The latest C’s Chat is with 2021 Vancouver Canadians right-hander and Toronto Blue Jays 2020 second-round pick C.J. Van Eyk.
With the trade of 2020 first-round pick Austin Martin to Minnesota that saw the Blue Jays land pitcher José Berríos at the July 30 trade deadline, the 2020 draft hopes for Toronto now fall on the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Van Eyk who was taken with the 42nd pick from the Florida State Seminoles.
The pride of Tampa, Florida was 7-0 with a 2.86 earned run average and two saves in 2018 during his freshman season in Tallahassee. Among his teammates was 2018 C’s reliever Cobi Johnson. Van Eyk became a starter in 2019 and went 10-3 with a 3.80 ERA,. He helped the Seminoles reach the College World Series by pitching 7-1/3 innings in the Super Regional clincher at Louisiana State. The 2020 season saw Van Eyk put up a 1.31 ERA in four starts before COVID-19 struck.
Before going to Florida State, Van Eyk enjoyed a prolific career at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida. His ERA was a microscopic 0.36 from his sophomore to senior seasons over 173-2/3 innings. A high school teammate of 2021 C’s first baseman P.K. Morris, Van Eyk helped Steinbrenner High capture the 8A state championship in 2016 by winning 12 of 13 decisions, including a victory in the semi-final. He also was part of the gold-medal winning USA 18U National Team.
Baseball America had rated Van Eyk among the top 100 prospects for the 2017 draft but a forearm injury that spring saw him fall down to the 19th round when the New York Mets took a flier on him. Van Eyk turned down the Mets and it was the right call as he received a signing bonus of $1.797,500 from the Blue Jays, slightly above the assigned $1,771,100 slot value for the 42nd pick. ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson thought the Jays did well to land the Seminoles ace in round two.
“I think this guy could be the steal of the draft. It surprised me that Van Eyk was not higher on some lists. I would have had him somewhere towards the back end of the first round. I think Van Eyk is a guy that’s a starter in the big leagues for a long time.”
Signed by scout Brandon Bishoff, Cornelius Johannes Van Eyk began his pro career with the Vancouver Canadians in 2021. The adjustment to pro ball was a challenging one as he finished with a 4-6 record with a 5.83 ERA. He was turning the corner with a strong August that saw him win two of three decisions with a 2.57 ERA. However, he was forced to leave an August 26 start in Hillsboro against the Hops after two perfect innings and four strikeouts due to injury. Van Eyk—who turned 23 year-old on September 15—told C’s Plus Baseball he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and that led to Tommy John surgery.
C’s Plus Baseball caught up with Van Eyk recently to discuss his first professional season and his offseason rehab program. You can watch the video of the interview and read the transcript below which has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball– C.J., you’ve completed your first professional season. When you look back on it. How do you think it went for you?
CJ Van Eyk – I mean, there’s ups and downs. I think that’s just how the your first professional season goes. Especially you know, as a pitcher, but I wasn’t proud of my ERA. But we definitely learned some stuff and, and figured out you know how pro ball works. So it was good to get my feet wet for sure. Good experience with the Canadians.
CPB – Now when you look back on it, what did you learn exactly going into your first professional season? What do you wish you had known before taking to the mound as a professional?
CJVE – Just you know, not to give the guys, your opposition, too much credit and just kind of trust your stuff that got you to that point. You know, I was just thinking a new level, new people. You got to be new, you got to try new things and that’s just not really how it works. And I had to figure that out the hard way.
CPB – We look back in your season. Ups and downs, as you mentioned, but it looked like things were really starting to turn around for you in the month of August. Your last outing—two innings, two perfect innings—before you had to leave and then shortly after (you were) put on the injured list to end the year but it looks like you were figuring stuff out in August. How are you doing right now?
CJVE – I’m doing good. Yeah, that’s what everyone says kind of you know, finish better than you started. I’m glad we were turning in the right direction but then yeah, I tore my UCL and I got put on the injured list out of that start. I’m doing good right now. I mean, month three of rehab, I had surgery on September 20th. So I’m on my almost month three of rehab and we’re trucking along. It’s not bad.
