Author Archives: Jason WIllis

Jason Willis’ 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

With the NFL draft nearly here, it is time to finalize the player rankings. In a draft where no one has any idea what’s going to happen, nearly everyone will have a different set of rankings on their big board.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than at quarterback. With four passers expected to be taken in the first round, there is no consensus among pundits on who the best one is. With so many sizes and shapes at the position, it promises to be debated for years to come.

While most of the conversation centers around the quarterbacks, the class is quite deep. With a litany of tight ends, pass rushers, and cornerbacks, there is talent to be found throughout the draft.

Throughout this draft process, I watched over 120 players. In these rankings, positional value, injury history, and off-field issues were not taken into account. Rather, it is just a ranking of how I view each player’s talent. And now, on to my big board for the 2023 NFL draft.

NFL Draft Big Board: First Round Grades

1. Jalen Carter, DT (Georgia)

Yes, the off-field issues will scare teams away. However, on the field, there is little doubt that Carter is the best player in this year’s draft class. A truly dominant presence on the interior, he was the best player on a Georgia defense that had numerous first round selections. Simply put, he will become an All-Pro in short order. Carter is an easy choice for the top of my 2023 NFL draft big board.

2. Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon)

An elite athlete at a premier position, Gonzalez is a smooth mover, at 6’1″, who is ready-made for the NFL. A willing tackler who succeeds in both man and zone coverage, he does a great job attacking the ball as well. The prototype cornerback for the NFL, Gonzalez is reminiscent of the Broncos’ Patrick Surtain.

3. Devon Witherspoon, CB (Illinois)

Another corner at the top of my NFL draft big board, Witherspoon is going to bring attitude and confidence to whatever defense he joins. A player who relishes the chance to lay big hits, he stays physical in coverage and gets his hands on the ball. He will be a Pro Bowl caliber player from day one if he can add weight.

4. Will Anderson Jr., EDGE (Alabama)

The best pass rusher in the class, Anderson likely would’ve been the first overall pick last season if he could have entered the draft. A game wrecker off the edge who dominates the run, he still has room to grow as a pass rusher. Still, he will be a Pro Bowl-caliber player from day one — and will only get better going forward.

5. C.J. Stroud, QB (Ohio State)

My number one quarterback in the class, Stroud has all the qualities of an NFL quarterback. After showing tremendous poise during his time at Ohio State, he was immensely productive through the use of his deep ball, which he throws as well as anyone on the planet. More than capable of making plays outside of the pocket, he has a bright future ahead of him.

6. Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)

A former Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion, Bryce Young is a proven winner in the biggest games. When the play breaks down, there aren’t many better. With elite field vision, he consistently makes correct decisions and delivers the ball accurately.

Of course, the size concerns are real. However, his talent and leadership ability are worth the risk. He may not have an incredibly long career, but it will be a productive one.

7. Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)

The most talented running back we have seen in many years, there really is not much that Robinson can’t do. A fit for any scheme, he can run with power, make you miss and catch the ball out of the backfield.

8. Anthony Richardson, QB (Florida)

The most physically gifted quarterback in the class, Richardson is perhaps the draft’s biggest question mark. While he doesn’t have a large amount of snaps under his belt, he is much further along in his development than most give him credit for. Perhaps the best athlete we have ever seen at the position, he is another player with a very bright future if he lands in the right spot.

9. Joey Porter Jr., CB (Penn State)

A freak athlete with insanely long arms, he has the physical gifts to overwhelm wide receivers in the NFL. With great ball skills, Porter has all the tools to become one of the leagues best corners.

10. Darnell Wright, OT (Tennessee)

Possessing a massive frame, Wright easily overpowers defenders in the run game. Against the pass, his long arms allow him to get a solid first punch, and he has impressive athletic ability that allows him to match speed around the edge. While adjusting to an NFL offense might take time, Wright will be a top-tier offensive tackle before long.

11. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB (Alabama)

The “other” first round running back in this class, Gibbs is lightning fast with the ability to make a guy miss in a phone booth. The best receiving back in the class, he is ready-made for the NFL. Some will be concerned about his size, but you can’t hit what you can’t touch.

