Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball (MLB)’s 2020 first-year player draft has been shortened to five rounds, from the usual 40 rounds in previous years.
The draft, scheduled for June 10 and June 11, assigns amateur baseball players to MLB teams.
Even with the new consolidated format, however, several locals from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area have a solid chance at being among the 160 athletes drafted. And, they have the possibility of living out their boyhood dreams and landing signing bonuses of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
Four athletes with area ties are listed among MLB.com’s top 200 nationwide draft prospect rankings, including two within the top 100.
The highest-rated local is Steinbrenner High alum CJ Van Eyk, a junior right-handed pitcher at Florida State University (FSU) — listed as the No. 39 overall draft prospect, by the website.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Van Eyk registered an 18-5 win-loss record, 3.21 ERA, 1.274 WHIP and 225 strikeouts in 176.2 innings pitched across three college seasons.
The Lutz native has been a known commodity going back to his prep days, earning first-team All-American honors and a gold medal with the 18U USA National Team. He also led Steinbrenner to its first state championship as a junior in 2016 and was crowned Florida Dairy Farmers’ Class 8A Player of the Year.
Van Eyk was drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 19th round of the 2017 draft, but didn’t sign, opting for college instead.
A snippet of MLB.com’s analysis on Van Eyk reads: “The Florida State ace is capable of being a complete pitcher because of his willingness to pitch in with his fastball, his ability to throw his breaking ball at any point in the count and his feel for mixing his pitches to keep hitters off-balance, though issues with his command persisted over his first four starts in 2020. His potential as a starter still should have him in consideration in the top two rounds of the Draft.”
The next highest-ranked local is Sunlake High product Tommy Mace, a junior-right handed pitcher at the University of Florida — rated the No. 70 overall prospect for the 2020 draft.
In three seasons at Florida, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Mace compiled a 16-5 win-loss record, 4.37 ERA, 1.299 WHIP and 145 strikeouts in 179.1 innings pitched. He was off to his best college campaign this year, tallying a 1.67 ERA in a team-high 27 innings, until the remainder of the season was canceled thanks to COVID-19.
Mace was a three-year varsity player at Sunlake. His senior year he guided the program to a 17-12 mark and the Class 7A regional final. He then was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round of the 2017 draft, but like Van Eyk, didn’t sign to pursue the college route.
MLB.com’s profile on Mace reports states the following: “Mace generally does a nice job of throwing strikes, keeping the ball down in the zone and getting ground ball outs. He gets high marks for his mound presence and makeup, putting him among a solid crop of top two round college pitchers in Florida.”
Though slightly outside our coverage area, an athlete in west Pasco County also cracked MLB’s top 200 prospect list.
Trinity native Jackson Miller, a senior catcher at Mitchell High, is rated as the 2020 draft’s No. 105 prospect. The Wake Forest University commit posted a .414/.498/.591 slash line in 88 games across four varsity seasons.
Meanwhile, Wesley Chapel native/Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High product Carson Ragsdale, a redshirt junior right-handed pitcher at the University of South Florida (USF), is ranked as the draft’s No. 170 prospect.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Ragsdale transitioned to a starter’s role this year at USF, after pitching out of the bullpen his freshman and sophomore seasons. (He missed the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery). He posted a 3.75 ERA, 1.391 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 50.1 innings across three college seasons. Off the field, he was selected to the 2018-2019 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.
Ragsdale was a four-year letter winner at Bishop McLaughlin. He compiled a 1.58 ERA and .352 batting average in his high school career. Those Hurricanes teams that Ragsdale played on went a combined 77-21 from 2013 to 2016.
MLB.com’s report on Ragsdale observes: “Ragsdale threw a lot of strikes this spring, but is still more control than command at this point. Given that scouts only saw four outings from Ragsdale as USF’s Sunday starter, there’s very limited track record for teams to look at, but his size and arm strength, even if it ends up in the bullpen, could be enough for teams to take a chance on him in this year’s Draft.”
Robust draft history
It’s not uncommon for at least a couple locals from area high schools and colleges to be drafted each year.
Last year, Land O’ Lakes High/St. Petersburg College second baseman Dustin Harris was selected in the 11th round by the Oakland Athletics, while Pasco-Hernando State College/University of Tampa pitcher Tyler Beck was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 30th round.
The 2018 draft yielded four local products:
- Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High/University of North Florida pitcher Frank German (fourth round, New York Yankees)
- Saint Leo University pitcher/first baseman Jake Sims (31st round, San Diego Padres)
- Saint Leo University second baseman Zach Scott (32nd round, Seattle Mariners)
- Wiregrass Ranch High/University of North Florida pitcher Austin Drury (34th round, Los Angeles Dodgers)
The 2017 draft also was particularly kind to local talent. In addition to Van Eyk and Mace getting drafted out of the prep ranks, six other athletes with local ties were chosen:
- Odessa native/Bishop McLaughlin/College of Central Florida pitcher Nate Pearson (first round, Toronto Blue Jays)
- Steinbrenner High/USF shortstop Kevin Merrell (first round compensatory, Oakland Athletics)
- Steinbrenner High first baseman Patrick Morris (14th round, Toronto Blue Jays)
- Steinbrenner High/Bishop McLaughlin/University of Pittsburgh pitcher Josh Falk (17th round, Oakland Athletics)
- Odessa native/Alonso High pitcher Jordan Butler (34th round, New York Yankees)
- Bishop McLaughlin outfielder Paul Coumoulos (40th round, Philadelphia Phillies)
Locals on MLB.com’s top 200 prospect rankings
- Steinbrenner High/Florida State University pitcher CJ Van Eyk (No. 39 overall draft prospect)
- Sunlake High/University of Florida pitcher Tommy Mace (No. 70)
- Trinity/Mitchell High catcher Jackson Miller (No. 105)
- Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High/University of South Florida pitcher Carson Ragsdale (No. 170)
Published May 27, 2020