CPB – UCL is usually associated with Tommy John surgery. Is that what what you’ve been told that that’s what happened to you?
CJVE – Yeah, yeah, no. It’s a full reconstruction of the Tommy John ligament.
CPB – Wow, that’s a tough break. And especially when things were going so well for you in your last start, as I mentioned, two perfect innings. When you were pitching, did you feel ‘Okay, something’s not quite right here?’ When was the decision made to finally, I guess, pull the chute?
CJVE – Yeah, so I mean, it … actually happened in my start before. I felt good coming out through my five innings. I felt good, woke up and it just hurt. I threw my bullpen on schedule, I threw my next start on schedule. My velo was good. I felt like I could throw fastballs good but ke I get there fast was good. It just hurt to throw curveballs and spin other stuff. So that’s when we kind of made the decision that I shouldn’t keep pitching. And then we kind of got some doctors and my agent and we were able to make a good decision to get the surgery.
CPB – So how’s the offseason going so far? I know it’s a tough procedure for you to go through but how have things been going so far in the rehab front?
CJVE – I would say the first two or three weeks was pretty tough, like having your arm locked up and in the brace and stuff. But other than that, it’s been you know, pretty smooth sailing. We got like 14 other guys in there that tore their UCL this year too. So we’ve all kind of been helping each other out, push each other along and we got to get guys to hold each other accountable in there. It’s been good. Better than I thought it would be.
CPB – Your Canadians teammate Cobi Johnson, also a former Seminole, I believe he’s gone through the same thing with you. So I guess he’s probably one of the guys you’ve been comparing notes with?
CJVE – Definitely. He was at school coming back from his Tommy John. Whenever I was a freshman he was a junior or senior (editor’s note – Johnson returned from Tommy John surgery in his redshirt junior season of 2018) just trying to rehab his stuff. So yeah, I definitely talked to him about it. Now he’s in the trainer room with a little lat injury. So we’re in there together, talking it up for sure.
CPB – And also your were teammates with P.K. Morris in high school and he joined the (Canadians) late. I don’t know if you had a chance to interact with him when you’re injured, but you had a couple of guys you knew on the Canadians in 2021.
CJVE – Yeah, that would have been cool to get to play with him (on the Canadians). We played in high school together. He’s one of my best friends still so that’d been cool to get get up there and play with him. But he got called up when I got sent back down to go rehab. it’s funny how that stuff works out. But we’ll be on the same team real soon, one day.
CPB – Yeah, absolutely. And again, it looks like things were turning around for you. But yeah, we don’t really know where you’re going to get reassigned. Maybe we will get to see you in Vancouver or maybe you might be in Double-A New Hampshire but it was a tough season all around for the team. It started off really well. You guys were battling for first place but as I guess basically after Father’s Day, you had that tough stretch against Eugene and Everett. Those were two really tough clubs. A lot of people were saying Everett really could have been a Double-A club. That’s how much talent they had before a lot of their players wound up getting called up. (Here I talked over CJ, E- Blogger on the scorecard!) At least you had a chance to compete in the first half of the season but things kind of went downhill after Tanner Kirwer was called up and Cameron Eden getting injured but what was that like in that first half that things were going pretty well you guys and thought maybe you guys had a chance to contend?
CJVE – We were definitely rolling to start that year and everyone was firing on all cylinders.The pitchers weren’t really carrying their weight and our hitters were having to keep us in the game a lot more than they should have but, you know, credit to them and Kirwer and Eden keeping us rolling. They were like sparkplugs for us so that was kind of tough, you know, when we lost them. It was kind of like like it was like a next man up mentality but those are two guys that are hard to replace in a lineup you know.
CPB – You talk about a four-pitch mix. I’ve heard fastball, curveball, changeup, slider and I’ve also heard fastball, curveball, changeup, cutter and I guess the slider/cutter is almost maybe kind of interchangeable. Talk about your four-pitch mix and what you feel is best to what still needs work.