12. Tyree Wilson, EDGE (Texas Tech)

A physical freak who dominated in the Big 12, Wilson might be the best pass rusher on some teams’ boards. A day one starter, he has Pro Bowl potential from day one.

13. Nolan Smith, EDGE (Georgia)

After blowing up the combine with his elite athletic traits, Nolan Smith has received some comparisons to the Eagles’ Hassan Reddick. Players with his traits never last long, and that is especially true at pass rusher.

14. Peter Skoronski, OT (Northwestern)

One of the safest prospects in the class, Skoronski doesn’t have any glaring holes in his game. Whether he plays at tackle or guard, he will be an NFL starter from day one and for many years after.

15. O’Cyrus Torrence, G (Florida)

The best interior offensive lineman in the class, Torrence is a smart player who knows how to use his size to his advantage. A mauler in the run game, he uses good hand positioning to be effective in pass sets as well.

16. Zay Flowers, WR (Boston College)

With a similar physical profile to Antonio Brown, the comp has been thrown around. After all, Flowers is supremely explosive down the field, plays with attitude and love for the game, and has terrific hands through contact. While the comps to Brown are lofty, Flowers can have a similar impact on an NFL offense.

17. Myles Murphy, EDGE (Clemson)

An incredibly “toolsy” prospect with all the natural ability to become a double-digit sack guy in the NFL, Murphy makes for a relatively easy evaluation. Likely to be selected in the middle of the first round, he gives any defense an immediate jolt.

18. Jordan Addison, WR (USC)

Once the Biletnikoff award winner at the University of Pittsburgh, Addison experienced an up-and-down season while at USC last season. Still, he is a gifted route runner who wins from a variety of alignments. He may never be a dominant number one receiver, but he could have a career similar to that of Amari Cooper.

19. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR (Ohio State)

After playing in just three games for Ohio State last season, “JSN” tested well at the NFL Scouting combine. Expected by many to be the first receiver taken, he fits the role of a big slot who can handle a large number of targets, despite never being a dominant wideout.

20. Darnell Washington, TE (Georgia)

At 6’7″ and 264 pounds, Washington is one of the most physically imposing players in the class. Truly a three-down contributor, he acts as another offensive lineman in the run game. Furthermore, his potential as a receiver is immense — and has mostly been untapped.

NFL Draft Big Board: Second Round Grades

21. Emmanuel Forbes, CB (Mississippi State)

An electric defensive back who excels at getting his hands on the ball, Forbes is the definition of ballhawk. However, after weighing in at just 166 pounds at the combine, some teams will definitely be scared off.

22. Kayshon Boutte, WR (LSU)

Considered by some to be the best receiver in the class coming into last season, Boutte never got going in 2022. However, he is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands and could end up being a steal for someone.

23. Michael Mayer, TE (Notre Dame)

A well-rounded tight end prospect who has no weaknesses, he has all the makings of an NFL starter for the next several years. While he has a relatively high ceiling, his floor is high as well, making him one of the safest prospects in the class.

24. Sam LaPorta, TE (Iowa)

In a loaded tight end class, LaPorta seems to be getting overlooked. Hailing from the tight end factory that produced George Kittle, Noah Fant, and T.J. Hockenson, LaPorta has similar qualities to those players. A load to bring down after the catch, he will be a weapon as a receiver.

25. Andrew Voorhees, G (USC)

Unfortunately, Voorhees tore his ACL at the NFL Scouting Combine and will not be available during his rookie season. When on the field however, he has all the makings of a starter on the interior.

26. Keeanu Benton, IDL (Wisconsin)

A powerhouse defensive tackle who will destroy the running game, Benton offers some underrated juice as a pass rusher, as well. One of my favorite players in the class — and someone I expect to see in the league for a long time.

27. Paris Johnson Jr., OT (Ohio State)

At 6’6″ and 313 pounds, Johnson certainly sticks out on film. While he has a massive frame, he moves well for his size and is quite fluid in his pass sets. With experience all along the offensive line, he will be a favorite among NFL teams.

28. Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia)

With incredible athletic ability for the position, Jones is an easy player to get excited about. However, he is not yet a finished product, mostly due to having just two years of experience on the left side. Still, in the right situation, the sky is the limit.

