Former Steinbrenner High pitcher CJ Van Eyk entered this week’s MLB draft as one of the best college arms available. And with the draft condensed to just five rounds from 40, major-league teams were looking for known quantities.
Though his junior season at Florida State was cut short by the pandemic, he had built a strong college resume.
“Luckily for me, I was able to be in that position from my freshman and sophomore year where it kind of set me up,” said Van Eyk, who pitched just four games this spring but posted an 18-5 college record, 3.21 ERA and averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings with the Seminoles. “The best advice I was given going into this draft was just going into it with no expectations. You’ll just be happy with whatever happens.”
Van Eyk certainly had leverage, and he was open with teams about the kind of signing bonus it would take for him to turn pro. He worked an above-slot deal with the Toronto Blue Jays before the draft’s second round began Thursday.
While it was merely procedural when the Blue Jays announced they had selected Van Eyk with the 42nd overall pick in the second round, it was still a moment for the 21-year-old to savor. He was the first Tampa Bay area product drafted this year.
“Definitely hearing my name called on ESPN was definitely life-changing and mind-blowing, to say the least, because it’s something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old,” Van Eyk said. “Now it’s all a dream come true, but it’s also where the next dream starts because now it’s about getting to the big leagues and I’m not going to be satisfied until that’s done and I establish an illustrious career there."
Three years ago, Van Eyk was coming off one of the most dominant Tampa Bay prep careers in recent memory. From his sophomore through senior seasons, he allowed just five earned runs over 173 ⅔ innings, pitching to a 0.36 ERA.
As a junior in 2016, he led the Warriors to the Class 8A state championship, going 12-1, including a win in the state semifinal, with a 0.77 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 77 innings. He was the Tampa Bay Times’ Hillsborough County Player of the Year that season.
Van Eyk was drafted by the Mets in the 19th round out of high school, but opted to play at Florida State.
“Making a good business decision out of high school and not taking the money and going to college and figuring out I could be around better coaches, better competition and better teammates that ultimately let me rise to the next level and ultimately be second-round worthy,” Van Eyk said.
This past season at Florida State, Van Eyk pitched just four games before his college season was cut short, compiling a 1.31 ERA and allowing 11 hits over 20 ⅔ innings with 25 strikeouts and 12 walks.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Van Eyk displays a strong three-pitch mix with a 90-95 mph fastball, a 78-80 mph curveball and an 81-84 mph changeup, according to Baseball America’s scouting report.
Now Van Eyk will receive a signing bonus higher than the $1,771,100 slotted for his pick.
“That’s always what you kind of what you have to go through, figuring out your number and figuring out if teams can meet that number or at least come close to it,” Van Eyk said. “Luckily the Blue Jays were able to do that and I think it was smooth sailing going in.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.