Featured Photo: Dylan Cease (RHP, White Sox)
* * * * *
Each week Jared Wyllys digs into his notebook and shares some info on a prospect of his choice, then passes along some select entries from our 2018 Prospect Spotlight Library. This week, we get a closer look at a young White Sox arm who received some veteran guidance this spring.
* * * * *
Prospect Focus: Dylan Cease (RHP, White Sox)
He can hit triple digits on the gun, but as the 2018 season begins, Dylan Cease is more concerned about how his front foot is landing.
For Cease, the triple-digit potential of his fastball is well documented, but he wants to step things up a notch and improve the consistency of his spin rate with whatever he throws. And that means a better base during his delivery. In his first spring training with the White Sox and the first big-league camp of his career, Cease took advantage of the opportunity to learn from the bevy of talented pitchers in Chicago’s system. Most of all, from 13-year MLB veteran James Shields. It was Shields who noticed that Cease was not always planting his lead foot during his delivery.
“Ever since he told me that, I’ve taken it into my starts, and it’s helped me a lot,” Cease told 2080. “Ever since he said that, I’ve been working on it, and I feel really confident spinning everything right now.”
Cease said that he feels fully healthy as this season starts, his arm and body feeling as good as they ever have, and though he wishes in hindsight that he had thrown more quality strikes in spring training, he’s pleased with the opportunities he had in Arizona to face major league hitters. This ranged from the surreality of standing on the mound with Ichiro in the box to learning from a mistake against Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
“[To start] I threw him a two-seamer that started in and ran over the plate, and he took it and backed up on it a little bit, so I was feeling confident, and then I got to 3-2 and tried to do it again, and he ripped it for a double,” Cease said, recalling the at-bat a few weeks later. “So it just shows you how good those guys are. You can’t give in on any play. You’ve got to be focused and locked in on what you want to do.”
Cease had his first start of the season on Sunday, making his debut with Winston-Salem in the High-A Carolina League. He went 4.2 innings against the Carolina Mudcats, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out seven. Last year, he had a strikeout rate over 30 percent between South Bend with the Cubs and Kannapolis with the White Sox, and thanks to the tip from Shields, he hopes to ride a more consistent spin rate to the more advanced levels of the White Sox farm system, and eventually, to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
Weekly Featured Spotlights: Padres Southpaws
MacKenzie Gore | LHP | Padres (Class A Fort Wayne)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/180 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 1m
The prized lefty prospect threw two innings on the Arizona backfields in my view, showing four pitches, advanced command, and swing-and-miss stuff. He exerted more effort on his fastball in the second inning as he lost his release point, but was able to find his composure and finish out the outing. The 6’3″ 19 year old showed four pitches, and the quality of the repertoire suggests he’ll use them all in the majors. With some projection left in a very athletic frame, Gore projects for double-plus command and control at maturity based on the ease, athleticism, and repeatability of his mechanics.
Gore’s best pitch was a 93-to-96 mph fastball that he moved around the zone at will. He filled the zone aggressively with it, getting hitters to swing through it and spotting up for called strikes. He generates above-average, two-plane run on the fastball, with his four-seam variant showing ride up in the zone, and the two-seamer showing sink. His dynamic mix of command, velocity, and life combines for a future 70-grade fastball. Just as impressive is Gore’s ability to pitch away from his heater, with numerous secondary pitches projecting as swing-and-miss offerings. The go-to off-speed pitch is a high-70’s breaking ball that shows sharp 1-to-7 shape and plus bite. He moves the curveball around with feel beyond his years, able to use it to both lefties and righties while burying the pitch under the zone with two strikes. He throws his changeup with quality arm speed, generating excellent fade in the 83-to-85 mph range. A harder slider in the 86-to-88 mph velo band is more a second-look breaking ball, but it’s extremely impressive to see a teenage pitcher even have the present feel to incorporate a wrinkle pitch.
These are massive grades for a two-inning March intersquad look, and I’ll need to see him again in game action before finalizing my full report. Still, it’s clear Gore is the rare prospect that comes with both a high floor and a high ceiling. There just aren’t many four-pitch lefties with this type of stuff and command – especially ones entering their first full pro season. The profile could be that of a Role 70, number 1 or number 2 starter in the big leagues.
–John Eshleman, March 10, 2018
Adrian Morejon | LHP | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 1m
The Padres spent over $80 million in the 2016-17 international signing class, a move resulting in the deepest stable of talent in MLB below Double-A. The club’s largest investment was $22 million on Cuban teenage lefty Adrien Morejon, now throwing in the High-A Carolina League as a 19 year-old.
Morejon relied heavily on his fastball, a 93-to-95 mph four-seamer with hard tailing life. He hides the ball via some shoulder tilt, causing his fastball to get on hitters quickly. His in-zone command was spotty; when Morejon hit spots, I saw a future 70-grade pitch with continued development. He mixes a two-seam variant at 89-to-92 mph with late run that gets the ball off the barrel. Morejon’s best secondary is a 1-7 curveball at 77-to-80 mph that he already shows ability to locate in the zone to both sides of the plate. He lost feel for the breaking ball at times, but it isn’t hard to see a future plus pitch in the curve. His third pitch is a 81-to-84 mph change-up that projects to above-average. Morejon uses three pitches confidently for a teenager, with enthusing feel to get velocity separation on his changeup and delivery it with fastball armspeed.
A recurrent theme in this assessment of Morejon’s repertoire is projected development. It’s not physical, although there’s a little more in there. Instead, his quiet, smooth delivery with clean arm action projects well for health and workload. It’s an athletic delivery that Morejon repeats, allowing foreseeable development in the command and control department. His present pitchability and mound presence are mature well beyond his years. Add it all up and you have a top prospect who projects to be a mainstay in any rotation. The ceiling is that of a #2 or #3 starter at the big league level.
–John Eshleman, April 9, 2018
Logan Allen | LHP | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 20y, 10m
The Padres system is so stacked with high-upside pitchers that it is easy to lose track of the incredible depth they’ve amassed, or even forget that a top #5-10 prospect in this system would be #1-5 in most others. Logan Allen–a strong-bodied lefty with four pitches who is set to open 2018 in Double-A before his 21st birthday–is one of those guys.
This isn’t your traditional command/control backend lefty. Allen ran his lively fastball up to 94, sitting 91-to-93 mph. His fastball is a future plus pitch featuring angle, velocity, and command that projects to 55 on the 20-80 scale. His best secondary was a hard, short 85-to-88 mph slider he confidently worked backfoot to righties and could bring frontdoor to lefties. Along with his fastball, the slider also projects as a 60-grade pitch. Allen’s change is still in progress, but it flashes enough fade to keep hitters off the fastball already. It is an at-least-average third pitch, one that could finish a half-grade better if he develops more feel. A slower, loopy curveball is used as a wrinkle to give a second look at his breaking ball.
The amount of strikeouts he has induced during his professional career support his ability to use a broad arsenal. Below Double-A, hitters aren’t at all used to seeing four-pitch guys with this many quality offerings. His command and control will need to move forward in order for him to reach his ceiling, but given his age and clean delivery, I expect that development to occur. Add it all up and the ceiling is a mid-rotation lefty capable of filling in the #3 or #4 spot in a Major League rotation.
–John Eshleman, April 4, 2018