29. Dalton Kincaid, TE (Utah)

Another tight end who has the potential to go in the first round, Kincaid has physical gifts as a receiver that don’t come around often at the position. If he can become even a passable blocker, he will be a highly valuable player in the NFL.

30. Jack Campbell, LB (Iowa)

It’s a really poor linebacker class. With no first round grades at the position, Campbell is as good as it gets in this class. A menace against the run, he is still improving against the pass. With elite athletic ability for the position, his potential is worth a shot early in the draft.

31. Israel Abanikanda, RB (Pitt)

One of my favorite players in the class, he will immediately add explosiveness to an NFL offense. He probably won’t go in the second round, but he is well worth a pick at this spot.

32. Anton Harrison, OT (Oklahoma)

33. John Michael-Schmitz, G (Minnesota)

34. Joe Tippmann, IOL (Wisconsin)

35. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE (Iowa)

A likely first round pick, Van Ness is very much a project. With no starts last season for Iowa, an NFL team will have the opportunity to cultivate his obvious physical gifts.

36. Luke Musgrave, TE (Oregon State)

37. Drew Sanders, LB (Arkansas)

38. Deonte Banks, CB (Maryland)

39. D.J. Turner, CB (Michigan)

40. Jordan Battle, S (Alabama)

41. Josh Downs, WR (North Carolina)

42. Kelee Ringo, DB (Georgia)

A long limbed, tall cornerback, Ringo was a key member of the Georgia defense that won back-to-back National Championships. Alas, he is a work in progress in coverage. Currently, I believe his skill set would benefit from a move to safety.

43. Eli Ricks, CB (Alabama)

44. Jaquelin Roy, DL (LSU)

45. Ricky Stromberg, IOL (Arkansas)

46. Sydney Brown, DB (Illinois)

47. Jayden Reed, WR (Michigan State)

48. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB (Minnesota)

49. Jaelyn Duncan, OT (Maryland)

NFL Draft Big Board: Third Round Grades

50. Felix Aniduke-Uzomah, EDGE (Kansas State)

51. Dawand Jones, OT (Ohio State)

52. Daiyan Henley, LB (Washington State)

53. Tuli Tuipulotu, DL (USC)

54. Calijah Kancey, DL (Pitt)

One of the draft’s most debated players, I just don’t see anyway that he lasts on the inside at 281 pounds. Still, he is a talented pass rusher who will be given every opportunity to prove himself as an outlier.

55. B.J. Ojulari, EDGE (LSU)

56. Derick Hall, EDGE, (Auburn)

57. Devon Achane, RB (Texas A&M)

58. Xavier Hutchinson, WR (Iowa State)

59. Cam Smith, CB (South Carolina)

60. Jalin Hyatt, WR (Tennessee)

61. Quentin Johnston, WR (TCU)

The number one receiver for many, I worry about his ability to separate. Not asked to run a wide variety of routes in school, he often seemed most comfortable attempting 50/50 balls. He will need work in the NFL.

62. Tyjae Spears, RB (Tulane)

63. Will Levis, QB (Kentucky)

Considered one of the top four quarterbacks in the class, he will be a first rounder. However, I just cannot get there with Levis. While his arm is talented and he can move, his accuracy to all levels of the field is concerning. Couple this with his decision making, and I would steer clear in the first two rounds.

64. Henry To’oTo’o, LB (Alabama)

65. Will McDonald, EDGE (Iowa State)

66. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL (Northwestern)

67. Rashee Rice, WR (SMU)

68. Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, WR (Houston)

69. Tyrique Stevenson, CB (Miami)

70. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE (Notre Dame)

71. Julius Brentz, CB (Kansas State)

72. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB (UCLA)

73. Bryan Breese, DL (Clemson)

74. Antonio Johnson, S (Texas A&M)

75. Cody Mauch, G (North Dakota State)

76. Mazi Smith, DL (Michigan)

77. Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)

A highly productive player at Tennessee, Hooker is already 25 years old. Since he is rehabbing an injury, he likely will not be available until his age 26 season. When he is ready to play, he will need to learn how to play “real football” as his offense at Tennessee offers almost nothing to the NFL game.

