Dylan Cease

White Sox Talk Podcast: Dylan Cease doesn't want to let down Don Cooper

0714-dylan-cease.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Dylan Cease doesn't want to let down Don Cooper

Chuck Garfien talks to White Sox pitching prospect Dylan Cease about his past, present and future.

What he learned from a dominating performance against Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners during spring training last year, Don Cooper's prediction that Cease will take the biggest strides in 2019, if he's thinking about breaking camp with the White Sox, coming back from Tommy John surgery, what it will be like facing the Cubs, the story of facing Eloy Jimenez in live batting practice and his high expectations for teammate Jimmy Lambert.

Cease vs. Mariners last year (03:00)

Cooper (04:55)

Tommy John (08:50)

Facing Eloy (12:50)

Jimmy lambert (14:00)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Dylan Cease staying focused on the present as he gets closer to making MLB debut

Dylan Cease staying focused on the present as he gets closer to making MLB debut

Last winter when I asked pitching coach Don Cooper to name the White Sox pitching prospect who would take the biggest strides in 2018, he already knew the answer.

“Dylan Cease,”  Cooper said emphatically.

So this winter, when I asked Cooper the same question, he gave exactly the same answer.

“Cease. He’s going to be my guy again,” Cooper said about the White Sox top pitching prospect who was named the MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year in 2018, going 12-2 with a 2.40 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 124 innings.

“He doubled down,” Cease said when I told him about Cooper’s prediction on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “It makes me not want to let him down. It makes me feel great that they believe in me, and they’re going to do everything they can to help me turn into that guy. 

"It’s humbling and makes me feel awesome.”

[LISTEN TO DYLAN CEASE ON THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST]

Cooper has another White Sox pitching prospect he’s got his eyes on this spring who could vault himself behind Cease, but Coop isn’t ready to make that pronouncement just yet. He wants to watch more of him here at Camelback Ranch in person, so stay tuned.

As for Cease, after he dominated hitters last season at Winston-Salem and Birmingham, it begs the question: is he ready to make the jump to the majors?  

You might be thinking that. Same with members of the media.

What is Cease thinking?

“I’m thinking execute pitches," he said. "That’s it. I’m getting ready for my season wherever (the White Sox) send me.”

Cease might have big hopes and dreams for his baseball career, but before he arrives at his personal pinnacle, he’s preparing for all the building blocks that need to come before reaching his ultimate destination.  

An ace? An all-star? A Cy Young award? A World Series title? In Cease's mind, they all cease to exist.

“I try not to get too far ahead of myself, because that’s how you miss what you’re doing right now,” Cease said. “So I’m trying to go step by step by step and hopefully let that turn into something big.”

That’s what the White Sox were thinking when they acquired Cease and Eloy Jimenez from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade in 2017.  Both were prospects in the lower levels of the Cubs organization with the potential to become stars. The Cubs were in win-now mode. The rebuilding White Sox were win-later.

Sometime in the future (quite possibly this season), both Cease and Jimenez will be teammates in Chicago. The White Sox play the Cubs June 18-19 at Wrigley and July 6-7 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Will Cease be in the majors in time for either of those series?  That’s unknown at this point. But whenever he does face the team that traded him to the South Side, will it have any extra meaning?

“I think everybody will want it to mean something. To me, it will be the same as if I face any other club,” Cease said about pitching against the Cubs. “Obviously they’ve got a lot of good players. It’ll probably be more intense. (The Cubs) always sell out, so there will probably be a really intense atmosphere.  

"Other than that, I’m not going in there going, ‘I hate these guys, I’m going to show them what they’re missing.’ I’m going to go in and face them like I face any other team.”

Once upon a time, Cease actually faced Jimenez. It’s true. They squared off in live batting practice at minor league camp with the Cubs.

“That was before (Jimenez) was super, super hyped up, but everyone knew that he was going to be a stud,” Cease said.  “I remember he did have some hype, so I’m like, ‘I have to amp it up a little bit.’ So I remember throwing him my best breaking ball and my best fastball and I probably walked him or he made contact. I don’t remember. He definitely didn’t go deep.”

That was then. How would Cease do against Jimenez now?

“In the first at-bat, I would probably tag him with fastballs. If I was just able to beat him with fastballs I think I’d be in his head a little bit," he said. "My thing would probably be to try to dominate him with just heaters, and at that point if I was able to do that I would probably be able to go anywhere I wanted from there.   

"And if he took me deep, I would probably have to do it again until I beat him with a fastball, just to let him know,” Cease said with a knowing smile. “He’d be a tough out for sure.”

