Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays

I’m certainly not suggesting that Brett Cecil is on the path towards developing a wipeout splitter, but in a strange twist, the former high-bonus 38th overall pick is following the career path of his new teammate: eight-year minor league veteran turned metal-elbowed Major League success, Steve Delabar.

Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun does some outstanding work in presenting the story, which explains that this off-season Cecil has been working with trainer James Evans, who developed the program that reinvigorated Delabar’s career, following what might have been a career-ending injury in 2009, largely by adding a few ticks to his fastball.

Years before, Evans had recognized that baseball pitchers and tennis players share nearly identical mechanics. The throwing motion in baseball is virtually the same one that tennis players use to serve. So, Evans wondered, why do baseball pitchers suffer devastating arm injuries that tennis players largely are able to avoid?

The main difference is that tennis players obviously don’t release their rackets in the way that baseball players release the baseball. The tennis motion ends in a smooth follow-through. Evans then started having pitchers work with weighted balls, holding on to the ball all the way through the motion, to strengthen the muscles at the back of the shoulder.

The “unintended by-product” of this, Fidlin explains, is improved velocity– something Cecil, who is out of options and trying to make the club as a bullpen lefty, can certainly use.

You may recall that Cecil’s radar readings were a story throughout camp last year, as the would-be starter struggled to throw as hard as the club needed to, and even had a start shielded from the media in the midst of a disastrous, demotion-earning spring. If he really can find some extra velocity through this program, in addition to whatever he may be able to add by working exclusively from the bullpen, the Jays may actually have something here. Though maybe they do anyway, with Cecil having held lefties to a .256 wOBA, a 2.45 ERA and 3.03 FIP over his last three seasons in the Majors.

At the very least, it’s all a nifty take on the “best shape of his life” kind of columns that we’re sure to be inundated with any moment now. And there’s actually something about that in Fidlin’s piece, too!

The whole thing is definitely worth reading. I won’t be holding my breath, personally, but Cecil sure sounds excited for camp.

Comments (57)

  1. Make or break year for Cecil

  2. he should be the second lefty out of the pen. does he have options left?

  3. The sun is total garbage with the exception of their baseball coverage.

  4. Just curious, how do you measure ERA against just lefties?

    • You probably shouldn’t

    • The same way you measure normal era….except just against lefties

      • Then do you not count righties who got on base as scoring?

        • Yes, because they got home when he pitched to a lefty.

          • But don’t you see the problem there? It then takes into account a previous at-bat by a righty. If that batter had been a lefty instead, then he may not have gotten on base and the ERA calculation would be different.

    • When you record RBIs on a score-sheet, you record them next to the guy who got the hit, walk, or whatever that drove the runs in. So I imagine they look at the guy who got the RBIs – i.e. even if Cecil were to walk three righties in a row, if he gave up a homer to a lefty, then all runs would count against his lefty-specific ERA.

      Yes, it’s still a flawed system.

  5. Gotta give him credit for going that extra mile to rehab and make himself better. I’m hoping that he’s going to be a valuable guy in the ‘pen this season.
    The way the Jays’ luck has been going, it’s only a matter of time until he goes on the DL for season -ending surgery..

  6. I’m cheering for the guy – but as you’ve noted – the bast shape of his life stories have already had a chance with Cecil. Good for him though for continuing to work to try to find a way to be effective. Maybe he can be one of those guys who figures it out later in life and can string a good career together out of the pen like Black Magic.

    I’m not holding my breath though.

  7. I’m excited about the fact that there’s been two DJF posts before noon, and one on the weekend!

  8. Cecil has to be the least exciting player in the entire organization.. and this news does nothing to change that.

    • Brad Lincoln would like a word.

    • I disagree. The key to success for any organization is maximizing the performance you can get out of your low-cost, pre-FA guys. This is particularly true of drafted pitchers. Bad as Brett Cecil has been, he would cost you 2-3 times more to replace on the open market. The success of the Blue Jays going forward may not depend on the Brett Cecils of the world, but it can certainly be helped by them.

      At least he’s not Deck McGuire…

  9. I hope for the best for Cecil, but I won’t hold out hope. Here’s hoping.
    60 percent of the time hope helps, but there’s only a 30 percent chance of that.

  10. Along with Ricky Romero, who won’t have to carry the load of being the front line starter, I think that Brett Cecil is a strong bounceback candidate this year.

    He knows that his role will be to throw from the bullpen. His FB should tick higher which will make all of his other pitches work much better.

  11. With guys like Morrow and Johnson being a guaranteed DL trip at some point, having a guy like Cecil around is going to be extremely important. The MLB depth for SP doesn’t go too much further after Happ (unless I’m misremembering someone).

