Justin Masterson and Brett Cecil Are Mirror Images

By R.J. Anderson //

There are only so many ways to make it to the major leagues. You
have to be good at something; whether it’s hitting for average or
power, pitching with great stuff or excellent command; or excelling at
defense. Two of the youngest and most promising American League
starters this season share quite a bit in common, both being talented
but still flawed pitchers. Those two SP: Brett Cecil and Justin Masterson.

When the Jays drafted the 6’1″ Cecil, he was finishing up his career
at the University of Maryland as a closer. In fact, he made fewer than
10 starts during his collegiate career, but showed promise as a
potential late-inning reliever who could be placed on the accelerated
path to a big league bullpen. The Jays selected him in the supplemental
phase of round one in 2007’s draft, and immediately converted him to
starting. He spent less than two seasons in the minors before being
promoted as a 22-year-old last year. Cecil went 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA in
17 starts.

On the other hand, Masterson came out of San Diego University and
the Boston Red Sox quickly groomed him as a swingman. He started 36
games in the minors while entering 17 others as a reliever. Promoted to
Boston, a team with strong starting pitching depth, he started only 15
games while entering 42 others out of the pen. He only became a
full-time starter after the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland last July.

Beyond those similarities, the biggest trait the two pitchers share
is an inability to retire opposite-handed batters. Masterson has held
righties to a .699 OPS this season; but lefties have a .462 slugging
percentage and .392 on-base percentage (.854 OPS) against him. When his
days as a set-up man are factored in, the difference holds true; a .626
OPS against righties, .848 OPS against lefties. Cecil, meanwhile, can
get lefties out – their career line against him is .232/.269/.388 – but
struggles with righties: .280/.353/.451. For a further illustration of
Cecil’s struggles, consider this:

cecil1.png

If you could combine the two pitchers, taking each of their
strengths and placing them into one pitcher, you would have someone
capable of retiring both hands without ease.Dr. Frankenstein isn’t
walking through the doors of a baseball facility anytime soon, though,
unless it’s to retrieve Shelley Duncan,
meaning the hopes of improvement hinge not on the advancements of
modern science and surgical precision, but on the ability of either
pitcher, or both, to make strides at adaption.

From
a scouting perspective, the better bet is Masterson. Cecil is short for
a starting pitcher, with a fastball that lives in the low-90s.
Masterson is no vintage Pedro, but his fastball moves faster and his
ability to rank among the league leaders in groundball rate during any
given season appears legitimate. Beyond that, Masterson is more likely
to face a bunch of right-handed hitters than Cecil. This season alone,
Masterson is facing righties roughly 46% of the time; Cecil is facing
lefties 22% of the time. As is the same with positional players, if you
have two at a position with extreme platoon splits and you can only
keep one, keep the one who will be useful more of the time.

One caveat: Masterson’s pitching motion, typically from a
three-quarters angle, might always invite a significant split. He’s a
fine player to own in AL-only leagues, but not an ideal choice for a
shallow mixed league.

For more information on Masterson, Cecil, and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

1 Comment

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