2019 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Jared DiCesare takes the ball in the latest episode of C’s Chat.
The 6-foot-0 right-hander from Fairfax, Virginia is following the baseball footsteps of his father and grandfather. Jared’s father Joe DiCesare was a third baseman in the Texas Rangers system in 1983 and his grandfather Joseph DiCesare was a first baseman in the Boston Red Sox organization in the early 1940s.
“My grandfather, he wasn’t really alive for most of my lifetime. I think he passed away when I was around seven or eight. I don’t really remember too much. I only remember stories that my Dad will say. (My grandfather would say), ‘He’ll be a pitcher someday.’ And my Dad was like, ‘No. No way,’ because my Dad was an infielder.
My Dad, even outside the game, just always taught me how to play the game right and go about your business. Just having a huge work ethic. Just never really leaving anything behind when you go out on the field, it’s 110 percent.
You can’t really have any regrets in this game. Up until now, there’s no regrets of mine. Just constantly going at it because I love the game and that’s kind of what my drive is but just my Dad has kind of been the big influence.”
When day three of the 2019 MLB draft rolled around, DiCesare wanted to spend it with his loved ones.
“I was at home. I was with my family. I kind of just had the live stream going and kind of hoping something would happen on day three and obviously, it did and I’m here now. I was with my family. I didn’t really want to be with anyone else at that point in time because they helped me a lot until up to this point.”
A draft day party was put together in quick order at the DiCesare household.
“It was good. Obviously, it was a quick turnaround because I had to be on a plane a couple of days later but fortunately a bunch of my friends and some family were able to come over and celebrate the good time. I was definitely fortunate that they were able to come because I have such a huge support system throughout my whole career and it was nice to have them there.”
The signing scout for DiCesare was Coulson Barbiche Jr.
“I talked to our area scout Coulson a ton and he’s kind of one that took interest in me a lot which was really nice. It’s kind of refreshing to have someone be really personable with you and we’ve kind of formed a good relationship up until now.
We’ll talk every now and then. Obviously, he’s someone who pulled for me in that draft room on that day so I’m pretty thankful that he did that. I can’t thank him enough for sticking his neck for sticking his neck out for me obviously. It’s time to get to work so I’m happy to do that.”
One thing in particular stood out for DiCesare during the orientation for the 2019 draftees in Dunedin.
“Just everyone being so personable. Every person on that staff from the time I met them to when we were on the plane to Bluefield, just kind of always being able to help us out and taking a really big initiative into knowing what we’re about as players. It was very good to know certain people personally. All the time, they were all about preaching routines and that was fun to talk about that with the player development (staff) down there.
Just to kind of see the facility. I know they’re kind of in the works of making a new one. That was the first time I’d been to Dunedin. It was a nice facility and I’m definitely looking forward to the construction.”
Chantilly High & George Mason
DiCesare laced up the cleats at Chantilly High School in Virginia where he was named the team MVP as a third baseman and pitcher in his junior and senior seasons of 2015 and 2016. He captured a number of other awards including the Concord District Player of the Year and Northern Region Player of the Year in his senior campaign. That season saw him hit .375 with nine doubles and 22 RBIs while going 11-0 with a 0.57 earned run average and a strikeout/walk ratio of 85-12 in 75 innings.
George Mason University was the next stop in DiCesare’s baseball journey where he made a number of friends during his three years on campus.
“Just a bunch of good guys. Had a couple of good characters on the team all three years that I was there. It was fun getting to know the guys and just kind of having those good times. We had a good run my sophomore year, had a good group of guys and a couple of pro baseball players. When I first stepped on that fields, the guys, they kind of took me in with intent to kind of build me as a good person and also as a good player. I learned that throughout my time at Mason.”
An Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll student in 2018 and 2019, the personal highlight for DiCesare happened during his sophomore season when he pitched 10 shutout innings of three-hit against Virginia Commonwealth University April 22, 2018. Unfortunately, he had to settle for a no-decision as his Patriots lost in 11 innings.
“We had a conference game against VCU. That was just a real back-and-forth series. They were always good and we were pretty good that year. It was kind of back-and-forth and that was one of my better college games that unfortunately ended in an extra-inning loss.
