On Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Luis Cessa from Triple-A Toledo, adding him to their 40-man roster. Cessa was acquired by Detroit along with Michael Fulmer in the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets. Cessa would have been a minor league free agent if he had not been added to the roster by Friday. He takes the place of Joe Nathan on the Tigers' roster. Nathan, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season, had his 2016 contract option declined by the Tigers.
Cessa would have been a minor league free agent because he has already spent six seasons in pro ball since he first signed with the Mets at age 16 in 2008. He played his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer league as an infielder. After having surgery on his shoulder, he was converted to a pitcher and didn't arrive in the United States until 2011 where he started in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He spent the 2014 season dominating High-A ball at Port St. Lucie.
Cessa is ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Tigers' system by MLB.com. He is a 23-year-old right-handed starting pitcher who was originally signed in 2008 from Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico as a shortstop. Here is MLB.com's scouting report.
As a former middle infielder, Cessa brings excellent athleticism to the mound. He also brings a solid three-pitch mix. His fastball will sit at 93 mph, and he'll touch 95 mph on occasion. His breaking ball is a bit slurvy but has shown improvement, and he has the makings of a Major League average changeup. More than anything, he throws a ton of strikes, proof of which comes in his career 1.8 walks-per-nine ratio heading into 2015.
While Cessa doesn't have the ceiling of some of the high-end arms that have come out of the Mets system lately, he could fit into the back of a big league rotation.
MLB.com Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
A quick review of Cessa's stat chart shows that he has had consistently good command throughout his minor league career, including most recently at the Triple-A level since being promoted during the 2015 season.
Cessa began the 2015 season at Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League where he threw 77 innings in 13 starts with a 2.56 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. With his clock ticking, he was promoted rather aggressively to Triple-A Las Vegas by the Mets on July 4th, but struggled as opponents hit .354 against him in five starts.
The Tigers traded for him at the end of July and assigned him to Toledo where he made seven starts with a 5.97 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP. He has been able to adjust eventually at each level, and he now has three option years before he will have to make it in the major leagues. Cameron Kaiser covered covered Cessa's first start for Triple-A Toledo and was impressed with his debut.
The Tigers will need also to add Fulmer to the 40-man roster by November 20 to protect him from the rule 5 draft. The club now has 35 players on its 40-man roster with the departure of free agents this week.