The high school baseball season in Florida has kicked off. Some of the top players — and teams — in the state reside right here in our coverage area. From Steinbrenner and Gaither to Land O’ Lakes High, there’s no shortage of prep baseball talent.
Here’s a look at some players to keep an eye on as the season progresses:
RHP (right-handed pitcher)/INF (infielder) CJ Van Eyk, Sr., Steinbrenner: The 6-foot-2 Florida State commit is looking to build off an eye-opening 2016 campaign (12-1 record, 0.77 ERA, 130 strikeouts), where his performance on the mound buoyed Steinbrenner to the Class 8A state title. His arsenal consists of a low-90s fastball, along with a power curve and changeup. Also an outstanding hitter, Van Eyk batted .340 with five doubles and 13 RBIs in 2016. In October, Van Eyk was one of just 20 players across the country selected to the USA Baseball 18U National Team. Could be a high-round draft pick in the MLB draft in June.
RHP/3B (third-baseman) McCabe Sargent, Sr., Land O’Lakes: The Saint Leo University signee will be relied upon heavily this season following the graduation of RHP Kirby Osborn, now pitching for High Point University in North Carolina. Sargent burst onto the scene last year with a 0.47 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. His skills with the bat, too, were impressive (.384 average, 16 RBIs). His well-rounded play earned him team most valuable player and Sunshine Athletic Conference (SAC) East Pasco Player of the Year honors. In addition to an 89-mph fastball, Sargent throws a slider, changeup and curveball. Models his game after Jacob deGrom, a starting pitcher for the New York Mets.
RHP/INF Darin Kilfoyl, Sr., Academy at the Lakes: At 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds, Kilfoyl is easily the most physically imposing prep player around. And, he has the skillset to back it up. Last year, the St. Johns River College signee had a 0.91 ERA and 97 strikeouts in just 46 innings. He also threw a no-hitter and pitched five complete games, thanks to four functional pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter. Kilfoyl was no slouch at the plate, either, batting .348 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. Over the summer, Kilfoyl played for the Atlanta Blue Jays, an elite travel club for 15-year-olds to 18-year-olds. He also was a standout player for Academy’s basketball team.
CF (center-fielder) Jose Cadenas, Sr., Gaither: Known for his elite speed (set a school-record 32 stolen bases) and outfield range, Cadenas was also Gaither’s top hitter (.398, six doubles, 11 RBIs) during the team’s 7A state title run in 2016. Cadenas, who committed to Polk State last summer, made a full recovery from a season-ending broken hand injury he suffered during a game in early 2015. Also noteworthy: Cadenas and his family moved to Tampa from Cuba when he was 8.
INF Michael Wu, Sr., Sunlake: The University of South Carolina-Sumter commit was one of the most consistent hitters in the area last season, batting .407 with two home runs, six doubles and 16 RBIs. Moreover, Wu struck out just three times in 66 plate appearances. A versatile fielder, Wu can play first base, second and third. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound standout also can step in on the mound, when needed. He played for Wiregrass Ranch as a freshman and sophomore.
Other players to watch:
RHP Tommy Mace, Sr., Sunlake
OF/RHP Patrick Morris, Sr., Steinbrenner
INF Max Law, Sr., Land O’ Lakes
RHP/OF Colton Bierly, Jr., Wesley Chapel
RHP Khalil Alumatism, Sr., Freedom
INF Drew Ehrhard, Sr., Wharton
Published March 1, 2017