. A small matter of solace is that he managed to strike out six Buccos. At that point, his ERA sat at 7.24.
Well, remember when I said baseball wasn’t a linear game? Since June 30, in 10 starts and 70.1 IPs, Cecil has a 3.33 ERA and 46 Ks to only 20 walks. I love me some Brett Cecil. He is just 25 and already has 360+ MLB innings. I think he’ll finish the year strong and post 25-30 more Ks. You might want to avoid some of his tougher matchups, but, otherwise, I’m fine using him.
Felipe Paulino – In 2001, as an 18-year-old, Paulino was signed by the Houston Astros. He’d feel his way through Rookie Ball from 2003 – 2004 until 2005, when he pitched 55 innings spread across A- and A ball. He would look damn good too: 2.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
Clearly, he was ready for A+…or, not as his Ks dwindled (6.48) and his walks skyrocketed (4.20). There was no silver lining in those numbers either, as his FIP (4.66) was actually worse than his terribly mediocre ERA (4.35).
Still, he got a promotion in 2007 to AA ball and got his swagger back: 8.84 K/9, 3.94 BB/9 and reasonable ratios (3.62 ERA and 1.36 WHIP). He’d start three games that year in the majors and appear in two others. His appearances would be utterly forgetful if they weren’t so tragically bad (7.11 ERA with a 20.8% HR/FB rate).
The roller coaster of a career would get bumpier in 2008, as he missed the majority of the season, tallying just 0.2 IPs in AAA. Undeterred, he was back in AAA in 2009. While his cosmetics looked good (3.12 ERA), he was walking everyone and their mom (5.97 BB/9), yet the Astros had no problem promoting him to the majors. While his Ks (8.57) looked promising and he appeared to get his walks (3.41) sort of in order, he still gave up a ton of long balls and line drives. At this point, it looked like Paulino was going to straddle the line between average reliever and below average starter.
His 2010 season did nothing to clear this up. The Ks remained, but he walked a ton more guys. However he was also the benefit of good and bad luck. While he had a totally serviceable line drive rate his, BABIP was .331 and, even with a low HR/FB rate, his strand rate was near criminal (58.5%). His unpalatable ERA (5.11) and FIP (3.44) weren’t in the same zip code. Of course, FIP takes into account his 3.6% HR/FB rate (which isn’t real sustainable), so when you look at xFIP (which normalizes the HR/FB rate), you get 4.36. Still that’s pretty darn good for a guy who can strike out a bunch of players.
Unfortunately, the Astros, in their infinite wisdom, didn’t see much in Paulino, shipping him to Colorado for Clint Barmes. (I assume in an effort to motivate Jeff Keppinger or the other dozen or so replacement level middle infielders they had.)
The Rockies looked poise to give Paulino the Jorge de la Rosa treatment – however he couldn’t find his way into the rotation and had his contract sold to the Royals (a potential reverse de la Rosa move?).
Paulino has started 15 games for the Royals and has posted a 7.85 K/9 rate, 3.27 BB/9 rate, 3.83 ERA and 3.42 FIP). He is getting less solid contact with the Royals, yet his BABIP remains high. He is still getting a great swinging strike percentage which can lead to fantastic K games. In fact, over his last 10 starts and 61.1 IPs, he a 4.26 ERA and 55 Ks – not too shabby.
He’ll never likely be a sub-4.00 pitcher and there will be some ugly games when he walks the entire team. However, his ERA should hover in the mid-4.00s and provide a bevy of Ks. In deep leagues, I’m all over that kind of production.
Edwin Encarnacion – Encarnacion, or E5, was a ninth round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2000. However, before he could get his feet wet, he was shipped, along with Ruben Mateo, to Cincinnati for a reliever named Rob Bell.
In 2002, at A ball, Encarnacion looked awesome: 17 HRs, and a .282/.338/.458 line – sure the plate discipline (108 Ks to just 40 walks) would hurt his average development, but that’s fine with that kind of power.
Throughout the minors, Encarnacion just hit for power and hit for a decent average. From 2003 – 2007, he never batted below .272 at any level and currently has a .278/.345/.425 at AA and .329/.396/.565 line at AAA.
He earned near fulltime duties with the Reds in 2006 and rewarded them for their foresight with a .276/.359/.473 and 15 homers in 117 games. He wasn’t swinging and missing a ton (8.7%), was posting a fine line drive rate (21.1%) and his strike out rate (16.7%) and walk rate (8.8%) weren’t detrimental. Add all those up and he was going to be a major league regular with fine power for years to come.
Or not…as he struggled immensely out of the gate in 2007. At the end of April, he was batting .221/.294/.260 and was sitting at .250/.327/.357 at the end of May. At that point he had just three dingers and he began to lose playing time to Ryan Freel to free up space in the outfield for a former Rays prospect named Josh Hamilton. E5 was sent down to the minors on May 9, but would return two weeks later. After he returned, Encarnacion went .307/.370/.476 with 15 HRs in 108 games.
With Hamilton traded, 2008 was clearly going to be the year for Encarnacion to solidify himself as a solid MLB regular. While he hit 25 bombs, he batted just .251/.340/.466 and committed an ungodly 23 errors. Encarnacion was striking out a tad more but was also walking a bit more. For some reason, though, he wasn’t hitting the ball with much authority. His FB rate spiked, perhaps as he was trying to jack everything that came to him. This hurt his BABIP and destroyed his ability to get on base.
After going .209/.333/.374 in 43 games for the Reds in 2009, they shipped him, Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen. While E5 hit a few more homers for the Jays, he’d perform worse, stumbling to a .240/.306/.442 line.
His 2010 was little different – Encarnacion fielded poorly, hit some homers, but couldn’t get on base.
The following year seemed to be no different – at the end of June, 2011, he sat at .250/.283/.404. Encarnacion seemed finished. However, since that time he has gone .304/.388/.527 with nine homers in 50 games. He has struck out just 35 times and walked 23 times. While this is a small sample, it’s a huge step in the right direction if it can continue.
Encarnacion can hit .265-.280 the rest of the way with 5+ HRs. He’s good cheap power in a good deep lineup. Previously, I’ve wanted nothing to do with Encarnacion – I’m about to change my tune.