CPB – So looking back at some of your starts with you had, there’s one start you had nine strikeouts so you had a couple of good outings against Eugene and Hillsborough. What would you say was your best performance looking back on 2021?
CJVE – Probably at Eugene, I would say I think got a good four-pitch mix working there. For me, I think about walking people. As long as I keep the walks down. I could punch out like you know 10 guys and then walk three or four and it’s like it’s not a good outing to me. I think about whenever I walk the least amount of people and I think in Eugene I only walked one guy that outing with with nine (strikeouts) I think so that was probably my best one.
CJVE – The slider/cutter thing where me and you know, the pitching office are still trying to kind of figure that one out but they seem to think it’s a big-league pitch. I don’t really see it yet (laughs) but that’s what they think and we’re still trying to figure that one out. Get the right spin down on it. But I would say my fastball and curveball were definitely complimentary of each other this year and they definitely helped me navigate through most lineups. And the changeup was just there to show to lefties I think but definitely the usage of that is going to go up along with when I figure out that cutter, it will be be good going forward.
CPB – As far as your fastball goes, four-seamer, or two-seamer or what?
CJVE – Yeah, just four only.
CPB – And your curveball. It’s got really good movement, 12 to 6, 11 to 5, depends on what guess what shape it takes, but who taught you the curveball? Was it something you learned yourself or was it somebody who helped you develop that?
CJVE – No, honestly, it’s sort of super random. With my curveball, I was probably like 14 or 15. I didn’t, I didn’t really have like a good curveball. I mean, really, nobody does when you’re 14 or 15. But this one guy just showed me like the spike grip. I was playing for this team and there’s this catcher. It was like a Dad, or this random Dad for lack of a better word. He ended up showing me this grip that made me some money (Laughs). So thanks to him. I don’t really remember his name, or the time and place when it happened but it works. It works and I’m happy. I’m happy about it now.
CPB – Who’s helped you out as far as your development as a pitcher?
CJVE – Definitely, I would say growing up this guy Anthony Telford. He played for the Pirates and Expos. (Editor’s Note – Telford pitched for the Orioles, the Expos and the Rangers over a 12-year career from 1990-2002). He was really good in helping me just create a delivery and understand pitching and the like, what to do with the baseball and not so much like the game of it, but like, how to hold it, how to throw grips and like, mechanics and stuff. So he was really good.
And then when I got a little bit older, Sam Marsonek. He’s from Tampa. He was a first rounder with the Yankees came out I think like ‘ 96 or ’98. (Editor’s Note – the right-handed Marsonek was the 24th overall pick of the 1996 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers, was traded to the New York Yankees as part of a three-player deal for outfielder Chad Curtis in 1998 and made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2004 with 1-1/3 shutout innings against Tampa Bay).
But he was one of my travel coaches,a great pitcher. And he definitely helped with the other side of like, pitch usage and like, just, you know, for lack of a better (word) having like, you know, nuts out there when you pitch.
CPB – When did you start to take up pitching full time? I know you pitched I played shortstop, I guess rail your younger years, but I guess when did the pitching really take hold for you?
CJVE – Probably middle of my sophomore year of high school. I never really practiced pitching like that but I could throw hard. One day I was striking people out, throwing a little bit hard. And I was like, ‘Well, dang, I was like, I could do this.’ And everybody else started throwing hard and I couldn’t really hit that. So I was like, ‘If I can’t beat ’em, I might as well join ’em,’ you know.
CPB – Okay, so you pitch in high school in Tampa Bay, when did you start to notice that maybe turning professional is not a far-fetched idea here?
CJVE – It’s probably my junior year when I started like to knock down, like nail down pitching. Scholarship offers started to come in, ended up getting lucky to commit to Florida State. And then after that, I was like, okay, like, Division One scholarship, there’s got to be more to this, you know, so we just got to try to get better. And then, you know, squeeze the (lemon) for as much as I could, you know, coming out of the drop, but you know, it didn’t work out and we had to…go to school.”
CPB – Well, you had a forearm injury and I guess it kind of short-circuited (your plans). How did you feel about getting drafted by the New York Mets? And was it really a serious consideration, maybe turning pro instead of going to college?
