Dylan Edward Cease is a No. 2 starter in the major leagues. Let that sink in for a minute.
I know what you are thinking.
But no, it’s not only because Lance Lynn’s knee may or may not currently look like a bowl of spaghetti.
Not even speaking of injuries, Dylan Cease pitched every bit like a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2021, registering Top 10 in ERA, Top 3 in strikeouts, and very best in all of the American League in K/9, at a resplendent 12.278.
Oh, and he’s got a mustache now to match those cold, blank, callous eyes. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Serial killer vibes aside, Dylan has now had a full season and protracted offseason of work with Pitching Coach to the Stars Ethan Katz, and seems poised and ready to take his game to another level.
One thing we absolutely know for sure is that Dylan Cease is no stranger to the Detroit Tigers.
His 51-plus innings are more than he has thrown against any other opponent, with almost half of those innings coming on the road at Comerica Park in Detroit, where he finds himself today.
With that familiarity has come a fair deal of success for the young righthander, holding a career ERA of 2.10 and 59 strikeouts vs. Detroit.
By and large, a most of this success can be traced directly to Cease’s utterly filthy array of pitches, but if we’re being fair, the Tigers teams he has been slicing up over the past few seasons would struggle to qualify for anything more than legitimate Triple-A teams, featuring the festering remains of Miguel Cabrera.
That is no longer the case.
The 2022 Tigers are fresh off of a very active offseason, adding impact free agents, and flush with a burgeoning young core of elite prospects. These are not your mother’s Motor City mousers!
Alongside holdovers like known Sox killers Eric Haase and Jonathan Schoop, the entire baseball world is giddy with anticipation for the debut of 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Spencer Torkelson, who broke north with the club barely four years removed from destroying Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record at Arizona State.
While Torkelson is an elite offensive prospect on par with any we have seen come through the South Side, possibly more importantly, the first baseman is the owner of one of the greatest middle names in league history: Enochs.
Let THAT sink in for a minute.
That alone gets you respect in my book.
Other additions, like former Cubs shortstop, and Opening Day fly ball hero Javy Báez, and recently-acquired Austin Meadows aim to bring both leadership and production to the team, while supplementing what may just be an actual bronze Hall of Fame bust in a Cabrera jersey at this point.
While the bar for success in the division may have been raised, Dylan seems equipped and capable of living up to his rapidly-growing expectations.
In fact, Cease can look directly across the diamond to his Tigers contemporary and opponent on Saturday, Casey Mize, as a model of expectations.
Mize comes into 2022 carrying as much or more pressure as Cease to follow up on what was a breakout season in 2021, while also carrying with him the expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick.
Both Cease and Mize represent what may be the next wave of top-end pitchers that are tasked with taking their teams on their backs and leading them to victory.
If Cease’s body language during his last spring outing is any indication, the only thing stopping him from establishing him as the ace-in-waiting the fan base projects him as is simply getting him on the mound in games that actually matter.
Add in the hangover from Friday’s collapse, and the looming specter of a long-term injury to rotation-mate Lucas Giolito, and the weight on the 25-year-old’s shoulders has reached a breaking point.
The only thing left is to get out there and see what happens.
Sink or swim.
Win or lose.
Blossom or cease.
No matter what happens in the future, the path begins Saturday in Detroit.
While we don’t know exactly which way things will go, we can say for certain that the success of this 2022 version of the White Sox may be hinging on the outcome.