The new month on the calendar led to a change of address for former Vancouver Canadians pitcher Chase De Jong. The 2012 second round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays was traded to the Seattle Mariners yesterday by the Los Angeles Dodgers for fellow right-handed pitcher Aneurys Zabala and shortstop Drew Jackson, who Vancouver fans are familiar with as he won the Northwest League MVP award with the Everett AquaSox in 2015.
De Jong spent most of last season with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers where he went 14-5 with a 2.89 earned run average and a 1.02 WHIP after striking out 125 batters in 141-2/3 innings. That earned the Long Beach, California native a promotion to the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers where he won his first start with 5-1/3 innings of one-run ball in which he rung up eight Omaha Royals. He stayed around for the OKC Dodgers playoff run, making two starts where he earned a no-decision against the Nashville Sounds and a loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, De Jong racked up a lot of hardware as he was named to Baseball America’s AA-All Star team and was named the Pitcher of the Year in the Texas League. He also earned an invitation to the Texas League All-Star game and won a pitcher of the week award in late July after taking a no-hit bid into the ninth inning in a start against the Arkansas Travelers.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righthander began his pro career in 2012 with the Blue Jays by making a half-dozen appearances in the Gulf Coast League, posting a sterling 15-1 K/BB total in 12 innings. He earned a win in his professional debut with three scoreless frames while compiling an ERA of 1.50.
The Woodrow Wilson High School product from Long Beach, California began 2013 with the Bluefield Blue Jays where he moved into a starting role. He struck out 66 batters and walked only 10 in 56 innings, winning two of five decisions with a 3.05 ERA.
Looking at his MiLB.com player page, one would think De Jong never pitched in Vancouver, skipping over a level to pitch in Lansing. However, that was not the case. He was actually promoted to Vancouver for the beginning of the C’s playoff drive for back-to-back-to-back championships. He was in uniform for the C’s playoff opening win against Everett at Nat Bailey Stadium donning #39. His debut came the next night (September 4) in Everett in which he tossed a scoreless inning to help the C’s sweep the Frogs in the North Division final.
De Jong would not pitch again for Vancouver but he got to join in the celebration of the C’s third Northwest League title as they defeated the Boise Hawks in the third and deciding game of the NWL final at the Nat. Baseball America ranked him the 11th best Blue Jays prospect after the season.
De Jong’s introduction to full-season ball came in 2014 with the Lansing Lugnuts, where he won just one of seven decisions with an ERA of 4.82 in 21 starts. He was hurt by the long ball as he gave up 12 home runs in 97 innings and it was the first year in which he did not strike out over a batter an inning as he sat down just 73 batters while walking 22.
De Jong tried his luck again in Lansing and enjoyed more success on the mound by going 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, striking out 77 and walking only 18 in 86-1/3 innings. His last start with the Lugnuts turned out to be his best one as he went nine innings for the first time to defeat the Bowling Green Hot Rods at home June 18. He struck out 10 while surrendering just one run on four hits and three walks.
That effort must have really impressed any Dodgers scouts in attendance that evening. It’s possible they may have made a pit stop from their Midwest League affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons. De Jong and his Lugnuts teammate, 2014 Vancouver Canadians infielder Tim Locastro (2014), were traded by the Blue Jays to the Dodgers July 2 for international bonus pool money to aid in the signing of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The ex-Lugnuts reported to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes where De Jong continued to progress with a 4-3 record and a 3.96 ERA. He got back to averaging a K an inning with 52 whiffs in 50 innings and earned a Pitcher of the Week award in the California League in late July.
The 23 year-old has made a steady progression up the minor league ladder despite less than scintillating stuff on the mound according to MLB.com, who slots him right in the middle of the Mariners Top 30 prospects at number 15.
His four-seam fastball has below-average velocity at 88-92 mph, yet it plays better than that as hitters haven’t been able to barrel it consistently. He also mixes in a fringy cutter and changeup.
DeJong’s delivery creates some deception without detracting from his ability to throw strikes. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher with little margin for error, so he’s vulnerable to home runs. While he doesn’t have a high ceiling, he has performed well in the Minors and will get a chance to prove himself in Triple-A this year.
They say his “downer curveball” is his best pitch, giving it a 55 rating on the 20-80 scouting scale. They grade his fastball and his overall command at 50 with his cutter and changeup coming in at 45, which is also his overall rating.
It looks like Mariners fans will have a chance to get acquainted with their team’s latest acquisition as he appears he will start 2017 back to the Pacific Coast League with the Tacoma Rainiers. He’ll then be just a call away from Safeco Field and should that call be made, he’ll follow in his footsteps of his brother Jordan, who pitched nine innings of relief for the Blue Jays in 2007.