With Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard no longer members of the farm system, an opportunity has been created for other young pitchers to take a step forward in 2013 and receive some much deserved recognition. The #22 prospect has all the necessary ingredients to have a monster season, and has as good of a chance as anyone to find himself in the top 10 a year from now.
Name: Chase DeJong
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 12/29/1993 (19)
Acquired: Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft ($860,000 USD)
High School: Woodrow Wilson (Long Beach, California)
College: Had commitment to Southern California
Height/Weight: 6’5”/190 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list (not in organization)
- 2012 Rawlings 2nd Team All American
- 2012 California All Region 1st team
2012 Statistics and Analysis
1-0, 12.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 15 K
1.50 ERA (0.95 FIP), 0.67 WHIP, 11.25 K/9, 0.75 BB/9, 1.22 GO/AO
In previous years DeJong never would have seen the field, but thanks to an earlier signing he was able to amass twelve innings with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. It wasn’t a fair assignment to the opposition, as DeJong’s three pitch arsenal and advanced control allowed him to take the kids to school. He struck out nearly twice as many batters as he allowed to reach base, and kept the ball on the ground at an above average rate. It’s hard to read too much into such a small sample size, but both the fan base and front office should be encouraged by the strong start to his professional career.
Video (via BullpenBanter.com)
DeJong has a bit of crossfire action in his delivery, stepping to the third base side of the mound as opposed to directly towards the plate. While that can give him a deceptive advantage against right handed batters, it gives lefties a better look at the ball upon release, making the development of a changeup a necessity. The arm action isn’t ideal either, as his elbow has a jerky motion prior to following through. Neither issue has caused any problems as of yet, but it’s likely the Blue Jays will attempt to clean things up moving forward. His motion has some exaggeration, giving him below average times to the plate even from the stretch, which could result in difficulties controlling the opposing running game.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
In addition to having size on his side, DeJong features three pitches with above average or better potential grades. The fastball is only average at present, clocking in the 87-91 mph range while touching upwards of 92-93 mph. As he matures physically the velocity should rise at least a grade, as despite weighing 190 pounds, DeJong has the length and projectable frame to settle between 200 and 220 pounds in his 20’s. The movement on the fastball has received mediocre grades, but the arm side run looks pretty good to me and I might push it as high as at least average. DeJong commands the pitch well and confidently takes ownership of the outer corners of the plate. I expect downward movement to eventually manifest itself with further coaching and a possible grip adjustment, as at 6-foot-5 with an overhand delivery, the fastball really should have some natural weight to it.
DeJong will throw a 12-to-6 curveball, and in addition to being arguably his best present offering, it’s received the best future grades as well. He releases the breaking ball with a tight spin, generating good rotation and hard late life. The overhand release point gives the offering serious depth. He shows more feel for a changeup than your typical high school draft pick, with consistently good arm speed and a similar release point to his fastball. If the fade comes along as hoped, DeJong could have three above average or better pitches to work from, along with solid command. Physically it’s a very intriguing package, and the mental side is just as promising. DeJong has been characterized as a good student of the game, and his mound presence is supposedly among his most impressive traits.
The perfect world projection for Chase DeJong would be a strong number three starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
DeJong was too polished for the Gulf Coast League and unsurprisingly breezed through his twelve innings. 2013 should prove to be more of a challenge, as the 19 year old right hander could find himself opening the year for Vancouver next June. Bluefield has become a popular destination for the front office, but as I described above, DeJong isn’t your typical high school pitcher, and he is capable of jumping right into Low-A in year two. I suspect he’ll see extended time in Lansing before the year is out, preparing for the always critical full season debut in 2014. In terms of polish and upside I see some similarities between DeJong and Drew Hutchison at the same age, but given the arm injury the latter suffered in 2012, the smart play may be to show a bit more caution with his development. An optimistic but realistic timeline could see DeJong debuting in Toronto as early as September 2015 as a 21 year old, but a 2016 ETA would be the safer bet. As a high school pitcher the risk of disaster is inherently high, but I’d take his chances over most other first or second year high school prospects in the system.