78. Gervon Dexter Sr., DL (Florida)

79. Zacch Pickens, DL (South Carolina)

80. Andre Carter, EDGE (Army)

81. Zach Harrison, DL (Ohio State)

82. Byron Young, DL (Alabama)

83. Cedric Tillman, WR (Tennessee)

84. Christopher Smith, S (Georgia)

85. J.L. Skinner, S (Boise State)

NFL Draft Big Board: Day Three Grades

86. Keion White, DL (Georgia Tech)

87. Yaya Diaby, EDGE (Louisville)

88. Steve Avila, G (TCU)

89. Marvin Mims, WR (Oklahoma)

90. Roschon Johnson, RB (Texas)

91. Stetson Bennett, QB (Georgia)

Maybe the most recognizable college football players in the country, Bennett is a likely day three pick in the NFL. Very limited physically and old for a rookie, he will likely top out as a long-term back up.

92. Tyler Steen, OL (Alabama)

93. Emil Eikyor, G (Alabama)

94. Tanner McKee, QB (Stanford)

95. Jonathan Mingo, WR (Ole Miss)

96. Siaki Ika, DL (Baylor)

97. Brandon Joseph, S (Notre Dame)

98. Zach Charbonnet, RB (UCLA)

99. Clark Phillips, CB (Utah)

100. Parker Washington, WR (Penn State)

101. Eric Gray, RB (Oklahoma)

102. Max Duggan, QB (TCU)

103. Zach Evans, RB (Ole Miss)

104. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB (TCU)

105. Jarren Hall, QB (BYU)

106. Clayton Tune, QB (Houston)

107. Darius Rush, CB (South Carolina)

108. Cameron Latu, TE (Alabama)

109. Dee Winters, LB (TCU)

110. Kendre Miller, RB (TCU)

111. Jaylon Jones, CB (Texas A&M)

112. DeMarvion Overshown, LB (Texas)

113. Deuce Vaughn, RB (Kansas State)

An electric runner at the college level, I will be rooting for him in the NFL. Alas, at his size, it will likely be hard to survive as anything more than a special teamer.

114. Riley Moss, CB, Iowa

115. Jammie Robinson, S (Florida State)

116. A.T. Perry, WR (Wake Forest)

117. Michael Wilson, WR (Stanford)

118. Owen Pappoe, LB (Auburn)

119. Ventrell Miller, LB (Florida)

120. Trenton Simpson, LB (Clemson)

121. Zion Nelson, OT (Miami)

122. Dorian Williams, LB (Tulane)

123. Nick Broeker, OL (Ole Miss)

124. Tank Bigsby, RB (Auburn)

125. Noah Sewell, LB (Utah)

126. Tank Bigsby, RB (Auburn)

The Oakland Athletics Are Bad For Baseball

From 2018-2020, the Oakland Athletics were a genuinely good team. After making the playoffs all three seasons and even winning the division in the shortened 2020 season, the future seemed bright.  

The roster had legitimate stars. Matt Olson quickly became one of the best first basemen in the league while Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman filled out one of the best infields in the league. 

Behind the dish, Sean Murphy was coming into his own and helped a pitching staff that featured Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea Jesus Luzardo, and Frankie Montas. Out of the pen, Liam Hendriks was perhaps the best closer in the league. 

Astonishingly, after beating the White Sox in the Wild Card round and falling to the Astros in the ALDS, all of the aforementioned players would leave the team over the next three years. 

Choosing To Lose

In 2022, the Oakland Athletics would finish with a record of 60-102, finishing last in the A.L. West. It’s easy to wonder how they got to this point after three straight playoff appearances. 

Firstly, they allowed both Hendriks and Semien to leave in free agency. Joining the White Sox and Blue Jays respectively, both players have continued to be among the best at their positions. 

Following the 2021 season, all of Bassitt, Chapman, and Manaea were traded away. Losing Chapman was especially painful for a fanbase that watched him grow from a highly touted first-round selection to one of the game’s best third basemen. 

