The 2020 MLB Draft came and went, drawing more attention from baseball fans than usual, thanks to the lack of major or minor league baseball—in part because of COVID-19 and in part because of a messy battle between the league owners and the MLB Player’s Association, which at this point could wipe out the potential for a 2020 season entirely.
Still, the draft provided at least somewhat of a reprieve from the ugliness that has ensued, and it gives teams new players to familiarize themselves with, guys who they will hope will reach their potential in the next few years.
I’ve always followed the MLB Draft, and while I missed seeing local alumni taken in the later rounds since MLB trimmed the event to just five rounds this year, I did enjoy analyzing the picks we did get to see last week.
While I have tons of favorite selections, including Detroit’s draft as a whole and the absolute party that Zac Veen will be for the Rockies, the pick I most want to write about is Toronto’s selection of Florida State right-hander CJ Van Eyk, who went 42nd overall.
Who is CJ Van Eyk?
Van Eyk began his collegiate career as a reliever for the Seminoles in 2018, posting a 2.86 ERA in 56.2 innings while also tallying an excellent 71 strikeouts—good for a 11.3 K/9.
He also posted 30 walks—a 4.76 BB/9 —which is certainly cause for concern.
However, his stuff was good enough for him to move into the rotation in 2019 and he cemented himself as Florida State’s ace, helping lead the team to an appearance in the College World Series while posting a 3.81 ERA and a respectable 129/48 K/BB ratio in 99.1 innings, mostly in the very good hitting ACC.
Van Eyk was off to an even stronger start in 2020, posting a 1.31 ERA in 20.2 innings before the season was shut down thanks to COVID-19. Van Eyk’s competition in 2020 was more of a mixed bag, as he hadn’t gotten into ACC play yet, but he proved more than capable of striking out elite college hitters during his time with the Seminoles.
Van Eyk does most of his damage working off two pitches, his fastball and his curveball. His fastball gets up to 95, but normally settles in the low-90’s, while his curveball is a 12-6 hammer that will almost certainly be his calling card at the next level.
He’s proven capable of tunneling those two pitches well, as evidenced by this video posted by Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) on Twitter during the draft:
CJ Van Eyk, Fastball and Curveball (individual pitches + overlay/tails). pic.twitter.com/3MAJJDV9K7
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2020
If that sequence looks somewhat familiar, you’re probably thinking about Astros right-hander Lance McCullers, who brings a hard fastball with late movement as well as a nasty 12-6 curveball to the table.
And the curve:
Now, McCullers also has a changeup that, while it has a career -5.6 pVAL, has posted a stellar 15.4% swinging strike rate and a 35.4% o-swing rate. Van Eyk will need to demonstrate that his changeup can miss bats at the next level, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to have either a ‘show-me’ slider or a cut fastball if he wants to hack it as a starting pitcher, not just a two-pitch reliever.
The lack of a third pitch is Van Eyk’s biggest weakness right now, but he also needs to work on the command if he wants to pitch every fifth day at the big league level.
Why This Works for Toronto
Well, the Blue Jays have a farm system filled with close to the big league ready hitters, including guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio who all debuted last year, so adding college pitching was something I identified as a big need for them in this draft.
They couldn’t resist picking Austin Martin at No. 5 overall, and I don’t blame them, so following that up with Van Eyk at No. 42—who I had within the top 30 prospects in the draft—is a great move.
Van Eyk is a guy who could be a quick riser to the big leagues, particularly if he moves to the ‘pen, and he adds to Toronto’s already stellar group of pitching prospects, which includes Alek Manoah, Simeon Woods Richardson, Anthony Kay and Eric Pardinho.
Toronto’s blend of big league or nearly big league ready hitters and young, up-and-coming pitching prospects bodes well for their future, even in the vaunted AL East, and Van Eyk is a great addition for them in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft.
Featured Image by Rick Orengo (@OneFiddyOne on Twitter and Instagram)