Southern notes: Cease finding his center

White Sox prospect acing mental aspect of the game with Barons

Riding a 23-inning scoreless streak, Dylan Cease is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in seven Double-A starts. (Michael Wade/Birmingham Barons)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | August 9, 2018 10:00 AM

Birmingham Barons right-hander Dylan Cease has yet to explore what yoga might do for his body, but the Chicago White Sox pitching prospect has already fully embraced the mental aspect of the ancient discipline.

It all started when Cease, who has a 23-inning scoreless streak for the Barons, watched a YouTube video featuring a popular yogi named Sadhguru early last year.

"I saw the video and I started reading his books," said Cease, ranked No. 44 among MLB.com's top 100 prospects. "I just liked what he said. He clicked with me.

"I like to do conscious breathing and meditation throughout the day. It's not even necessarily for baseball. It's just for incorporating into your life, but it can happen to help out with baseball, too."

With the physical tools Cease has, any advantage that the 22-year-old can gain just makes him even harder for opposing batters to hit.

Cease, acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline last season along with outfielder Eloy Jimenez and two others for left-hander Jose Quintana, is enjoying a breakout season while pushing Charlotte's Michael Kopech for the distinction of being the White Sox's top pitcher in waiting.

Cease allowed just seven hits over his three straight scoreless starts and recorded 28 strikeouts to three walks in the 23-inning span.

Promoted from Class A Advanced Winston-Salem in mid-June after going 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 13 outings, Cease is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in seven starts for Birmingham.

Video: Birmingham's Cease rings up seventh strikeout

Cease has 140 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings combined and opponents are batting .194.

"All the hype is real," Birmingham manager Ryan Newman said. "The fastball in electric and he has a great deal of control and pitch-ability with his secondary stuff, too.

"He's exciting. He's definitely one to watch the rest of the season and throughout his career."

But Cease's success -- now and in the future -- is not based on raw talent alone.

"His stuff is outstanding and his preparation for each start is outstanding. The mental side of it, the game planning and the execution, have all been great."

Cease injured his elbow as a high school senior and underwent Tommy John surgery after signing with the Cubs, who spent $1.5 million to secure the sixth-round pick in 2014.

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The native of suburban Atlanta came into this season with just 152 innings of Minor League work and was 0-8 for Class A Kannapolis after coming over from the Cubs last season.

Cease, who pitched in the All-Star Futures Game, has enjoyed nothing but good health and success this year.

"It seems like as the game goes on, he gets stronger," Newman said. "He's one of those workhorses."

Who knows how much more durable and flexible Cease might be as he expands his connection to yoga?

"I'm trying to learn the actual physical yoga now," he said. "I don't have personal experience with it yet, but I think it would definitely help a pitcher."

Every athlete has someone with whom they connect. Usually, that is another athlete. That isn't exactly the case here.

Cease, ranked as the White Sox's No. 5 overall prospect, has a favorite yogi and it isn't Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

"I definitely look up to him," Cease said of Sadhguru. "I describe it like to me he is someone else's Tom Brady. People love Tom Brady. That's the way I think about this yogi.

"There are a lot of things you can do to try to better yourself, but this has kind of hit with me."

In brief

Step back for Hansen: Alec Hansen, who missed the first two months of the season because of a forearm strain, was sent from Birmingham down to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem by the White Sox after being plagued by severe wildness in his nine starts for the Barons. The former second-round pick walked 42 in 35 2/3 innings while going 0-4 with a 6.56 ERA. Hansen started the season as MLB.com's No. 46 prospect, but fell out of the top 100 at midseason and dropped from No. 4 to No. 10 with the White Sox. The 6-foot-7 right-hander led the Minors with 191 strikeouts last season.

Biloxi takes staff hits: The Biloxi Shuckers' chances of chasing down Pensacola and adding the second-half South Division title to their first-half crown suffered a blow with the loss to two key rotation members. Right-hander Zack Brown, who is 9-0 and leads the Southern League with a 2.34 ERA, could miss the rest of the season after the Brewers' No. 9 prospect suffered a left ankle sprain. Left-hander Kodi Medeiros, a former first-round pick, was 7-5 with a 3.14 ERA with the Shuckers before going from Milwaukee to the White Sox in the Joakim Soria trade and landing in Birmingham. Biloxi was also without closer Nate Griep, the SL leader in saves with 28. He joined Brown on the DL.

Muller on fast track: Kyle Muller, ranked as Atlanta's No. 11 prospect, won his debut with Mississippi after the 20-year-old started the season with Class A Rome. The 6-foot-6 left-hander allowed three hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings against Chattanooga, striking out four and walking one. Muller, a second-round pick, was 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA in six starts for Rome, then 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 14 games for Class A Advanced Florida. Muller hit 97 mph in the first inning against Chattanooga before dropping back to the low-90s with his fastball.

Medrano way out in front: Jackson's Kevin Medrano owned a commanding lead in the Southern League batting race once he again had enough plate appearances to qualify after spending the first three weeks of July with Triple-A Reno. His .341 average easily led Chattanooga's Zander Wiel (.312) and Mobile's Jose Rojas (.308). Medrano, a 28-year-old left-handed hitter who plays multiple positions, also had 26 doubles and 43 RBIs in 73 games with the Generals while positing a .386 on-base percentage and .505 slugging mark. He has a .304 career batting average over seven Minor League seasons, all in the Arizona organization.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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