The worst was yet to come however as Olson, the team’s best player and one of the MLB’s premier first basemen, was traded to the Braves. The consolation however were the additions of Shea Langeliers and  Cristian Pache, both considered top prospects in the sport. 

A Means To What End?

“Tanking” is hardly a new concept in sports. The idea of trading your best players to avoid mediocrity and hitting the reset button on the franchise has been practiced for decades. While it may be hard for a fanbase to part with these players they’ve grown to love, teams like the Cubs and Astros have proved it can pay massive dividends. 

However, Oakland has botched the tank in almost every sense. While they have managed to trade all of their valuable assets, they have simply failed to receive adequate prospects in return. 

While the aforementioned Pache was a premium prospect at a valuable position, they have opted for quantity over quality in their other trades by choosing to add multiple mid-tier prospects instead of one high-end player. 

Currently, the A’s active payroll is just over $41 million. For reference, the defending World Series champion Astros have a payroll of nearly $174 million. Clearly, the distance between Oakland and Houston, who share a division, could not be any larger. 

It’s Only Getting Worse

Despite all of the moves made with the intention of tearing the team down in 2021, this year’s off-season has perhaps been the most egregious. 

Sean Murphy, a 28-year-old catcher who worked his way through the Oakland Athletics’ minor league system as a third-round pick, was traded to Atlanta. In return, they would receive a collection of prospects headlined by Kyle Muller and Esteury Ruiz. 

Muller, a left-handed pitcher, posted an 8.03 ERA across three starts for Atlanta last season, but showed some impressive strikeout potential while in AAA. He will be the team’s opening-day starter. Ruiz should join the outfield in Oakland before long. 

With opening day on the horizon, members of the Athletics fanbase were no doubt interested in the development of Pache after a 2022 season that saw him finish with an OPS+ of 34. An ungodly low number, there is plenty of time for the 24-year-old to turn it around with some additional coaching to help fix his approach. He showed as much by finishing spring training with a .362 OBP. 

Instead, Oakland decided he was not going to be a part of the team’s future plans. Having not made the opening day roster, he will either be traded or they will try and pass him through waivers in an attempt to stash him on the AAA team. What’s more likely is a team committed to winning will add him in hopes to cultivate his talent further. 

Bad For Baseball

“The ballpark is the key to having a larger payroll so we can compete more effectively with bigger market clubs, have a better fan experience, and retain players,” said A’s president Dave Kaval as they look to move the team out of Oakland and into Las Vegas. 

Would increased revenue in one of the country’s biggest cities help the A’s build a team? Of course. However, the team has provided no inclination that they’re willing to spend what it takes to be competitive in the modern MLB

After all, the club made $62.2 million last season, fifth-best in the league. Alas, the only impactful free agent signing the team made was bringing in 32-year-old first-basemen Jesus Aguilar on a one-year, $3-million deal. The A’s will hope he gets off to a hot start and they can trade him before the deadline. 

While the move to Las Vegas will certainly happen, it’s hard to see it making the A’s much better. Of course, players like Langeliers and Paul Blackburn have potential, but who’s to say they won’t be the next to go? With the league’s 22nd-best farm system according to, the future is bleak. 

Regardless, the team’s ownership group will continue to profit off of television deals, an eventual state-of-the-art stadium, and whatever fans continue to show up. The 2023 Oakland Athletics will be one of the worst teams in the sport, if not the worst, and it has all been intentional. Not only bad for the players, coaches, and fans, the A’s are simply bad for baseball. 

Hunter Greene

Hunter Greene Is Poised To Breakout In 2023

Think back to a year ago. After a full-on fire sale that saw the Cincinnati Reds move on from Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Sonny Gray, the team was fully committed to a future built on the back of high-end prospects. Prospects like Hunter Greene.

While the pitching staff was headlined by Luis Castillo, who was later traded, it was the youngsters that gave Reds fans reason for hope. Both Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft appear to have bright futures, but it’s Greene who captured the attention of the baseball world. 

When looking at his skill set, it is easy to see why. Capable of throwing his fastball at 100 mph with ease, it is never surprising to see him reach 101 or 102.

After a strong spring, Greene used his sizzling fastball to earn a spot on the team’s opening-day starting rotation. In his first start, he would face off with the defending world champions, the Atlanta Braves. While he would surrender three runs, he earned the win on the back of seven strikeouts across five innings. 

