Switch-Pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje Is More Than A Draft Novelty
A curious thing started happening at Champagnat Catholic School games in 2019.
In the middle of a fall high school game against Florida Christian School, one fielding glove would sail from the mound toward the dugout, and another glove would be lobbed in the opposite direction.
The target of this glove swap was Jurrangelo Cijntje, an ambidextrous pitcher from Curacao who today is an 18-year-old senior at Champagnat in Hialeah, Fla.
Cijntje now has a $500 ambidextrous Rawlings glove. But that wasn’t the case when he first arrived in the Miami area. Back then, Champagnat coach Jorge Aguas was the person tossing Cijntje his change of gloves.
Cijntje has committed to Mississippi State and is a legitimate draft prospect as a switch-pitcher.
“There are 15 to 20 scouts at each of his games,” Aguas said. “I believe he will go between the first and third rounds.”
However, one scout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Cijntje is more likely to get drafted between rounds six and eight.
Florida Christian coach Chris Brigman and his players—who faced Cijntje in the fall of 2019—were initially shocked.
“You do a double-take,” Brigman said. “Did he just switch gloves to pitch with his off hand?
“Last year, we faced him again, and he held us to one hit in seven innings. There’s been an obvious increase in his velocity from both sides.”
Cijntje is listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. But the scout sees Cijntje as closer to 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10 at most.
“Jurrangelo is a draftable player, but there’s not a lot of projection there,” the scout said. “He will get stronger. He will probably gain a good 15 pounds, and that will help.
“But his breaking ball, he can throw it for strikes, but it’s an average pitch.”
The scout quickly added that he is not minimizing Cijntje as a story.
“He has touched 96 (mph) with his right hand and 92 with his left, and that’s unbelievable,” the scout said. “I’d bet there’s no one in the history of the game who has thrown as hard as him with both hands.”
To the scout’s point, Pat Venditte in 2015 became the first truly ambidextrous major league pitcher of the modern era. Before him, righthander Greg A. Harris had pitched with his left hand in one game in 1995, at the tail end of his career. Before Harris, a handful of 19th century pitchers had pitched with both hands.
But Venditte, who last pitched in the majors with the Marlins in 2020, topped out at 85 mph righthanded and 83 from the left side.
As for Cijntje, it isn’t easy to predict his future because he is such a unique talent.
“If he is a seventh-round prospect with his right and a seventh-rounder with his left,” the scout said, “you can’t add it up and make him a third-rounder.”
Also, if he just faces righthanded batters in an inning, he probably needs to warm up in between frames with his left. The amount of work he has to put in on both sides is substantial.
“It’s special, but it’s also tricky,” the scout said.
Because of those factors, Cijntje might make more sense as a reliever, and, if that’s the case, it would drop his value.
Draft stock aside, Cijntje comes from an impressive family. His older sister Shariengela is a lawyer who was named Miss Curacao and competed in the 2021 Miss Universe pageant.
Cijntje, who lives in Pembroke Pines, Fla., with his 26-year-old cousin Zachary Braafart, said his baseball development has its roots in the Netherlands. That’s where his father, Mechangelo Cijntje, played pro baseball as a catcher.
A natural lefthanded thrower, Jurrangelo wanted to play catcher like his father, so he trained himself to throw with his right hand.
“When I was 6 years old, my dad taught me to throw righthanded,” said Cijntje, who speaks English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento. “He would have me throw a ball that had a nail in it, and I would aim it at a tire. That was meant to improve my accuracy.”
Later, when Cijntje took to the mound, he leaned on another of his father’s lessons. He would work on his changeup grip by throwing lemons, careful not to grip too tight.
He first gained some fame when he helped Curacao reach the 2016 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Cijntje pitched with both arms as Curacao went 1-2, beating Japan before being eliminated by Australia.
Cijntje’s dexterity with both hands extends to the batter’s box, where he is also a switch-hitter. Through his team’s first 12 games—and a 4-8 start—Cijntje ranks fourth on Champagnat in batting average (.375) and has one home run, one triple and one double.
On the mound, he was 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA through four starts. He struck out 40 batters and walked five. He allowed 11 hits in 17 innings.
His one loss was to local rival Plantation American Heritage, which started first-round lefthander prospect Brandon Barriera.
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After Cijntje decommitted from Stetson, Mississippi State pitching coach Scott Foxhall got a call from Victor Martinez, who had played for him at College of Charleston.
Martinez, who had coached Cijntje as an assistant in travel ball, notified Foxhall that the prospect was interested in playing in the Southeastern Conference.
Foxhall, a South Carolina native now in his fourth season in Starkville, was immediately interested in Cijntje as a prospect.
But he wasn’t sure about the proposed Miami-to-Mississippi move.
That’s when his fellow Bulldogs coaches reminded Foxhall that Rafael Palmeiro—"you know, the guy who has a statue in front of our ballpark"—is from Miami.
With that removed as an obstacle, Foxhall focused on Cijntje as a prospect.
“He’s a freaky talent,” Foxhall said. “Aside from pitching, he’s a really good middle infielder and hitter. I’ve seen him hit balls a long way. I’m trying to hide him from (Bulldogs hitting coach Jake) Gautreau.”
Foxhall was joking of course. But he was serious about the amount of work Cijntje would have to put in to be proficient at all four facets—hitting and pitching from the left side and doing the same from the right.
Cijntje said he prefers going to college—he wants to study mechanical engineering—and delaying pro ball. The scout interviewed for this story believes the prospect will sign a pro deal this year.
Foxhall is getting ready just in case.
“Even though Jurrangelo speaks English, I’m trying to learn his language,” Foxhall said. “I’m taking a little time each week to learn Papiamento to make Starkville more of a home for him.”
Joking about his accent, Foxhall said: “I’m speaking a redneck Papiamento.”
Besides Cijntje's physical ability, loyalty is another of his main attributes.
“We have a young team, but he didn’t jump ship,” Aguas said. “He had an offer to transfer to IMG Academy, for example.”
Cijntje’s loyalty traces back to his native country. Curacao players stick together, and Cijntje said he is friends with Braves all-star Ozzie Albies and has met all of the major leaguers or former MLB players who hail from the island.
That list includes Andruw Jones, Kenley Jansen, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop, Hensley Meulens, Randall Simon and Roger Bernadina.
It remains to be seen if Cijntje can match or even approach the accomplishments of his countrymen, most of whom entered affiliated baseball as international free agents.
Andrelton Simmons was a notable exception. He was the Braves' 2010 second-round pick out of junior college. But before he was a Gold Glove shortstop, Simmons played both ways as an amateur, with some teams preferring him on the mound.
Cijntje knows his future is on the mound. It's only a matter of how high he is drafted.