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 featuring high schoolers Wednesday.
A switch-pitcher from Champagnat Catholic School (Hialeah, Fla.), Cijntje naturally throws left-handed, but he has better stuff from the right side. He struck out five of the six hitters he faced in the third inning — two as a lefty and three as a righty — giving up a walk as a southpaw.
With a premium put on evaluation, teams fielded 14- and 15-man lineups, pitchers faced five or six batters per inning regardless of outs recorded and hitters who walked stayed at the plate for another at-bat with a pinch-runner sent to 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 with 2600 rpm from the right side, and an 88-92 mph heater and a 75-76 mph breaker with 2400 rpm from the left. That’s fairly typical for the natural left-hander, who has a reversible glove that he adjusts depending on the batter.
“It’s just a great opportunity to come here and be in an MLB stadium on the mound,” Cijntje said. “I just wanted to show everyone what I can do and just have fun.”
Cijntje began throwing right-handed as a 6-year-old because he wanted to emulate his father, Mechangelo, who played professionally in the Netherlands, and liked wearing his dad’s glove. Mechangelo hammered nails into baseballs and had Jurrangelo throw at a tire to try to get the ball to stick, a drill designed to improve his accuracy. He first gained notoriety for his switch-pitching when he played for Curacao at the 2016 Little League World Series.
“I’m natural from the left side, but I think I throw harder from the right side because I was [catching and playing shortstop] my whole life,” Cijntje said. “Two years ago, I moved to Miami and started throwing with my left hand and my coach thought I was a good both-hand pitcher, so that’s how I started working back on my left hand again.”
Pat Venditte, the only truly ambidextrous 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 that Cijntje would be better than the five-year big leaguer was.
Whether Cijntje turns pro this summer or heads 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 presently fits in the sixth- to 10th-round range, which may not be high enough to divert him from the Bulldogs.
Pitchers dominated the action Wednesday. Bishop O’Connell HS (Arlington, Va.) right-hander Jack O’Connor fanned four of the five batters he faced — one on a 96 mph fastball, one on a 90 mph cutter and two on upper-70s curveballs. Jackson (N.J.) Memorial HS left-hander Zach Crotchfelt enjoyed similar success, notching three whiffs on 92-95 mph fastballs and a fourth on an 84 mph changeup.
Hanover HS (Mechanicsville, Va.) shortstop Seth Keller and Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs. Fla.) catcher Luke Heyman each recorded a double, the only extra-base hits in the game. Braswell HS (Aubrey, Texas) third baseman Jayson Jones had the game’s highest exit velocity with a 103 mph groundout, and also drilled a 96 mph single. Cienega HS (Vail, Ariz.) center fielder Isaiah Jackson made the defensive play of the day, making a diving catch on a sinking liner to rob Alpha Charter School (Elverta, Calif.) outfielder Jaxon Byrd of a hit.