In just his second major league start, Greene broke the record for most 100+ mph pitches in a single game with a whopping 39. While he was still learning the ropes, he cemented himself as one of the game’s most exciting young pitchers.

The rest of 2022 would be much of the same. Greene would finish with an ERA of 4.44 to go along with 164 strikeouts. With an 11.7 K/9, it is clear that Greene has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues. However, the home run ball has continued to bite him this spring.

Alas, change may be on the horizon. 

Numbers Don’t Lie

By far the biggest weakness in Greene’s game is the home run ball. Despite the fact that he throws as hard as anyone in the game, MLB hitters are the best in the world at what they do. As such, if they know what is coming, they will hit it, regardless of velocity. This led to a staggering 28 home runs allowed for Hunter Greene in 2022.

So, when he wasn’t striking pitchers out with his supersonic heater, it was getting hit hard. In fact, his fastball was responsible for -7.0 runs above average despite being his trademark pitch.

Last season, Greene was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. Alongside the aforementioned fastball, he also throws a quality slider. In 2022, he threw the fastball 54% of the time, and the slider 41%. The other five percent, he threw a change-up. It is this pitch that will define his 2023 season.

Changing It Up

This spring, through two starts, things have not been kind to the right-hander. With 4.1 innings under his belt, Greene has had five runs charged to him, including a home run.

However, for those paying attention, the story is not about the runs Greene has allowed, but instead about his increased change-up usage. In his last start against the A’s, 12 of his 50 pitches were change-ups. After barely throwing it last season, he threw it on nearly half of his pitches.

Of course, it is only spring training, and it’s likely he was throwing it an increased amount in order to get a feel for it. However, Greene appears determined to make it an increased part of his repertoire going forward.

Greene said, “I obviously spent a lot of time working on that. It was my main focus, to have that pitch in my repertoire going into this year is going to be really exciting.” If he can work the change-up going forward, it will be crucial to his ability to keep hitters off balance.

Big Things Ahead for Hunter Greene

While people have certainly not forgotten about Greene, the hype train appears to have slowed down. When looking at the numbers, it is understandable. After all, no one cares how hard you can throw if it gets hit back even harder.

Still, despite playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Greene is an absurdly talented pitcher who is still improving. With 24 starts under his belt, he is no longer concerned with making the team. Instead, he is working to amplify his pitch mix that already features one of the league’s most electric fastballs.

The Cincinnati Reds will be a bad team in 2023, that much is almost assured. However, Hunter Greene will be appointment television as he cements himself as one of the best young players in the sport.

White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease

White Sox ace Dylan Cease Is A Lot Better Than You Think

White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease
Photo Credit: Getty Images

In July 2017, the Southsiders made a trade that would change the team’s trajectory for good when they sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects. Among those prospects the White Sox received was highly touted young pitcher Dylan Cease.

After moving through the White Sox minor league system, Cease would make his debut in 2019. He started fourteen games that season en route to an ERA of 5.79. Over the next two seasons, Cease would continue to develop his arsenal and his ERA would drop.

Even still, he was still considered a player with high potential that had to “figure it out” going into 2022. With elite stuff, as evidenced by his 226 strikeouts in 2021, the sky was the limit — if he could just get over the hump.

Dominance Begins

Early in the 2022 season, Dylan Cease looked like his usual self for the White Sox. With high strikeout and walk numbers, he looked great against lesser teams while struggling against the good ones. The lowest point of the season was his start against the Red Sox on May 24th when he allowed seven earned runs in just three innings.

Since then, Cease has completely turned his season around. In the thirteen starts since that day, he has allowed just five earned runs. Perhaps his best display during this stretch came against Minnesota. In that contest, Cease pitched seven shutout innings with just one hit allowed and eight strikeouts.

Following the start against Boston, his ERA sat at 4.24. Now, he has lowered it all the way to 1.98, good for third in the MLB. His 166 strikeouts also sit at third in the league. His K/9 however, sits atop the league at 12.2.