CJVE – Definitely I did not want to go to college at all. School is … not my thing but I wouldn’t trade it for the world now. Looking back I got so much better at Florida State. There’s the development side. I was worried about school, not really the development but the development definitely helped me there.
CPB – Did the Mets really go after you hard or really trying to put the full court press to get you to join their organization?
CJVE – No, not really. I mean, they gave me considerably over slot for my pick. But it still wasn’t the number that me and my agents had discussed and they just felt a little bit short. So you know, I just thought I was worth more than that and had to had to go to school to get better. Show them I was worth more than that.
CPB – Well, you stay in state going to Florida State in Tallahassee. When you look back on your three years, a stint that included a trip to the College World Series, when you look back on it what really stands out for you?
CJVE – Probably the development, that was huge. Getting better. I was not good going into there and I thought I was and I got humbled and just figured that out really quick so that was good. But also probably beating LSU to go to the College World Series. I don’t think really anybody’s ever done that in the Box (Alex Box Stadium) that I can remember but that was absolutely … the best experience I’ve had playing baseball in my whole life.
CPB – What was that like pitching in Omaha, getting to see what it was like? You played a lot of good teams and good players.
CJVE – it was definitely cool. But it was cool to see … college baseball being played with neutral fans with more or less like 25,000 fans are just there to watch baseball because they … only get it, you know, for that week, every year. It’s just cool to see people just appreciate baseball and just having like a mixed crowd, you know, not one way going another way. It was definitely an experience to pitch there at one of the greatest ballparks and college baseball, if not the best, that hosts the game. So I mean, it was definitely good. And the competition that the other seven teams that were there were obviously great, Michigan, I got the loss against them that game, they’re obviously good. Yeah, (giving up) the 100th home run there too, honestly. So little cool stat. (laughs).
Editor’s Note – Van Eyk surrendered a home run to Michigan’s Jesse Franklin. That was the 100th home run at TD Ameritrade Park since the College World Series moved there from Rosenblatt Stadium in 2011.
CPB – You were trying to get back to the College World Series, the Seminoles were. of seminars where and the season got cut short by the pandemic. What was that like? Did you think well, maybe we’ll come back at some point? When did it dawn on you guys that well, maybe that’s gonna be it for baseball this year in 2020.
CJVE – Yeah, that’s what it was. So we were all excited but right when it came out, we’re like, ‘Oh, we get two weeks off, we’re going home for two weeks. I was going to be safe.’ This is nothing. That’s little like COVID, whatever. But then we’re all home and it continually got worse. And that’s when like the different conferences are starting to, like, shut down the program and stuff. And we’re like, ‘Wow, like, this is kind of getting serious.’ And then they told us that we were not going to continue our season. And for some of us that are in like a draft situation, you knew that was like the last time maybe you’re gonna play with those guys. That’s when it kind of hit. And then we were all told to come back up to school and pack up our lockers and our apartments and stuff. And that’s kind of when it all set in.
CPB – After things were thrown into chaos, then you have the MLB draft and of course with it being cut down to five rounds. What was your thought process heading into the draft? Were you wondering, ‘Am I actually going to get taken?’ I mean, you were still rated fairly highly but was that a concern for you at all?
CJVE – I mean, in a sense, yes. But I just knew that everybody in the draft was in the same boat. Nobody was throwing and nobody was playing games and stuff for people to scout, essentially. So it was all based off what they had seen previously. And I thought that me and my agents had thought that I set myself up, you know, good enough to be in a good, respectable spot going into draft day, with the five rounds.
CPB – The way things were going, you were off to a great start in 2020. And there was some speculation if the season kept going, the way you were pitching, maybe you might have really gained some serious first-round consideration but as it turns out, you got taken in round two by the Toronto Blue Jays. Were the Blue Jays one of those teams that showed interest to you or that you knew of their interest or how did that all come about for you?
