Two of the area’s top pitchers are postponing their pro careers — for now.
Sunlake High School’s Tommy Mace and Steinbrenner High’s CJ Van Eyk — both selected in the middle rounds of June’s MLB Draft — have opted to forgo professional baseball contracts, and instead attend in-state Division I programs.
Mace, drafted in the 12th round (347th overall) by the Cincinnati Reds, will pitch at the University of Florida, which last month won the 2017 College World Series — the first national title in program history.
Van Eyk, drafted in the 19th round (577th overall) by the New York Mets, will pitch at Florida State University, which reached the College World Series, but was later eliminated by Louisiana State University.
The draft-signing deadline was July 7; the draft featured 40 rounds and 1,205 picks in total.
Besides higher education, Mace and Van Eyk have a chance to further develop their pitching skillets with advanced college instruction.
Typically, that results in an improved draft stock — and larger corresponding signing bonuses.
Based on MLB guidelines, Mace and Van Eyk will be draft-eligible again in three years — players at four-year colleges and universities are eligible three years after first enrolling in such an institution, or after their 21st birthday (whichever occurs first).
Mace, a lanky 6-foot-7, 200-pound righty, was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 144 overall prospect in the 2017 draft.
The site lauds his projectable 94 mph fastball, and usable three-quarters breaking ball.
One of the more effective prep arms in the Tampa Bay area, Mace tallied a 1.29 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 70.2 innings, with an 8-2 record in 11 appearances — guiding Sunlake High to the Class 7A regional finals last season.
During his three-year varsity career, meanwhile, Mace won 19 games, posting a 1.65 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 165.2 innings.
Van Eyk was equally dominant throughout his prep career.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righty was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 120 overall prospect in the 2017 draft.
In addition to a blistering 95-mile-per-hour fastball that displays movement and sink, Van Eyk features an effective curveball and changeup.
His senior season, however, was cut short due to arm soreness. In limited action, he posted a 0.73 ERA and 56 strikeouts.
But, throughout his three-year varsity career, Van Eyk was virtually unhittable, tallying a 0.60 ERA and 250 strikeouts in 173.2 innings, and winning 24 games.
Van Eyk surged onto the national spotlight last summer as a member of the USA Baseball 18-and-under team’s pitching staff, helping the squad win gold at the Pan American Championships.
Also in 2016, he led Steinbrenner to its first state baseball title in and was crowned the Florida Dairy Farmers’ Class 8A Player of the Year.
Van Eyk wasn’t Steinbrenner’s only drafted player.
His teammate, first baseman Patrick Morris, was selected in the 14th round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Morris, however, opted to turn pro, inking a signing bonus in excess of $200,000.
Published July 19, 2017