Flying Under The Radar

Despite being one of the best pitchers in the league in nearly every category, Cease has not always been given the recognition he deserves. In fact, he was not even named to the A.L. All-Star team. This was despite the fact that he led both Nestor Cortes and Paul Blackburn in every statistical pitching category.

Furthermore, in the MLB’s flagship video game MLB the Show 22, he has not once been named to the game’s Player of the Month program, despite inferior pitchers like Jon Gray and Brady Singer receiving acknowledgment.

Currently, Cease is second in betting odds for the A.L. Cy Young award. However, his +300 odds don’t even sniff the -155 odds owned by the Astros Justin Verlander.

Just How Dominant Is Cease?

Last season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom had one of the most dominating stretches of pitching excellence we have ever seen before losing his season to injury. Through fifteen starts, he owned an ERA of 1.08 with 146 strikeouts and 40 hits allowed.

Over Dylan Cease’s thirteen starts in this unbelievable stretch with the White Sox, he has an ERA of 0.60, 95 strikeouts, and only 47 hits allowed. Now, is Cease as good as deGrom? Of course not, no one is. Alas, over this stretch, he has been nearly as untouchable. However, in deGrom’s case, it was much more publicized.

Going forward, there is not much reason to expect a drop off. Simply put, his stuff is too good to fail. A visit to Cease’s Baseball Savant page shows what you would expect, a lot of red. With a fastball spin rate in the 97th percentile and a whiff rate in the 96th percentile, his fastball is not getting touched.

How about the off-speed you might be wondering? Well, his 95 strikeouts on the slider are the most on any pitch in the league. That pitch offers opposing hitters a startling -30 in run value.

So, despite the lack of recognition around the league (outside of Chicago), Cease is unquestionably one of the leagues very best. With the White Sox just a few games out of the division lead, this magical thirteen game stretch from Dylan Cease is keeping them afloat. Absolutely deserving of a playoff start, he just might get one if he keeps this up.

Is It Time The White Sox Move On From Eloy Jimenez?

Back in the summer of 2017, the White Sox made a trade with their cross-town rivals, the Chicago Cubs. The Sox would send starting pitcher Jose Quintana to the Cubs and they would receive a package of prospects that included Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez.

Within two years, Jimenez had made his way through the Sox minor league system and was rewarded with a six-year, $43 million contract before he had ever seen a pitch in the major leagues.

In his first season, he would play 122 games and record a .828 OPS with 31 home runs. While his defense was terrible, this was good enough for fourth in the rookie of the year voting. The Covid shortened 2020 season saw more of the same as he had an .891 OPS and fourteen homers.

Injuries Arise

With the explosive nature of his first two seasons, the excitement around Jimenez was at a fever pitch entering 2021. Unfortunately, he would tear his pectoral trying to rob a home run in a spring training game causing him to miss the first three months of the season.

Upon returning, the power was evident once again as had ten home runs in 55 games. However, somewhere along the way, the power dissipated. Never was this more evident than in 2021. Before being injured once again, he had a career high 66.7 ground ball percentage.

The Dilemma

Of course, the injuries are the biggest issue in Jimenez’s career right now. Alas, his overall skill set is perhaps more worrisome. When Eloy Jimenez is hitting home runs, he is one of the most impactful players in the entire Chicago lineup. Alas, his ground ball percentage makes his bat expendable. In fact, he has just one extra-base hit throughout his lengthy stay in Triple-A.

Another issue that Jimenez creates is redundancy. Both he and Andrew Vaughn profile as good, right-handed hitters who are terrible in the outfield. Alas, there is only one designated hitter spot which forces one of the two into the outfield and weakens the team’s defense.

When Jimenez finally returns to the White Sox, it is widely expected he will strictly be the DH as they do not want to risk further injury in the field. This creates all sorts of problems as now Vaughn, a natural first basemen, will take his spot in right field. It also prevents him and Abreu from taking days off from the field as Jimenez can only DH.

In totality, Jimenez is a fan favorite player who may not have a spot on the White Sox roster any longer. With four more years of team control, he may still have enough trade value based on his past to net the Sox a big fish at the deadline. It may be unlikely, but Chicago has proven in the past they can win without his bat.