A hard throwing reliever enters 2020 as a breakout candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates
In the 5th round of the 2016 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected right-handed pitcher Blake Cederlind. After beginning his career as a starting pitcher, in 2018 Cederlind became a full time reliever. Since then, his stock as a prospect has steadily climbed.
Last season Cederlind pitched at three levels. With High-A Bradenton he posted a 1.17 ERA, 3.57 FIP and a 23.5% strikeout rate. However, his 17.7% walk rate was, well, bad. With Double-A Altoona, his strikeout rate dipped a bit to 22.7%, but his walk rate dropped all the way to 8.7%. This led to a 1.77 ERA and a 3.06 FIP for the Curve.
It was with the Curve where Cederlind pitched the majority of his season logging 45.2 of his 59.1 innings. He then finished his season pitching 6 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis. With the Indians, he was burnt by a .435 batting average on balls in play to go with two walks and five strikeouts. With the Indians he finished with a 7.50 ERA and a 5.62 FIP.
Earlier this offseason Cederlind was added to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Even though he still has refining to do, this was the correct move to make. Due to his high ceiling some team would have taken a chance on Cederlind in the Rule 5 Draft. Especially with how easy it can be to protect a reliever on an active roster, and that was before rosters expanded from 25 players to 26.
Cederlind throws a power fastball that regular hits triple digits. In addition to being a power fastball, this pitch also has good sink which has contributed to him averaging a healthy 48.5% groundball rate in his career. His breaking ball and change up both continue to be a work in progress, but his slider has a lot of potential. Most importantly, his command improved greatly in 2019.
If Cederlind can continue to pitch with improved control, while also improving one of his secondary pitched he can become a real weapon out of a MLB bullpen. He will certainly be a prospect worth watching in 2020, and, odds are, Pirate fans will see him in Pittsburgh at some point.