Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chase DeJong...Climbing the Blue Jays Prospect Ladder

The Blue Jays traded away most of their top prospects this off-season. In the process of doing so, they fell from the #1 ranked farm system in 2012, to the 22nd for the upcoming season(Minor League Ball ranks). Ever since AA first built that great minor league system, it has been built on strong pitching, not  the toolsy position players who are very raw and would need to mature quite a bit to become top prospects that AA drafted. So, now that 2/3 of the famous Lansing 3 are gone, new names are rising up the ranks in the Jays system. One of these faces is Chase DeJong. Chase was a 2nd round draft pick by your Toronto Blue Jays last June, and scouts say he projects to be a mid-rotation starter with three above average pitches. I'm not going to go further into detail regarding his stuff ect... because Isaac covered him(Click HERE for the link) in our top prospect list, where he ranked 17th(he was 13th on the aggregate list). Chase will go into camp in a few weeks with uncertainty as where he'll end up in 2013 is a mystery right now, but one thing is for sure. If he can repeat his 2012 performance, he'll be right up there with the likes of Nolin, Stroman, and Sanchez come prospect ranking time next year. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had the chance to interview him a few days ago. Here it is. Enjoy!

First off, how did you enjoy your first season(albeit a short one) this past year, pitching for the Blue Jays in the Gulf Coast League?
I enjoyed everything about playing in the GCL. I knew going into the season I wasn't going to get called up because I was a high school sign and because of the large inning total I brought with me from my senior season (Area Codes, Team USA, high school season, pro scout workouts). So in light of that, I set goals for myself when I first when down to Florida accordingly. I went down there just trying to get used to the 5 day rotation that comes with being a starter and to work hard enough to get invited to fall instructional league. I knew what to expect from the physical side of developing as a baseball player, but I really enjoyed being able to pick the brains of all the minor league coaches and coordinators during instructs. 
The Blue Jays top pitching prospects going into this off-season were the members of the "Lansing 3". They climbed the lower levels of the minor league system together, and grew into the top prospects they are now, with each other. Do you feel this is how the club will handle the first stages of your minor league career along with that of Tyler Gonzales and Matt Smoral? 
To be honest, I have know idea how much that was intentional on the club's part or if that is just what happened with the Lansing 3 because of the decisions based on their individual efforts. There are a lot of pitching prospects in the Jays minor league system right now and I'm sure that the administrators plan to get each of us ready according to what we need and what is most beneficial for our club. If that turns out to be what happens with us, that's great but we have no idea of their intention at this point. My job is to take the mound with determination to dominate every hitter I face. That's every pitcher's job and it's the administrations job to decide where each of us will do that. 
What pitches do you throw? What are the speeds you throw at? What is your best pitch, and what type of pitcher are you(strikout, groundball,fly ball)?
I think the success of my pitching has more to do with how I pitch then what I throw. When I first started pitching my dad told me that I was not going to be a thrower, I was going to be a pitcher. He made sure I understood the value of locating my pitches even at an age where just throwing the ball hard would get the batter out. That advice was invaluable and I think that's why I'm not limited by having one or two pitches. I can throw all of my three pitches (fastball, curveball, and change up) in any count to a variety of locations. As far as my speed goes my fastball can be anywhere from 88-94 consistently low 90's upper 80's on two seams. My curveball and change up are the two pitches that set me apart because right now I have a big league average fastball. I mix my pitches as much as i need to and it has resulted in me being a strike out pitcher. It does drive my pitch count up but that just comes with the territory it also hold me more accountable for my walks and endurance. 
Have you been told where you'll be pitching this year(at least to start the season)?


What are your goals for the 2013 season?

I have not been told where I will be pitching next year. I will know at the end of spring training.  My goals for the 2013 season consist of breaking camp with the Lansing team and pitching in the 5 man rotation up there. Also I'm working on gaining velocity on my fastball but more importantly gaining down hill plane. 

In a small sample size of 12.0 IP in 2012, you didn't allow a home run. Is this normal, or do you tend to be hurt by the long ball? 
I haven't been one to give up too many home runs but I do understand that making 20 plus starts in a year a few home runs will be inevitable. It's my job to limit the number of those by being in control to make sure that my team always has a chance to win when I take the ball.
You just turned 19 a few weeks ago, so you're quite young still. Do you feel this could be an issue if you're to pitch in Vancouver or Lansing this season, facing college level talent, or do you view it as an opportunity to show your ability? 
The reason why I'm not nervous about pitching against older, more established hitters is that I have done it before and I have been successful in the past. If I was worried about not being able to get them out it would have been better for me to go to college to learn how to get them out for three years and then come play pro ball. I believe that if you want to get better, you need to compete against the best. I love the challenge, I love to work hard, I love to learn and the difficulty of this process is exactly what I signed up for. Facing better hitters is a good thing for a pitcher because it keeps you accountable for every pitch that leaves your fingers and again, I love that responsibility.

I'd like to thank Chase for taking time to do this interview with me, and wish him all the best for the coming season!

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