Pittsburgh Pirates relief prospect Blake Cederlind has barely pitched in three years, so what will the Bucs do with him in 2023?
Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed relief prospect Blake Cederlind seemed destined for a regular bullpen role not long ago. He was showing off a ton of promise in Spring Training 2020 when he regularly hit triple-digits. Fast forward to October 2022, and Cederlind has just four total innings under his belt since that 2020 Spring Training.
Cederlind underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of Spring Training 2021. That completely eliminated him from the 2021 season. Then came the 2022 season, in which he seemed on pace to eventually return. But by August, Cederlind underwent another surgery, this time to remove loose bodies in his right elbow.
Although the second procedure wasn’t as much of a setback as his 2021 Tommy John surgery, it eliminated him from the second season in a row. It’s been three seasons now since Cederlind has thrown more than five innings in a season, so where do the Pirates go from here with the relief prospect?
When Cederlind pitched in 2019, he did pretty well. Cederlind worked to the tune of a 2.28 ERA, 3.39 FIP, and 1.18 WHIP through 59.1 innings of work. Although he had a mediocre 21.9% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate, he induced ground balls at a 48.4% rate while having a strong 17.4% LD%. This helped him allow just two home runs all year.
When Cederlind last pitched in 2020, his sinker averaged out at 98.2 MPH, and a cutter came in at 89.7 MPH. He also threw both offerings with above-average movement. Cederlind doesn’t have pinpoint command, but he didn’t walk enough guys for it to be a massive problem. Despite throwing hard, he is more of a ground ball pitcher than he is a strikeout pitcher.
Cederlind is still part of the Pirate 40-man roster, and they’ll need to make room for him at the start of the offseason. Of course, that also makes him a potential DFA candidate since he is taking up a 40-man roster spot and has barely pitched in three years. The Pirates have plenty of other and better prospects to protect than Cederlind.
But the Pirates will probably find room on the roster without having to DFA Cederlind. They also have a ton of question marks in the bullpen aside from David Bednar, Yerry De Los Santos, Colin Holderman, and Wil Crowe. If Cederlind is back to full health, I don’t see why not give him a bullpen role out of Spring Training.
Even though Cederlind has barely pitched in three years, I feel the Pittsburgh Pirates should still give him a shot. He isn’t guaranteed to be back to his 2019 self, but you never know until you try him out. At the very worst, he slots into a low-leverage role and struggles before being sent back to Triple-A or DFA’d outright. The best case scenario is the Pirates find another reliable high-leverage arm to set games up for Bednar.