* Chase De Jong, 20, hopes to follow in his cousin's footsteps (Jordan De Jong), working his way to the big leagues and eventually pitching for the Blue Jays. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
“This is Chase De Jong returning your call,” said De Jong into the phone this week from the Lansing clubhouse.
Probably a dumb question but you wouldn’t be any relation to Jordan De Jong, who pitched for the Blue Jays in 2007 are you?
Turns out that Jordan De Jong, who was born in Orange City, Iowa, attended high school in Placentia, Calif., and was drafted out of Cal State Fullerton, and Chase De Jong, born in Long Beach, are cousins.
John De Jong has five grandchildren. All boys. The eldest, Jordan, made the majors, and the youngest, Chase, 20, hopes to carry on the family tradition. The Jays thought so much of him they selected him in the second round (81st over all in North America) and gave him a $620,300 US signing bonus to pass on a scholarship at USC.
“This spring, Ricky Romero, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos and Erik Kratz would walk by, see my name on the back of the uniform and say ‘hey, you any relation to Jordan?’” said Chase. “He left a good legacy here. He was known for being a hard worker.”
Jordan pitched at rookie-class Medicine Hat, class-A Auburn, Dunedin, double-A New Haven, New Hampshire and triple-A Syracuse in seven seasons rubbing shoulders with the aforementioned Jays.
Chase, a self-described “field rat,” was there to watch some of it: running around Goodwin Field at Cal-State Fullerton, watching spring games in Dunedin and Tampa, the Arizona Fall League and at Dodger Stadium to see Jordan pitch in one of his six relief outings for manager’s John Gibbons’ 83-win team in 2007.
After piggy-backing (two starters follow each other in the same game), De Jong now has his own “start day” under manager John Tamargo Jr, and pitching coach Vince Horsman, the Halifax Hall of Famer (De Jong: “Nova Scotia Hall of Fame, right? I’m learning all my Canadian provinces.”)
De Jong allowed three runs in five innings in a loss to West Michigan in his previous start and goes again Thursday against Dayton. In seven games (five starts), De Jong is 0-1 with a 3.71 ERA, walking seven and striking out 21 in 26 2/3 innings.
Chase’s favorite minor league moment came the final day of camp in 2012. After a two-hour game, players had to wait for almost four hours for exit physicals. Jose Bautista was rehabbing at Dunedin and heard about the delay, so he called the Outback Steak House and ordered meals -- “Blooming Onions for the house, the whole clubhouse.”
“He saw how hard we’d worked hard and it was a nice way for things to end,” said Chase. “It’s the first I’d ever interacted with a superstar. It was obvious he appreciated guys in the minors -- he’d been there.”
Chase said his cousin, 15 years his senior, has always been there when advice was needed.
“The day after the Jays drafted me, he phoned to say “I want you to know you did this on your own, I didn’t have anything to do with the Jays picking you,’” said Chase. Jordan then proceeded to tell Chase “what a great organization Toronto is, how it’s all about development.”
“We do develop pitchers,” said Chase, who hopes to develop his way up the ladder. “You show up and your name has been hanging on a jersey for a few days and everyone thinks I’m an Asian player,” said Chase. “Then, I show and they say ‘oh, he’s a tall white guy.’”
The 6-foot-1 righty says he’s adapting to pro ball, pitching 12 innings in 2012, 56 last year and has been receiving positive feedback from scouts. (“At instructional league, I’ll go up and talk to them.”)
Some scouts thought he would be a difficult sign because, for De Jong, education comes first: his father, Clayton, is a doctor, and mom is a middle school counsellor with a master’s degree. His older brother Tyler is at medical school at USC, and after graduating from The Masters College, brother Blake is pursuing his MBA.
With the scholarship program offered by the Jays (“they matched my offer to USC”), he can attend school down the road.
But first, the prospect wants to follow his cousin’s path up the ladder to the majors.
An American League evaluator gives us his take on top 10 Blue Jays prospects:
1. RHP Aaron Sanchez, N.H.
“You’re doing this every week? Let me know if someone doesn’t have this guy No. 1. Why? I know you won’t tell me who told you, but I’d like to try to find out -- if a scout says anyone is better than Sanchez, I’d never hire him.”
2. Franklin Barreto, extended.
“This kid has a real chance. One of the best shortstops I ever saw in the Gulf Coast League was Chipper Jones (1990). He hit .229 with three extra-base hits. This guy is a better fielder and hit .299 with 29 extra-base hits.”
3. RHP Chase De Jong, Lansing.
“I’d heard a lot about his curve ball and it was everything as advertised when I saw him.”
4. RHP Adonys Cardona, Lansing.
“I had him this high before he broke his elbow against Dayton and had a screw inserted. Tommy John surgeries, I know. Screw in the elbow? I don’t.”
5. 3B Mitch Nay, Lansing.
“Best power prospect in the system. Like him a lot.”
6. RHP Tom Robson, Lansing.
“Great frame. Saw him as a high schooler, then last year with Vancouver and this spring. He’s making strides.”
7. OF D.J. Davis, Lansing.
“I like his tools: speed, arm, etc. I don’t like his OPS (.637), but he’s young.”
8. LHP Sean Nolin, Buffalo.
“Probably rushed last year, but he’ll likely get a chance after the break or maybe by September.”
9. RHP John Stilson, Buffalo.
“You’ll see him this year in a Jays uniform as long as he stays healthy.”
10. LHP Matt Smoral, extended
“A disappointment first time I had him, but looked impressive the next time. He’s 20 and will be at a short-season, but it takes a while with lefties.”
At Buffalo: Ryan Goins went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and is 16-for-51 (.314) with a double, a triple and a .730 OPS in 13 games for Buffalo this season. Why is he playing shortstop rather than second base? ... LHP Sean Nolin is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in seven starts with 34 strikeouts in 40 innings.
At N.H.: RHP Aaron Sanchez has posted a 3.12 ERA in his first nine starts with 35 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings ... INF Ryan Schimpf is hitting .317 with eight doubles, five home runs, and a 1.131 OPS in 19 games.
At Dunedin: OFs Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith each had two hits Monday. Pompey doubled and homered and is now hitting .348 with seven doubles, three triples, three home runs, 17 stolen bases, 19 RBIs, with 17 steals, while Smith is hitting .302 with five doubles, three triples, four home runs and 21 RBIs ... LHP Daniel Norris has struck out 42 in 33 1/3 innings posting an 0.81 ERA.
At Lansing: OF D.J. Davis went 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs, while 3B Mitch Nay went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in an 11-4 win over Bowling Green Monday ... Nay is hitting .303 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, and 22 RBIs in 37 games ... SS Dawel Lugo went 4-for-5 with an RBI, while 2B Dickie Thon was 3-for-4 with a double.