The Seattle Mariners have done well in recent years developing young pitchers, with Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister and Blake Beavan among those who have come up through their system. One of the pitchers from last year’s draft they hope can do the same is left-hander Scott DeCecco.
DeCecco was dominant at Middle Township High School in New Jersey. As a senior, he went 7-3 with a 0.75 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 48 innings. As a result he landed at the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he continued his growth as a pitcher.
He truly blossomed as a junior last year, going 5-3 with a 3.95 ERA. He also struck out 59 batters in 83 innings and intrigued scouts with his fastball that reached the low 90s.
The Mariners thought enough of DeCecco’s potential that they chose him in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He signed almost immediately and was sent to short-season Everett to start his professional career.
DeCecco’s first taste of minor league ball had its ups and downs. He appeared in a total of 16 games (nine starts) and posted a 2-4 record with a 5.95 ERA. However, he also had 54 strikeouts in 56 innings.
The youngster may have experienced fatigue from the long season, as his was inflated nearly a full run just from his final four appearances of the year. More information on his statistics is available at BaseballReference.com.
Check out what the Seattle prospect had to say when we recently exchanged emails.
Scott DeCecco Interview:
If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: Al Leiter. I grew up watching him when he was with the Mets in the late ‘90's and early 2000's. As my career moves on, I feel like he can be a pitcher I use to exemplify how to be successful in the big leagues. He wasn't overpowering, just like I'm not, but he controlled the game the way any pitcher wants to during a game. I would like to ask him about struggles in the minor leagues and how he managed his way to the big leagues. I would ask him about his daily routine and the way he prepared using some of his information as a guide.
Leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, what kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams?: Leading up to the draft I had been contacted by 15 different teams. Some of them seemed more interested than others, and some just sent questionnaires and I never heard from again. I didn't start receiving questionnaires and phone calls until after our college pro scout day, which is just an intersquad game.
I threw just an inning and after that I got nine of those questionnaires. I wasn't a highly scouted player, meaning not many scouts called me or met up with me, but as the draft got closer most of the 15 teams called to find out my sign-ability. It was a really hectic season last year and I tried not letting it creep into my head that one of my dreams can come true, so I just tried keeping focus on pitching as well as I could.
Can you run through what Draft Day is like?: I was down in Asheville, North Carolina for summer baseball. On the first day I knew I wasn't going to hear my name, since I knew I wasn't going in the top-two rounds. But I had heard from a few scouts and my college coach that I could maybe find a way up to the 10th round by the Athletics, so the second day I was pretty anxious about hearing my name, so I was just following on my phone (even during a summer ball game) if anything happened.
I also heard from several scouts that I could be around the 15th-20th round, and since day two lasted until I believe the 19th round, I was just focused on my phone. Nothing happened on day two, so I knew it was either day three or nothing at all.
You're still unsure if you will get drafted, so I was just really anxious and nervous on day three. My girlfriend flew down from New Jersey, and we went to a sports bar to eat lunch, just to get my mind of the draft, but it didn't work. My girlfriend and I were on our phones the entire lunch, just clicking the update button on MLB.com. You're waiting for a phone call and every time I hear my phone ring I'd kinda freak out.
My brother kept texting me, so I was starting to get annoyed with him. He kept asking me if I heard anything, and I kept telling him not if he kept texting me. So he eventually stopped and then one of my buddies from college called me, and that's when I got really upset because it was an actual phone call. I immediately hung up with him and looked up at my girlfriend and she had the biggest smile on her face, and I had no idea, so I just kept asking her, ‘What? What?’
She pointed down at her phone, and there it was, my name in the 21st round by the Mariners. It was an unreal feeling and I actually felt numb; I was definitely on cloud nine. The next time I will probably ever feel that feeling again is when I get the call up to the big leagues.
What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: I throw four pitches. A four- seam fastball, two-seam fastball, knuckle-curve and a circle-change. As a lefty, I know how important it is to have a good changeup when I face right-handed hitters. So, through college and my first year of pro ball, I made sure I could virtually throw my changeup consistently well even with my eyes closed.
In college, I threw a slider which kind of acted like a slurve just because of my arm slot and the way I released it. When I got to Everett, my pitching coach, Rich Dorman, pretty much told me that my slider wouldn’t get the job done in the big leagues, so we began work on a curveball. I couldn't figure it out at first, since I had been throwing a slider for the past three years and I just wasn't used to actually throwing a curve. I managed to get through my first year with this bad breaking ball, and when I went to instructional league and had more time to work on it, I started figuring the pitch out. I started throwing it more consistently for strikes and the depth in the curve started getting bigger and sharper. It's not a big league pitch yet, so I would say that is the pitch I'd improve on the most.
How intense are negotiations after getting drafted?: For me, negotiations were very easy. When scouts asked me about my sign-ability, I told them a number that wasn't ridiculous, just because I knew I wasn't a million-dollar player. I didn't really know the process, but decided not to sign with an agency before the draft. When my scout called me right after I had been drafted, he asked me if I was still in for the number I gave before, and I said yes. We immediately agreed, and he sent the contract the next day.
What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the Seattle organization?: This organization has so many great pitching prospects. What I believe sets me apart is my work ethic, being a lefty and the determination I have. I feel guilty if I'm not trying to find a way to get better every day. I'm in the gym almost every day or am trying to mentally prepare myself by reading books and studying myself through video.
There actually aren't that many lefties in the Mariners’ organization, so I believe that is another thing that sets me apart, just because I know how important left-handed pitchers are in professional baseball.
If the Mariners want me to be a starter, I will. If they want me to be a lefty specialist, I will. I’ll do anything that can help win. I wasn't a high draft pick, so I'm not automatically on anybody's prospect watch list, but I'm determined to get there. I know I'm going to have to work harder than the guys who are ahead of me, and I know it's possible. I just try to keep my head down and keep grinding and hopefully one day someone seems something in me that can help the big league team win, and win for a while.
What is one thing that you have been asked to work on the most?: I tend to get mentally lost when I'm on the mound, and I start rushing myself and get out of control with my mechanics. I was asked to slow my tempo down and learn to focus on the catchers’ mitt and the next pitch I'm going to execute. I'm starting to get it as I get older and get more experienced. I know that if I keep trust in myself and worry about what I can only control, I will get hitters out.
What do you like to do in your spare time?: In my spare time I like to just relax and hang out with anybody I can. I'll play video games when I'm bored, and I'll also watch TV when there's nothing else to do. I try not to sit around all day when I'm not working out or at the field, so when anything comes up I jump right on it. I look at Twitter most of the day because that's where I usually get my information from.
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