It was a really competitive series overall and it was kind of one thing that put my drive and kind of slingshot me to where I am today. Just kind of being relentless and stuff like that.”
The 2018 season was DiCesare’s best with the Patriots as he finished 6-5 with a 3.33 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 83-2/3 innings.
DiCesare did not have to venture too far from home for his first professional assignment as he was sent to the Bluefield Blue Jays. His first Appalachian League start on June 23 was one for the highlight reel.
“My first start was against the Yankees in Pulaski and they usually kind of pack the stands and it was one of the first series. I think it was their first series at home so everyone was eager to see some professional baseball around that area.
Yeah, butterflies absolutely but that’s kind of the fun of the game for me. Anytime you get a little nervous, it just shows you care a ton. The moment’s going to be there for you.
Performing in front of family and friends was an added bonus.
“My parents were able to surprise me for my first pro start. It was a good little thing to have and it was definitely a good place to be to start out and really kind of hit my stride and find out what was working.
Allowing just one run over his first 12 innings, DiCesare won Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week honours for the week of July 1-7 after throwing five scoreless frames against Johnson City July 6. That award provided an early boost of confidence for him.
“Absolutely. I actually had no idea about that until one of my coaches told me a couple of days after the fact. Obviously very cool and very honoured for that weekly award. It was fortunately on our hot streak too so that is always fun.
Winning gets a lot of attention too so I know that we’re all enjoying our time for those couple of weeks and that hot streak that we had.”
One thing that DiCesare enjoyed during his time in Bluefield was working with the catchers.
Being able to work with some really good catchers that we had, Anthony (Morales), Andres Guerra and (Ryan) Sloniger, who’s been up here (in Vancouver). Getting constant feedback and being able to work everyday and obviously being up here is a step up so I just want to keep working.”
A 2-1 record and a 3.60 earned run average over 15 innings with Bluefield resulted in the first promotion of DiCesare’s career as he was called up to Vancouver.
Virginia to Van-City
The other Virginia-born player on the Vancouver Canadians roster is infielder Tanner Morris who was with the Virginia Cavaliers but DiCesare says their paths never crossed until he was promoted to Vancouver.
“Actually, I didn’t. We never played each other. I knew about him just through the Cape actually last year because our catcher, Logan Driscoll, who’s now with the Padres (organization), he played with Tanner last summer. Heard good things about him. He’s a good dude and he’s fun to hang with.”
Driscoll—San Diego’s second-round pick in 2019 out of George Mason—is now with the Tri-City Dust Devils and he and DiCesare found themselves on opposing sides on the diamond when DiCesare joined the Canadians.
“When I heard the news that I was coming up here and I saw that we were playing him pretty shortly into my time here, I was pretty excited. I knew he was ecstatic.
We have a really good relationship and we’ll follow each other constantly. Especially when we kind of dispersed from the Northern Virginia area but yeah, it’s always good to see him. He’s always got a good smile on his face. He’s just a friend for life. He’s kind of owned me up until now in inter-squads and stuff but it’ll be good to see what I can do against him.”
DiCesare’s first appearance came in Spokane and the first challenge was getting there.
“It was awesome. I mean, the travel to get there was a little rocky. Had some pitstops unexpected but to finally get there and to finally pitch, it was nice but then again, it’s another day on the mound and another game. Obviously there’s a ton of people in the stands and there’s a ton of people in the stands and they’re excited for Spokane. Another good time just throwing for the Canadians.”
In his first game in a Vancouver uniform, DiCesare threw 3-2/3 innings of relief and struck out four to get the win in Spokane July 19. The only negatives were two solo home runs off the bat of David Garcia.
“You’re not going to be perfect every time out. It’d be wrong of me to strive for perfection but you definitely want to be the best you can be every time out and that’s obviously what I try to do and it helps with a lot of preparation.
Tip the cap to the guy who got me twice but again, it’s moving on to the next outing and more importantly, just the next day. Just get back to work and figure out what worked well, what didn’t work well and that’s the beauty of the game.”
DiCesare made a recent start against Boise in which he threw four shutout innings at Nat Bailey Stadium August 17 but his first four appearances with the Canadians have come out of the bullpen. No matter the role, DiCesare will prepare accordingly.