CJVE – Yeah, vaguely, but it wasn’t one of the teams that was like pressing hard, you know, that … were in conversation with. It was honestly funny. It was like the 40th pick and my agent called me and he was like, ‘You know, the Blue Jays want to take you at 42.’ And I was like, ‘Well, what is that? Like I didn’t even hear anything about that.’ It was that phone call at the 40th pick. I didn’t make a decision then. There was really no lead up or conversation.
CPB – When you were selected by the Blue Jays, how did it feel?
CJVE – It was nuts. I mean, it was definitely more surreal than than in high school because that was sick in high school just to see that. But now that like I was actually going to go and like be a part of this organization, it was definitely like something you just dream of like when you’re a kid. (To be selected) on TV and stuff, too. So that was actually that was cool to see the commissioner said (my name at the draft).
CPB – You stay in the American League East. … Growing up in Tampa Bay … You got to watch a lot of Rays games at Tropicana Fields. I guess in a way, you still get to stay home … So what are your thoughts on the Tampa Bay-Toronto rivalry now that you’re on the Toronto side of things now?
CJVE – It’s funny you say that. I was raised right here. (Points camera to his retro Devil Rays ball cap). … I’m still a Rays fan. It’s tough to admit but I kind of got to step away from them a little bit but I definitely cheer for them whenever they’re not playing the Jays. It’s definitely a competitive AL East rivalry. They’re both like competitive and they’re both like going to be in the ALCS or the ALDS probably for the next five years I would think. They’re going to both be neck and neck at the top of the division so it’s definitely fun to see this rivalry come into play and see where it goes from there. Hopefully I’ll be in it one day.
CPB – What are your thoughts on what the Blue Jays have been doing in the offseason so far in signing Kevin Gausman? I mean they got a great pitching staff already with Alek Manoah, Nate Pearson who I believe that’s someone you’re very familiar with being from the state of Florida as well. I mean, it’s gonna be a lot of excitement being around the Blue Jays organization right now and seeing what’s been going on?
CJVE – It’s definitely cool to see to see how like the front office works and see like the moves that they make, but being like, in it and being able to like … how it all plays out and stuff. There’s some talent coming down the pipe too. … They might want to come take their jobs, you know, so but it’s fun to see … the moves that they’re making an actually trying to chase a championship for Canada.
CPB – And speaking of Canada, I believe you still haven’t been up north as of yet?
CJVE – No, I have not no. I have not been to Canada.
CPB – Are you starting to wonder ‘Jeez, am I ever gonna get there the way things are going right now?’ … I guess it’s gonna be a while yet. Who knows? Maybe the first time you see Vancouver might be your first time in Canada but I guess you’re starting to wonder about that? Is Canada, is it real?
CJVE – Yeah, no. (Laughs). That’s what I think. I mean, I haven’t seen it from my own eyes. I’m a bit like I don’t believe it until I see but I know it’s real obviously. I’m just excited. I just really want to get up there and see it you know. Just a different culture, the weather change, you know, just see how you guys support the Canadian teams like the Blue Jays.
CPB – What do you know about Toronto? Growing up, was the Blue Jays really on your radar at all? Obviously, they come to Tropicana Field and all that but I guess what are your initial impressions of Toronto before you became a draft pick of the Blue Jays?
CJVE – Just Roy Halladay and stuff, that was just kind of what I associated the Blue Jays with and like just so many other great names that came through here and they had a sick ballpark with (the CN Tower). … But yeah, I just thought it was a sick park. … You have a whole country behind you, not just the you know, the Tampa Bay area, you know, 500 square miles versus you know, whole country. … It’s pretty cool.
CPB – Well, of course with Tampa Bay, there’s been rumblings that maybe they might become the Montreal Rays with the Montreal Expos. … There’s been jokes. … They’ll be called the Montreal X-Rays or whatever. (It looks) like Canada … is going to be in your future one way or the other.
CJVE -Yeah, either/or, I’ll still be a Rays fan too if they go up there. I think they just need to put the park in Tampa and not St. Pete, and we’ll get some more fans.
CPB – I’ve been to Tropicana Field once. It’s unfortunate it’s not a retractable roof. But of course, you really do need a domed stadium in the state of Florida. But Tropicana Field. I mean, obviously, you have a lot of memories of the place. (What are) your thoughts on Tropicana Field?
