Van Eyk among Blue Jays' trio of Day 2 righties

Toronto selects outfielder Zach Britton at 136th overall

June 12th, 2020

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays returned to the college ranks in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft, selecting Florida State right-hander CJ Van Eyk with the 42nd overall pick on Thursday.

After splitting his first season at Florida State between the bullpen and rotation in 2018, Van Eyk began starting full time in '19 and was off to a red-hot start this season, posting a 1.74 ERA over his first four outings. There are command issues that balance his high strikeout rate, but Van Eyk was considered among the top college right-handers available and was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 39 prospect in the class.

After the Blue Jays landed shortstop Austin Martin fifth overall on Wednesday -- a pick that surprised many, including Toronto, after Martin was expected to go even earlier -- the Van Eyk selection lines up with what we’ve seen from the Blue Jays in recent years. They have been drawn to NCAA righties with big fastballs and power breaking balls, which Van Eyk certainly brings to the table.

The one factor separating Van Eyk from the Blue Jays’ more recent high picks is size. From Nate Pearson to Alek Manoah, Adam Kloffenstein and others, Toronto has been building one of the more physically intimidating pools of pitching prospects in baseball. Van Eyk comes in at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, but he has no trouble generating 93-94 mph heat with his fastball, sometimes touching 95. His 12-6 curveball that plays off that fastball is the pitch to watch, though, with late bite that hitters often swing over top of.

Toronto's farm system has started to flood the Major League roster with talent, but much of that has come on the positional side, led by Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio. Add Simeon Woods-Richardson to the club's recent draftees, and three of the Blue Jays' top four prospects are now right-haned pitchers. Van Eyk should slot in naturally behind them, and while there's still plenty of development ahead, his NCAA performance and the quality of competition he faced at Florida State could help to expedite his path through the Minor Leagues.

The newest Blue Jay already has some American League East connections, too. Van Eyk went to Steinbrenner High School, named for the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a Tampa resident. That school was just 35 miles from Tropicana Field, too, home of Van Eyk’s hometown team, the Rays.

Van Eyk was originally drafted by the Mets in the 19th round coming out of high school in 2017, after he’d dealt with arm soreness as a senior.

Round 3, 77th overall: Trent Palmer, RHP, Jacksonville University
Palmer really broke out in the Cape Cod League in 2019, and success in that circuit is something the Blue Jays have long valued. It remains to be seen whether Palmer, 21, will develop as a starter or eventually transition to the bullpen, like he did in '19, but he comes with a fastball that's touched 96 mph and an above-average changeup to complement his curveball and slider.

In Palmer’s 2019 Cape Cod stint, he posted a 1.45 ERA with 21 strikeouts over 18 2/3 innings, which helped to wash away a tough '19 season with Jacksonville and propelled him to hot start in '20 that looks similar to Van Eyk’s early-season momentum.

“He doesn’t look imposing, but he’s very strong, athletic and intelligent,” Jacksonville head coach Chris Hayes told the The Florida Times Union. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. Trent doesn’t look like a big leaguer. He just acts like one.”

Round 4, 106th overall: Nick Frasso, RHP, Loyola Marymount University
Frasso is an interesting development case after playing both basketball and baseball in high school before fully shifting his focus to the mound just a few years ago. That led to an uptick in velocity for the 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander, who has touched 97 mph at times. While there are questions surrounding whether he’ll start or relieve long-term, evaluators like his athleticism. If it weren’t for an elbow injury that limited Frasso’s opportunity to prove himself as a starter before the shutdown, MLB Pipeline's No. 98 Draft prospect likely would have been considered in earlier rounds.

Frasso didn’t just play pickup hoops, either. He had some game, and he takes some of that to the diamond with him.

“The whole competitive aspect of it, who you’re guarding and who’s guarding you. That whole competitive matchup is similar to me pitching against a hitter,” Frasso said, “that one-on-one matchup. It’s just really competitive, and I’ve got to win that matchup.”

Round 5, 136th overall: Zach Britton, OF, University of Louisville
Britton is yet another Blue Jays pick who was off to a hot start in 2020, but didn’t get to see that momentum through due to the shutdown. The outfielder -- who shares a name with the Orioles’ reliever (Zack Britton, not Zach) who infamously watched Edwin Encarnación walk off Ubaldo Jiménez in the '16 AL Wild Card Game -- was hitting .322 with 12 extra-base hits over his first 17 games for Louisville this season. Once again, Britton comes with success in the Cape Cod League, where he posted an .858 OPS with five homers over 28 games in '19. The Blue Jays are particularly thin on outfield prospects, so he’ll have every opportunity to advance.