Name: Mike Cisco
DOB: 5/23/87 (24 as of April 1, 2012)
Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 36th round, 2008 ($10,000 bonus)
Pre Draft Report: Prior to the 2008 draft, Mike Cisco was known more for his bloodlines than for his standing as a big league prospect. His grandfather Galen was the Phillies pitching coach in the late-90s, his father was an all-state football and baseball player in high school in Ohio, his mother played basketball at North Carolina, and his brother was a highly regarded high school baseball player. (Drew Cisco ended up being a 6th round pick by the Reds in the 2010 draft.) Mike Cisco was part of a talented South Carolina team that saw seven players taken in the ’08 draft including first rounders Justin Smoak (#11) and Reese Havens (#22). Cisco was a 2006 SEC All-Freshmen selection and was named to the 2006 NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. Reports on him were that he was a control pitcher (albeit a homer-prone one) who sat 88-90 on his fastball. After a down junior year in ’08, we didn’t appear on the draft radar and the Phillies took a flier on him in the 36th round. He signed within a week of the draft for a small (at least for a college junior) bonus of $10,000. Thoughts at the time were with a strong recruiting class coming into South Carolina, he may have been moved to the bullpen which would have effectively torpedoed his position in the 2009 draft.
Career Synopsis: Cisco turned heads in his first pro season, not just in terms of performance, but in terms of stuff as well. The fastball that sat 87-90 in college moved to 90-92 and topped out at 93-94. The impeccable control remained and BA tagged him with the Best Control label in its 2009 annual, which also rated him the 29th best prospect in the system. Cisco pitched 19 (mostly relief) innings at Williamsport, striking out 22 and walking only 5 and pitching to a 1.86 ERA. He was promoted to Lakewood, where he started 6 of his 8 games, compiling a phenomenal 0.51 ERA over 35 innings, with a 30/0 K/BB ratio. The home run problems that plagued him at South Carolina disappeared as he allowed just a single homer in 54 combined innings.
Cisco began the 2009 season on the DL with a strained oblique, but returned to pitch in 15 games (14 starts) for Clearwater. He lost something off his fastball and worked once again in his college range of 88-90. His control remained intact with a better than 3-to-1 K/BB ratio, but his HR rate spiked, allowing 9 in 73 IP. He was promoted to Reading where he made seven starts with mediocre results, as the K/BB ratio fell to 2 and he allowed another four homers in 39 IP.
BA moved Cisco up to 23 among Phillies prospects entering 2010. Cisco started the year at Reading, but went on the DL on May 3 with right elbow inflammation and missed a little over a month. He eventually made 16 starts at Reading in addition to three rehab/spot starts for Clearwater and Lehigh Valley. All told, he posted a 4.63 ERA over 107 IP. His K/BB ratio was still decent at 70/25, but his HR rate remained elevated at slightly over a home run per nine innings pitched.
Cisco pitched all of 2011 in Reading, and for the first time, saw himself in the bullpen. He pitched 62 innings without making a start. He walked an unsightly 4.2 batters per nine, but the rest of his numbers far outpaced his historicals. He limited opponents to 5.6 H/9 (leading to a .182 BAA), with under a homer per nine, and a K rate of 7.4 which was his highest since his first year in the system.
Scouting Report: Below is an assessment of Cisco’s raw tools, rated on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale. The grades are my estimation based on what I’ve read and those I’ve talked to. The second number is a future projection, the first number is the current assessment
Arm Strength: 50/50
Secondary Pitches: 45/45
Upside: At this time last year, we thought that it was likely that any path to the majors would come through the bullpen. With the promising starting pitching coming up behind him and the glut of bullpen arms in front of him, 2011 was something of a make-or-break year in terms of establishing himself as a legit prospect or becoming organizational depth. He’s never going to be a big strikeout guy, but keeps himself competitive with an array of passable pitches, including a plus-change and some average breaking stuff. Control’s going to be what gets him to the majors, as he works to the fringes and any decline in command often results in him catching too much of the plate with an average fastball and the ball leaving the yard. If he manages to get his walk rate back into historical ranges, he could eke out a few years at the back-end of a big league bullpen.