Cease’s up-and-down start to the season made him tough to get a read on, but a string of consistent starts has pushed him to Double A and has the stock trending upwards entering the Futures Game.
The fastball sat 96-to-97 mph in my April look, reaching the 98-to-99 mph range a handful of times. If he runs into trouble at higher levels as a starter, it’s because of fastball command that still is a grade worse than his walk rates. Even when he’s technically in the zone with his fastball, Cease can miss spots often. He has the arm-strength to bail the in-zone location out to some degree, but the development of the actual command likely is the determinant in the “starter versus reliever” debate. His 75-to-77 mph curveball is the primary off-speed pitch, showing above-average potential with flashes of sharp, late action when he finishes it. A new wrinkle as a mid-80s slider that shows hard cut action to his glove side. Cease’s changeup is still a work in progress: there’s separation on the pitch at 82-to-84 mph, but it’s at the expense of arm speed and deception. He telegraphs the CHG and it straightens out over the plate.
Opponents have hit just .178 across Cease’s last six starts, and his 0.93 WHIP and 7.8% walk rate since June hint that he’s figuring out his delivery. I see Cease as a late bloomer, though his stuff and potential impact are worth the wait. He will get every chance to stay in the rotation, where the ceiling is a true front-three rotation piece if he can develop enough control and pitchability. The swing/miss ability gives the fallback of an impact reliever.