    I don’t really care of Cecil starts to throw 92mph again. If he can limit his walks, and stop throwing meatballs, he’ll be at least average against both lefties and righties.

  12. Fuck it why not get excited!!

  13. I hope he shows up to camp in the best shape of his career.

  14. C’mon Cecil! I believe in dem goggles!

  15. Hey Stoeten, I wanted to post some interesting stuff for my fellow DJF’s but It comes from behind the paywall at Baseball America. Let me know if you are uncool with it and I won’t do it again.

    International Reviews: Toronto Blue Jays

    By Ben Badler
    February 11, 2013

    E-mail Print

    Baseball America’s annual International Reviews begin today in the American League East, with scouting reports on every team’s top international amateur signings from the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from the Cuban market.

    See also: 2011 American League East International Review


    Toronto Blue Jays

    Top signing: SS Franklin Barreto, Venezuela, $1.45 million.
    Six-figure signings: SS Richard Urena (Dominican Republic), LHP Jonathan Torres (Venezuela), RHP Yonardo Herdendez (Venezuela), LHP Oscar Cabrera (Dominican Republic), RHP Jose Brito (Dominican Republic), OF Andres de Aza (Dominican Republic), SS Ronniel Demorizi (Dominican Republic), LHP Wilfri Aleton (Dominican Republic).

    The Blue Jays were one of the most aggressive teams in Latin America around July 2. Many sources believed they were going to sign Venezuelan righthander Jose Mujica, who ended up signing with the Rays instead for $1 million. When they couldn’t sign Mujica, they instead signed Venezuelan shortstop Luis Castro for $800,000, but that deal fell apart when Castro had problems with his physical and he ended up signing with the Rockies for $50,000.

    Several teams had Venezuelan shortstop Franklin Barreto ranked as the No. 1 international prospect eligible to sign on July 2, when the Blue Jays landed him for $1.45 million. Barreto, 16, is one of the most decorated players to ever come out of Venezuela. He has excelled during international tournaments since he was 10, winning MVP honors at the Pan American 12U tournament and leading Venezuela to a Criollitos de America championship in 2008 en route to becoming the Corporacion Criolltos of Venezuela athlete of the year. After winning another MVP at the 14U Pan American championship in 2010, he exploded at the 16U World Championship in Mexico in 2011, hitting .515/.568/.978 in 33 at-bats and tying for the tournament lead with three home runs (two of which came against Team USA) while going 8-for-8 in stolen bases.

    Barreto, who trained with Ciro Barrios, has two standout tools: his bat and his speed. He’s a potential plus hitter with quick hands and a compact stroke from the right side. He has good pitch recognition and is willing to work deep counts, but he’s an aggressive hitter in the strike zone and doesn’t swing and miss much. His hands work well through the zone and he hits hard line drives to all fields. The concerns scouts have about Barreto’s offense are his power ceiling because he’s not a big man and relatively physically mature for his age at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, but he’s strong and can go over the fence in games, so he could have average power.

    Barreto will start off as a shortstop, but most scouts believe he will end up at either second base or center field. Barreto’s above-average arm is plenty for shortstop, but his footwork and actions with the glove both need a lot of work to be able to stay in the infield. High-end comparisons range from Shane Victorino to Rafael Furcal. Barreto could start in the GCL, but he’s advanced enough that he could follow the path of top 2011 international signing Roberto Osuna and begin his career in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.

    One of the reasons the Blue Jays may be tempted to push Barreto to the Appalachian league is their enviable depth of young Latin American shortstops at the Rookie ball level. They will have to find playing time for Barreto, Dawel Lugo, Rolando Segovia and Richard Urena (video), a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop who signed on July 3 for $725,000.

    While Barreto may ultimately move off the position, the 6-foot-1, 160-pound Urena projects as a true shortstop. Urena, who is from San Francisco de Macoris, trained with Decarte Corporan and played in the Dominican Prospect League. Urena has several average tools that play up because of his baseball instincts. He drops his hands when he swings, but he has an otherwise sound lefty stroke. He has good rhythm at the plate, solid plate discipline and sprays line drives with gap power. An average runner, Urena has clean hands, good footwork and an above-average arm. He’s advanced enough to be pushed to the GCL, but with an abundance of shortstops at the Rookie level, it’s possible he could spend a year in the DSL.