“It’s a long relief-type deal. I don’t know if I’ll have a start here or not but it’s kind of still having the mentality that I’m going to be going long even though there might be a pitch count or whatnot. Just make the most of it, be competitive and just don’t change the routine.
I’ll act kind of like a starter. As (Nick) Fraze warms up out in left (field) before he goes in and just kind of get that mentality and that when I know he’s near his limit, I’m kind of getting ready and getting in the mindset of I’m going to start this game but it might be in the fourth or fifth or whenever. I’m not really changing the mentality, going after the hitters and working on all the pitches.”
The pitching arsenal for DiCesare consists of three pitches.
“A heavy mix of a lot of fastballs, a lot of changeups and a lot of breaking balls. The changeup is one pitch that I know that I have the most feel with. It’s definitely my go-to pitch. I’ve kind of become way more comfortable in various counts or with various hitters since I got to Bluefield which was a confidence booster.
But just being able to keep hitters off-balance the best I can and just pound the strike zone. If they’re going to earn hits, they’re going to earn them. I try to minimize walks and minimize damage to that. Just going after the hitters and pounding the strike zone.”
The type of fastball DiCesare employs is the standard fare.
“Four-seam. The ball has a little bit of sink to it, a little bit of fade, a lower arm slot. I play the changeup off that and I just kind of make that look as identical as possible. I’m constantly learning how my ball plays to these hitters, to these pro guys, in the zone and what’s its strengths and the weaknesses of it.”
As for his fastball velocity, it is in the high 80s to low 90s mile per hour range.
“Usually, the 88 to 91 area. Maybe flash a 92 every now and then. Usually when I try to run up the velo a little bit, that’s when I get in trouble. My ball gets a little flat and hitters are kind of easily picking that up. Being able to pitch with that 88 to that 90, a little bit of 91 range and mix my offspeed in with it. That’s kind of when I’m most effective.”
When it comes to his breaking ball, it is a combination of two pitches.
“I won’t say that it’s a curve or a slider just because it’s such a slurve because of my arm slot. A traditional curveball grip but it’s because of that low three-quarter arm slot that it has that slurve action.
Sometimes I’ll able to manipulate it and have a more of a sweeping action and sometimes a little bit more of a vertical action but it’s usually a hybrid of that vertical and that horizontal plane.”
Pitching Style & Influences
DiCesare’s background as an infielder shaped the type of delivery he uses.
“I used to be an infielder and I used to be kind of short and quick with the ball. When I pitch, it would kind of be that alternative arm slot and just kind of over the years realizing that I’m not an overpowering pitcher. I’d rather be a little crafty. A crafty righty, if you will. Just kind of playing up to my strengths and not trying to be something that I’m not.”
Though not a sidearmer like former C’s teammate Andy McGuire, DiCesare’s arm angle is not that far off.
“A little bit higher. He’s definitely more or less sidearm action. He’s got a funky delivery so it’s fun to watch. A little bit higher than that but definitely not your traditional over-the-top.”
As far as major league pitchers he likes to watch and try to emulate, he lists hurlers from the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland.
“I follow a couple of guys just because like I’m a big changeup guy so I’ll watch Kyle Hendricks pitch a ton even though I’m not anything similar to him but he has just a devastating changeup which is to fun to watch.
I still love Corey Kluber. I like to model my delivery after him. Just a high leg kick, kind of try to hide the ball a little bit. He’s a guy that I’ve watched for quite some time as I was kind of sculpting my game.
For a little bit, I was watching Sonny Gray too when he was on the Yankees. Not so much anymore but I wouldn’t say I’m too much like Kluber because he’s just got devastating stuff but definitely I look at him as a little bit of a model as a delivery standpoint.”
Though he is now in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, DiCesare admits he was a fan of one of their American League East rivals growing up.
“I grew up as a huge Yankees fan. I was a huge (Derek) Jeter fan. Obviously he’s just a class act guy and he is someone that I kind of, as an infielder my whole life, that was just someone I wanted to be like. That was my childhood team for sure.”
DiCesare will turn 22 on April 21.
Thanks a million again to Jared DiCesare for chatting things up in this episode of C’s Chat. Another million thanks to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for setting up the interview.