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Rays 2017 Season Preview: Xavier Cedeno, setup man

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After a long road to the majors, Cedeno has found his groove

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

Xavier Cedeno is a 30 year-old, left-handed, Puerto Rican pitcher who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2004.

When he was initially selected 920th, he was a starting pitcher, one of the many (not very successful) attempts by that team to find reliable starting pitching. Cedeno played in the Rockies minor league system from 2005-2009 never making it past AA. He eventually was released in 2010, and sat out that year.

Cedeno got another chance to prove himself with the Houston Astros. He signed a minor league deal and had a good run in AA, setting the club’s record for strikeouts in a single game (14K), a performance that earned him a promotion to AAA. He made his major league debut in September, 2011.

Signing another minor league deal with the Astros in 2012, he went on to have excellent AAA numbers and was able to finish the season at the major league level with a decent 3.77 ERA, a FIP lower than his ERA (3.48), and good K and BB%’s. Unfortunately for him, he was placed on waivers after a rough start to 2013.

The good news for Cedeno was that he was claimed by the Nationals on April 23rd, 2013. He was sent to AAA Syracuse where he dominated his competition with a 1.31 ERA in 39.1 innings. But like his last stint, he performed well at the minors, but played below average tonaverage in the majors. The Nationals designated him for assignment on April 14th, 2015.

Cedeno was in for a wild ride. He was traded for cash from the Nationals to the Dodgers 8 days after his designation for assignment, for cash. He did not even last 2 days at the major league level before being designated for assignment again. This is where the Rays swooped in to grab Cedeno. The Dodgers happily traded him on April 27th, 2015, again for cash.

Luckily for the Rays, he blossomed in St. Pete. He finished the 2015 season with a 2.35 ERA, 3.26 FIP, and continuing good K% and BB%, becoming a leader in the bullpen. He was lethal against lefties holding hitters to a batting average of .196 and an OBP of .243.

Overall, the Rays got a pretty good relief pitcher most clubs gave up on for a cheap price.

2016 Season

Cedeno continued to pitch effectively in 2016. Not known for his overpowering fastball (which averages 88 MPH), he relied on breaking stuff as an out pitch: he primarily threw a 4-seam fastball (72.2% of the time) and a curve ball (24.8% of the time).

He was able to bring his opponent batting average down to .224, and was even more devastating against lefties, while improving against righties. He allowed lefties to hit .188, while righties hit .259. These averages show that he is really good against left handed hitters, while continuing to get better against right handed hitters. On top of all this great news, he had a sub-four ERA, while having an impressive FIP of 2.64. He ultimately ended the season with a WAR of .9. For a relief pitcher to have an almost 1 WAR is extremely impressive. Cedeno has become a reliable pitcher, especially against left handed batters.

Here are Cedeno’s statistics for those interested.

2017 Outlook

Cedeno is slated to be on the opening day roster as a setup man, currently the bullpen’s only lefty. He will also surely be tested right away, on opening day, due to the Yankees one-two punch of Gardner and Ellsbury, with Bird somewhere in the mix.

Steamer projects Cedeno twith an ERA of 3.40 and a FIP of 3.66, striking out nearly a batter an inning. He is projected to hold opponents to a .237 BA and is good for .4 WAR.

As a veteran who has proven to be effective against lefties and able to hold his own against righties, Cedeno figures to play a key role in 2017.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports