Before the 2009 season, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill were considered two of Oakland's top pitching prospects. Both had similar minor league progressions through the system and both held strong strikeout numbers along the way. Many scouts and experts were torn as to which they would rank as the better prospect. Now, with a full Major League season for each, it is Brett Anderson who has stepped out in front with an impressive second half. Still, Trevor Cahill has potential to be a fantasy force down the road. The only question is: How long is that road?
Nothing in Cahill's 2009 numbers jump off the page. He only struck out 4.5 per nine innings and walked 3.6 per nine, an only slightly above league average walk rate.
Coming into the season it was Cahill's sinker that was supposed to allow him to shine in the Major Leagues. That sinker failed to produce many good results. Even with a low .276 BABIP against, Cahill allowed 185 hits in 178.2 innings pitched and 27 home runs.
A good sinker can be the root of success for pitchers who don't produce many strikeouts (i.e. Brandon Webb). Based on his minor league numbers, Cahill looked like he could very well turn into a Brandon Webb type pitcher. According to minorleaguesplits.com, Cahill produced a career ground ball rate of 59.4 percent in the minor leagues. That didn't translate to the majors last season as Cahill produced a 47.8 percent ground ball rate. While that is still a fine ground ball rate for a Major League pitcher, it is still short of what people perhaps expected from Cahill in 2009.
Given his youth (22-years-old on opening day), there is still a ton of time for Cahill to improve and refine his skills on the mound. He may not have the same ceiling as teammate Brett Anderson, but there is a good chance his ground ball rate does improve. Location will be the key. If he can spot his sinker better and allow a few less walks, he should make for a solid 3-4 fantasy starter.
According to Mock Draft Central, Cahill isn't even a top 390 pick and nothing more than a late round AL-only flier. Outside of AL-only leagues, there is no reason to reach out and draft Cahill in 2010. Still, he is one to keep an eye on early in the season. If his command shows signs of improvement and he is getting his ground balls, be ready to grab him off of waivers.