SAN DIEGO — Jurrangelo Cijntje is one of the most intriguing prospects at the second annual draft combine. He was also the most impressive player on the field at Petco Park in a game involving high schoolers on Wednesday.
Cijntje, a switch pitcher from Champagnat Catholic School (Hialeah, Fla.), throws with his left hand, of course, but he has better stuff from the right. He hit five of the six hitters he faced in the third inning — two as a left-hander and three as a right-hander — and gave up a walk as a southpaw.
With a top-notch put-on rating, teams fielded 14- and 15-man lineups, pitchers faced five or six batters an inning regardless of recorded outs, and hitters who walked stayed on the plate for one more At-bat with a pinch-runner sent first. Cijntje’s Team Stripes lost 3-1 to Team Stars in a game that included six hits and 32 strikeouts in six innings.
Cijntje worked with a 94-96 mph fastball and a 79-80 mph breaking ball at 2600 rpm from the right and an 88-92 mph heater and a 75-76 mph breaker at 2400 rpm from the left. This is fairly typical of the natural left-hander who has a reversible glove that he adjusts depending on the batsman.
“It’s just a great opportunity to come here and be in an MLB stadium on the hill,” Cijntje said. “I just wanted to show everyone what I can do and just have fun.”
Cijntje started right-hand throwing at the age of 6 because he wanted to emulate his father, Mechangelo, who played professionally in the Netherlands and liked to wear his father’s glove. Mechanello hammered nails into baseballs and had Jurrangelo throw on a hoop to try to pin the ball, a drill intended to improve his accuracy. He first rose to fame for his switch pitching while playing for Curacao at the 2016 Little League World Series.
“I’m obviously from the left side but I think I throw harder from the right side because it was me [catching and playing shortstop] all my life,” said Cijntje. “Two years ago I moved to Miami and started throwing with my left hand and my coach thought I was a good pitcher with both hands, so I started working with my left hand again.”
Pat Venditte, the only truly two-handed pitcher in modern major league history, reached out to Cijntje on Instagram after learning of his exploits. Cijntje throws significantly harder than Venditte, who predicted Cijntje would be better than the five-year-old top flight.
Whether Cijntje will turn pro this summer or head to Mississippi State remains to be seen. He’s small for a pitcher at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, and clubs believe his talent currently fits in the sixth-to-tenth round range, which may not be high enough to draw him away from the Bulldogs.
Pitchers dominated Wednesday’s action. Bishop O’Connell HS (Arlington, Va.) right-hander Jack O’Connor fanned out four of the five batsmen he faced – one on a 96 mph fastball, one on a 90 mph cutter and two on curveballs the upper 70s. Jackson (NJ) Memorial HS left-hander Zach Crotchfelt enjoyed similar success, notching three puffs on 92-95 mph fastballs and a fourth on an 84 mph change.
Hanover HS (Mechanicsville, Va.) shortstop Seth Keller and Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) catcher Luke Heyman each hit a double, the only extra base hits in the game. Braswell HS (Aubrey, Texas) third baseman Jayson Jones had the game’s highest exit speed with a 103 mph groundout and also drilled a 96 mph single. Cienega HS (Vail, Arizona) midfielder Isaiah Jackson, made the defensive play of the day by making a dive catch on a sinking liner to rob Alpha Charter School (Elverta, Calif.) outfielder Jaxon Byrd of a hit.