The offseason addition still faces an uphill battle to the Blue Jays 25-man roster, but it hasn’t been for a lack of effort
“That right there is a ball player,” they’ll say about Darrell Ceciliani. And a “ball player”, whatever that comically vague baseball term has come to mean, is the perfect description.
Acquired from the New York Mets in early February for a player to be named later or cash, Ceciliani was recommended to the Blue Jays by former general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who now works as a special assistant to Mets GM Sandy Alderson.
The 25-year-old is also impressing manager John Gibbons, who rolled out some baseball buzz-terms of his own when describing him to Steve Buffery of the National Post.
“Love him,” said Gibbons. “I heard he’s hard-nosed, good base runner, good outfielder, just a complete player. He’s just looking for his opportunity.”
Ceciliani is described as hard-nosed, or a “grinder”, nearly everywhere you look. This continues to remind me of how Kevin Pillar was viewed as he rose through the Blue Jays organization, and Ceciliani credits that to his passion for football growing up.
“If I could have went and played big time football somewhere, I would have. But obviously with the size and everything it was kind of out of the question. But that’s how I try to carry my mentality in baseball. It’s a football mentality. Just go out and grind.”
His spring stats have been encouraging, for what that’s worth, and he’s coming off a season with triple-A Las Vegas where his underrated tools finally did come together at a higher level.
After posting an OPS of .736 in 2014 and .702 the year prior (both seasons spent at double-A Binghamton), Ceciliani exploded for a triple-slash line of .345 / .398 / .581 over 70 games in Vegas.
This earned him his Major League debut with the Mets where he made it into 39 games, but with some disappointing results at the plate.
As it stands right now, Ceciliani is facing two primary obstacles.
First and foremost, he has option years remaining. This is not the case for Junior Lake or Ezequiel Carrera, both of whom would need to pass through waivers. While these option years shouldn’t play too heavily into decision making, it may be enough to break a tie. (On a related note: The Buffalo Bisons’ outfield will be an absolute joy to watch in 2016).
Ceciliani is also a left-handed bat, like Michael Saunders, and there is the potential that Toronto would prefer the right-handed Lake to earn the role. Lake has also looked comfortable enough in centre-field this spring, which will be another deciding factor as Kevin Pillar will be in need of the odd breather.
The beauty of this offseason lies in the talent of the next man up, and unfortunately for Ceciliani, he may need to begin the season in that category.
Should an injury hit the Blue Jays’ outfield, the club could have the ability to choose between Dalton Pompey, Domonic Brown, Ceciliani, or Carrera as an injury replacement. This isn’t a luxury found on most Major League rosters.
If (or when) Ceciliani can surface with the big club, don’t be surprised if he quietly overachieves.