Jack O'Connor, Jurrangelo Cijntje Stand Out On Day 1 Of MLB Draft Combine
SAN DIEGO—The second annual draft combine began in earnest on Wednesday at Petco Park, with player interviews, batting practice, infield-outfield and an abbreviated game involving many of the top high school invitees.
Team Stripes defeated Team Stars, 3-1, in the six-inning game, which wasn’t played under official rules. Pitchers were guaranteed to face between 4-6 batters, which means even when they retired the side in order, the inning continued so they could face at least one more hitter. Hitters who walked stayed in the box and had the count reset while a pinch-runner was sent out to first base in their place. Innings were rolled and players moved around the field interchangeably.
Even in that context, a few players stood out in front of the more than 100 evaluators in attendance. Here is a look at the top performers from the first day of the combine.
Jack O’Connor, RHP, Bishop O’Connell HS, Arlington, Va.
College Commitment: Virginia
BA 300 Rank: NR
O’Connor drew the start for Team Stripes and stood out as the most impressive pitcher on the day for either team. His fastball sat 95-96 mph, he got swings and misses with both his 78-80 mph curveball and 89-90 mph cutter and located his mid-80s changeup for strikes on the outside corner to lefthanded hitters. He had the top velocity of any pitcher, threw four pitches for strikes and saw the results follow. He struck out three of the four batters he faced, with the only other batter reaching on a throwing error by the second baseman.
Jurrangelo Cijntje, SHP, Champagnat Catholic HS, Hialeah, Fla.
College Commitment: Mississippi State
BA 300 Rank: 245
Cijntje is the most unique player in the draft class as a switch-pitcher from Curacao who speaks four languages. He’s more than just a novelty, however, which he reinforced with his outing at the combine. Cijntje came on to pitch the third inning for Team Stripes and struck out five of the six batters he faced. He struck out three batters pitching righthanded and two throwing lefthanded. His fastball sat 93-96 mph from the right side to go with a swing-and-miss 79-80 mph slider, and he sat 89-91 mph from the left side with a mid-70s curveball he could use to steal a strike. Cijntje’s control wavered at times—he walked a batter and ran a lot of deep counts—but he didn’t allow a ball in play.
Zach Crotchfelt, LHP, Jackson (N.J.) Memorial HS
College Commitment: Auburn
BA 300 Rank: NR
Crotchfelt pitched the third inning for Team Stars and struck out the side in order on 16 pitches before having to stay in to face additional batters. His 91-94 mph fastball played particularly well to get swings and misses and his 84-87 mph slider and 85-86 mph changeup were both effective pitches as well. He worked quickly and efficiently and threw all three pitches for strikes before tiring as the inning artificially continued.
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Pitchers dominated the day with both teams combining for just four runs and six hits, but a few position players did notable things as well.
- OF Jeric Curtis (Tomball, Texas) opened the scoring for Team Stars when he stroked an RBI single to left field that measured 99 mph off the bat. He also got down the line in 4.2 seconds on a ground ball in the infield, a plus run time out of the righthanded batter’s box.
- SS Seth Keller (Mechanicsville, Va.) had the hardest-hit ball of the day with a double into the right-center field gap. He turned around a 94 mph fastball and sent it 380 feet into the gap, with an exit velocity of 100.9 mph.
- C Luke Heyman (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) hit a double down the left-field line 98 mph off the bat for Team Stripes. Heyman homered at Petco Park last summer during the Perfect Game All-America Classic to take home the game’s MVP Award.
- OF Isaiah Jackson (Vail, Ariz.) had the defensive play of the day when he charged in and made a diving catch in center field. Jackson, an Arizona State commit, is the younger brother of Dodgers pitcher Andre Jackson.