    The Blue Jays raised some eyebrows with the signing of Venezuelan lefthander Jonathan Torres, whose $520,000 bonus was the biggest of the year for a Venezuelan player signed before July 2. Like Barreto, Torres also trained with Barrios, but since Torres signed before July 2, his bonus doesn’t count against Toronto’s 2012-13 international bonus pool. Torres, who turned 18 in December, made four starts in 11 appearances last year in the DSL, where he posted a 4.29 ERA, struck out 24 and walked 21 in 21 innings. The Blue Jays say they saw Torres up to 93 mph before signing but that he came down with an arm issue after signing.

    In December, the Blue Jays signed 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Yonardo Herdenez for $283,000. Herdenez touched 88-89 mph and impressed the Blue Jays with his fastball command. He’s 6-foot-1, 165 pounds with a changeup that’s more advanced than his breaking ball. Shortly before signing Herdenez, the Blue Jays also added Dominican lefthander Wilfri Aleton (video) for $100,000. Aleton trained with Edwin Sabater and played in the DPL, where he showed a fastball up to 91 mph. Aleton has a loose arm and room to fill out his 6-foot-3, 170-pound body. He throws with some effort and will need to iron out his mechanics to improve his control. His slurvy curveball flashes as a solid pitch, though it could eventually morph into a slider. He also throws a changeup, his third-best pitch.

    Dominican lefthander Oscar Cabrera originally signed with the Angels for $150,000 in November 2010, but the deal fell apart after MLB has issues with Cabrera’s paperwork during the investigation process in part because he was missing paperwork on his mother’s side. He signed with the Blue Jays last year in January for $275,000, then stood out as one of Toronto’s top prospects in the DSL by posting a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings with 45 strikeouts and 16 walks. Cabrera, who turned 18 in May, is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and touched 89 mph before he signed with the Angels, but most recently he’s been as high as 93. He throws strikes and flashed an above-average curveball, while his changeup has also shown some promise.

    Toronto made a few other six-figure signings before July 2 as well. Dominican righthander Jose Brito signed for $160,000 in April, made four appearances in the DSL, then got hit with a 50-game suspension due to a positive test for Stanzolol, an anabolic steroid commonly sold as Winstrol. Brito’s trainer, Lucas Garcia, also trained Erick Hurtado, a lefty whose $150,000 deal with the Cardinals was terminated and received a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for Stanozolol, then later signed for $50,000 with Houston. Brito, who turned 18 in December, is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and threw 92-96 mph before he signed. After his steroid test, his velocity dropped, so the Blue Jays will have to hope his velocity will return drug-free.

    Josue Herrera trained Dominican outfielder Andres de Aza, who signed for $150,000 in February. De Aza, who turned 18 in November, hit .227/.294/.371 with three home runs in 109 plate appearances in the DSL. De Aza is a physical, righthanded-hitting right fielder at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with intriguing power potential that comes from his size and strength. He’ll need to improve his approach at the plate to be able to tap into that power, however. He’s a below-average runner with an average arm.

    Dominican shortstop Ronniel Demorizi signed for $105,000 last year in January. A switch-hitter who turned 17 in July, Demorizzi struggled in the DSL by hitting .178/.282/.233 in 152 plate appearances. A native of San Francisco de Macoris who trained with Basilio Vizcaino (known as “Cachaza”), played at the Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field with Rangers outfielder Ronald Guzman in 2010, but his offensive game hasn’t developed as quickly as some had hoped. He has a chance to stick at shortstop but he’s gotten thicker since signing, so he may have to repeat the DSL.

  16. The “best shape of his life” argument scares me. As far as I’m concerned he came up as a decent 4-5 starter with a nice gut on him. The Jays make him lose the gut and his fastball goes along with it. Bring back the gut Cecil! Between the body type and goggles I had always hoped that Brett had a little bit of David Wells entertainment value in him. Scrawny Brett = no fun bullpen Brett or claimed off waivers Brett.

    • Why???????

    • Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Correlation is not causation.

      • Moreover Cecil started losing velocity before he lost his gut. At the end of the 2011 season after he’d a particularly bad outing he said that for 2012 he was going to be in the best shape of his life…and he did it. But his velocity kept dropping off.

  17. The best thing this off season has done, and what AA has done, is give some of these guys a push. Either they will push themselves to get better, or they will be pushed out the door. Dont think we have had that in some time, and if anyone else is added to spring training, then it only gets better.

  18. Ken Fidlin oughta do more thinkin’ and less fiddlin’

  19. At least they didn’t say Cecil has the best stuff in the organization…..Because he would be DFA’d

  20. True or be traded

  21. Uh, pretty good read. well it will be interesting to see what comes of this, holding ones breath though, no.. Brett is in the it better fucking happen now stage of the game.

  22. Gotta give it to one of the two commenters on the Sun piece, gem of a pic…

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