One of the main needs that the Washington Nationals attempted to address this winter was in their bullpen. After dealing Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A’s, Washington signed Casey Janssen to a one-year, $5 million deal. The organization also has signed some relievers to minor league deals such as Heath Bell, Evan Meek, and Manny Delcarmen.
Mainly, for this article, I want to focus on the Nats recent signing of lefty reliever Rich Hill to a minor league deal that happened last Friday. If the 34-year old reliever were to make the Major League roster, that would mean that the team would likely have three lefties for Matt Williams to choose from in Hill, Matt Thornton, and Jerry Blevins.
So, where does that leave Xavier Cedeno? The 28-year old reliever out of Puerto Rico has a 2.77 ERA in 28 career appearances with Washington. Can he win a spot in a bullpen that looks to go to creative mix-and-match options in the seventh and eighth innings? Cedeno could be the odd man out in that scenario if Hill impresses the team in Spring Training.
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When you look at Cedeno’s numbers from last season, six of his nine appearances came in September. In those situations, he struggled mightily, pitching to a 7.36 ERA and giving up six hits in 17 at-bats by opponents.
Cedeno’s Spring Training appearances have increased each of the last three seasons (He was with Houston in 2012 and 2013). This includes making ten appearances for the Nats last Spring as he went 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA, struck out six batters and walked two.
Another factor is that Cedeno has already shown he can dominate at the triple-A level. In four seasons at AAA (104 appearances), he has a career ERA of 2.83 and a 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Last season with the Syracuse Chiefs, he went 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA, had 57 strikeouts in 39 innings of work and had 13 strikeouts per nine innings.
Cedeno has a lot of versatility in his pitch arsenal when you look at the fact he throws five pitches: cutter, fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to Fangraphs, the lefty has on average a 91 mile per hour fastball and a 90 mph cutter, which he uses about 65% of the time. His other pitch he uses often is his slider (26%).
The bullpen battle in Spring Training will be interesting to watch especially amongs the lefties. Can Cedeno show that he has the potential to make it to the Major Leagues? We are going to find out!