Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ghosts of Astros Past: the Xavier Cedeno Edition.

The Astros are in a rebuild.  The phase that they are currently in is one where roster spots are at a premium, while they are tasked with sorting through which players are legitimate Major Leaguers, and which players aren't going to make it.  What they can't afford to do is let talent seep out of the organisation, which is inevitable when roster crunches occur.  So lets have a quick look at some taken which has recently left the Astros organisation.  Today is....

Xavier Cedeno.

Xavier Cedeno is a 27-year old left-handed relief pitcher with the Nationals.  He was originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies out of Miami-Dade College in the 31st Round of the 2004 draft.  He signed in May 2005.  Cedeno, whilst with the Rockies, spent 2006 in Lo-A, 2007 in Hi-A, 2008 in AA, 2009 in Hi-A and AA and 2010 out of organised baseball after being released by the Rockies.  In December 2010, he was signed by the Astros, and he remained in the Astros organisation until April 23, 2013, where he was selected off waivers by the Washington Nationals.

With the Astros, Cedeno spent 2011 in AA and AAA, eventually getting a cup of coffee, pitching 1.2 innings for the Astros.  In 2012, he spent the season shuttling between AAA and the Bigs, and in 2013, he spent the first three weeks of the season with the Astros before getting released.

In his time with the Astros in 2012 (his first real ML action) he recorded a 1.45 GB/FB ratio, with a 15% line-drive rate.  He struck out a lot of batters (10.45 K/9), but also walked a few (4.06 BB/9).  He recorded a .321 BABIP.  He was relatively effective with a 96 ERA- and 90 FIP-, with a 3.48 FIP.  In 2013, however, he struggled to an 11.37 ERA in five games (6.1IP) with the Astros and was released.  With the Nationals in the Majors later in 2013, he appeared in 11 games, pitching 6 innings, and recording a 1.50 ERA, likely representing more use as a LOOGY and less as a non-platooned relief pitcher.

However, it was 2013 with the Nationals in AAA that he really started making strides.  He increased his strikeout rate (11.8 per nine) and held his walk rate steady (4.19 per nine).  He pitched to a .276 BABIP, which resulted in a 1.31 ERA.  He may have started adding a little velocity to his fastball around this time, but because minor league velocity data is not readily available, it is hard to tell.

2014 has thus far been very good for Cedeno, albeit in a small sample.  In his AAA work this year, he has continued to increase his strikeout rate (12.27 per nine) whilst walking practically no one (1.84 per nine) in a small sample of 14 innings.  This would represent his highest career strikeout rate, and lowest career walk rate by nearly 1BB per nine (his next lowest walk rate was in 2011, in AAA with the 'stros, 2.77 per nine, and his career BB/9 is 4.18).  He continues to exhibit a reasonable 2014 BABIP (.258) and low ERA (1.23)

This year in the Bigs, he has thrown harder, adding around 2.1mph on his average fastball velocity compared with 2013, 2.8mph on his curve compared to 2012, and 3.3mph on his change compared with 2011.  However, he has only managed a few innings in the Majors in 2014, and was optioned to make room for Gio Gonzalez to come off the DL to make tomorrow's start.  He has only thrown 2.1IP this year - note, again, small sample size.

Did the Astros lose some talent with Cedeno??  Likely, yes, and the improvements in both his strikeout and walk rates in the minors is interesting.  Adding a few mph to his pitches may have helped, but he still does not throw very hard.  However, he is yet to put it all together consistently in the Majors, and with Darin Downs, Tony Sipp and Kevin Chapman as the current crop of Astros lefty relievers, Cedeno is unlikely to me missed.  

However, if Xavier Cedeno can take those improvements in strikeout and walk rates from AAA to the Majors, he could be a very valuable asset.  Just not for the Astros.

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