The Pittsburgh Pirates will have multiple breakout candidates for the 2021 season, one of the biggest is right-handed relief pitcher Blake Cederlind
Entering the 2021 season the Pittsburgh Pirates will have plenty of opportunities to go around in the bullpen. As we have previously discussed on the site lefty Blake Weiman and righty Nick Mears will both have opportunities out of the bullpen in 2021. Another young reliever who will have an opportunity to make an impact next season is Blake Cederlind.
Out of these three pitchers, Cederlind may have the biggest opportunity of them all. He is the most MLB ready of the trio, as well as having argaubly the highest ceiling of the three. Furthermore, of the three, Cederlind is the most likely to crack the Opening Day bullpen.
Cederlind made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020 firing 4.0 innings in five games. In these 4.0 innings of work Cederlind allowed two runs on three hits, a walk, no home runs allowed, and four strikeouts.
Cederlind throws a fastball-slider combo. His fastball averaged 98.2 MPH in 2020 and touches 100+ MPH regularly. His slider has the potential to be a wipe out pitch. The pitched averaged a healthy 89.8 MPH last season and generated a healthy 50% whiff rate.
In the minors Cederlind did a good job limiting both right-handed and left-handed hitters. During the 2019 season, RHHs slashed just .168/.262/.196 against Cederlind. While he was not dominant against LHHs the way he was RHHs, they still hit for just a .252/.352/.396 slash line.
During that 2019 season Cederlind was dominant at the Double-A level. He posted a 1.77 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 8.6% walk rate, 22.7% strikeout rate, and allowed just one home run in 45.2 innings of work.
His work at Double-A earned Cederlind his first promotion to the Triple-A level. With the Indianapolis Indians Cederlind did run into some trouble posting a 7.50 ERA and a 5.62 FIP, however, these results came in just 6.0 innings of work. He again allowed just one home run while his walk rate dropped to 6.3% at the Triple-A level.
If he is not traded, odds are, Richard Rodriguez will be the Pirate closer when the 2021 season begins. Even if he is the closer, Cederlind should still have an important role in the bullpen as he competes with Chris Stratton and the returning Edgar Santana for high leverage situations.
Rodriguez will likely be a trade candidate when the July trade deadline rolls around. This, combined with Cederlind’s talent and high ceiling, there is a good chance he could be the Pirate closer by the end of the 2021 season. Once he grabs that role, it is one he may keep a vice grip on for quite awhile.