Someday soon Cease will be delivering a whole bunch of outs for the White Sox.  Just ask Coop.

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When's Dylan Cease going to get to the bigs? 'If I execute pitches, I think I can compete anywhere'

0714-dylan-cease.jpg
USA TODAY

When's Dylan Cease going to get to the bigs? 'If I execute pitches, I think I can compete anywhere'

Dylan Cease isn't as vocal about his readiness for the major leagues as Eloy Jimenez.

The White Sox top-ranked prospect, Jimenez has been declaring himself big league ready for more than a year now. Cease sticks a little more closely to your standard baseball cliches, but it doesn't mean he's any less confident.

He's got plenty of reason to be confident following an exceptional 2018 campaign, one that earned him minor league pitcher of the year honors from MLB Pipeline. Cease had a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Class A Winston-Salem, then got promoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he was even better, posting a 1.72 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 52.1 innings.

With Michael Kopech set to spend the entirety of the 2019 season in recovery mode following Tommy John surgery, Cease is the pitcher White Sox fans want to see on the South Side this season. And so it's another year of questions about when one of the organization's top pitching prospects will be making his major league debut.

The easy answer? Cease, who's yet to pitch above the Double-A level, is on almost the exact same track as Kopech was last season. Kopech made just a handful of Triple-A appearances at the end of his excellent 2017 season before spending the bulk of the year there last season. That's probably the prescription for Cease, too.

"It's extremely similar," general manager Rick Hahn said Friday of Cease compared to Kopech. "It's extremely similar to the point where if you rewind a year prior in each of their careers, I think going into last season Michael's career high in innings was somewhere in the 80s or something like that going into last year. Dylan's high in innings was somewhere in the 70s. The year before Michael debuted for us, we were able to get him up to the 130 level. Last year, Dylan wound up at the 120 level. And then it’s just sort of a matter of building him up and making sure they can get through a full major league season.

"From a stuff and upside standpoint, it’s extraordinarily similar. You know Dylan was named minor league pitcher of the year last year. The only thing, knock on wood, sitting here day that's holding him back is simply that innings base, that innings foundation. We've aired repeatedly over the course of the first two years in this process on the side of caution in terms of player development, and we're going to continue to do that. So with Dylan, we're going to make sure he continues to build up that base.

"As you've heard me say many times before, the good ones have a way of forcing your hand, and it won't shock me if some point over the course of the summer we'll be getting repeated ‘When is Dylan Cease coming up?’ questions."

It's important to remember, too, that Kopech faced some significant bumps in the road in the middle of the 2018 campaign, walking a lot of guys and going through a rough stretch. If Cease his able to more closely replicate what he did last year — obviously a challenge considering he's moving up a level — perhaps he arrives sooner than late August, when Kopech did.

"It’s possible," director of player development Chris Getz said Sunday. "Dylan had a great year last year, in terms of making strides, he probably is at the top. He’s a very level-headed kid. Very competitive. Has a very good understanding of himself. We’ll see how it goes in spring training. He’s ticketed to go to Charlotte and we’ll go from there. I have a lot of confidence in Dylan Cease."

And Cease has a lot of confidence in himself, too, even if he doesn't get there in the way you'd expect. He doesn't go the Jack Donaghy route.


No, instead, Cease has built confidence from doing the opposite: relaxing.

"Having that feel on how to be more consistent, it’s almost something you can’t put into words," Cease said Friday, talking about his biggest takeaway from 2018. "You do it over and over again and then one day you’re like, ‘Man, OK, that’s what it feels like to get out in front of my fastball or where I need to release my curveball.’ Little things like that.

"It definitely helps you relax. Whether I have a good bullpen, whether I’m feeling good or not, I know I can still go out and give something.

"You need to execute pitches. You don’t need to be the most confident guy in the world. You need to just execute pitches."

If he keeps executing them like he did last season, it shouldn't be long before he's pitching at the major league level. Cease isn't going to come out and declare himself ready for the majors like some other uber-confident White Sox prospects we know. But he's not shying away from that conversation, either. It's the White Sox decision when he comes up, and as Hahn mentioned in the quote above, the organization has taken their time with all their highly rated prospects. There truly is no rush.

But we should see Cease this summer. And whether he makes a declaration or not, he'll be ready.

"At the end of the day, I’m trying to make it up as quick as I can, just like everyone else, but I’m controlling what I can control," he said. "I’m trying to execute pitches, and I’m leaving it at that. And whatever happens happens.

"It’s above my paygrade. If I execute pitches, I think I can compete anywhere. So whether that’s a couple months in or the end of the year, whatever that is, I’m going to be ready to go."

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