CJVE – I think it’s a little bit outdated now. They need to put in some renovations, if not knock it down and like I said, go to Tampa. But for what it is, it’s nice. I mean, it could be a little bit more fan friendly and stuff, but they do a good job. They do a good job over there.
CPB – Being in Tampa Bay right now and getting a chance now to get experience the Blue Jays new player development complex which isn’t that far from Tampa Bay. What’s it been like being able to train in such a world class facility like that?
CJVE – You just have everything you need. I mean, there’s really not an excuse not to get better at a place like that, you know what I mean? I don’t really know how much it costs or whatnot but it’s got to be a lot. For all the stuff that they got for us, man. It’s crazy, honestly.
CPB – What are some of the things … what do you wind up using at the player development facility? They got state-of-the-art technology. Is there anything in particular that you use developing as a pitcher?
CJVE – Yeah, I mean, we have this pitching lab that’s just for pitching. I think there’s like eight or nine cameras in there with a couple like slow-motion ones. And then like a big, I don’t know 60-inch TV for like, projecting your Rapsodo numbers and your metrics on there. So you can just throw a pitch and it’s just right there on the TV, just turn around and look at it. There’s like a desk behind there with some computers that the staff sits at. It’s pretty cool.
It doesn’t really feel like like baseball in there. It feels like like a lab a little bit but we definitely get better for sure. The mounds like made out of force plates … so you can like see … how much force you’re putting in and making sure it’s in the right spots and stuff but that’s definitely on to the art for sure.
CPB – There’s all this new talk about tunnelling your pitches, trying to keep your release point consistent, What’s some of the equipment that helps you see how things are progressing on that front as far as your delivery and your release point?
CJVE – The motion cameras are big for that. I don’t know how many frames a second it slows down to but you can pretty much like see the ball like if there’s a fastball spinning at 2200 RPM, you can see each rotation coming down off the thing so you can really like get your rotation and your arm slot down for sure.
CPB – Spin rate is always a big statistic now. … It’s got to be easy to be really overwhelmed by all the information now that’s available to you as a pitcher.
CJVE – It is overwhelming but you just kinda have to know who you are. My fastball doesn’t spin like … we have this guy Joey Murray that spends like, 3,000 (RPM – revolutions per minute). Like mine’s like barely two (thousand) so I got to know the pitcher I am and not take on that pitching with spin and using his fastball the way he uses it. So I mean, it’s just knowing yourself and how everybody’s different.
CPB – How would you describe yourself as a pitcher if you have to give a scouting report on yourself?
CJVE – Walks a lot of guys. I did last year, but I don’t know. A decent fastball, a decent curveball. The slider’s going be good when it comes around. And the changeup is just there to get them off the fastball, obviously. No, I’m not good at that. I’ve never really tried to do that.
CPB – Is there (a pitcher) maybe you compare yourself to the majors?
CJVE – I liked the way Chris Archer pitched when he was in Tampa. I liked like his demeanor and just the way like he really didn’t look like he was trying too hard. But the results were there. It was calm and smooth.
CPB – I think that’s something that has been described about your pitching delivery, that it’s fairly compact. It’s not like a lot of moving parts or herky-jerky. I guess you try to get a little bit of deception. But I guess your delivery is something that you’ve been working on, trying to stay remain smooth and consistent.
CJVE – It’s been pretty smooth for for most of my career. It’s just kind of like, you know, tighten some things up … here and there and making sure my stride’s, you know, the right length, and I’m landing in the right spot.
CPB – You’ve worked with a pitching coach Phil Cundari in Vancouver. And you also had, I believe, three different pitching coaches when you’re with the Seminoles. … What do you try to, I guess, take away from each pitching coach? They’re all trying to help you. Is there anything maybe you take away from each one of them?
CJVE – All four of those guys are definitely different. And they have different styles of coaching pitching, and, you know, some of that may not work for you. Or it may be great for like the next guy or other guys. So they just have to put their style out there and you have to filter it, you know what I mean? You’re at the point where you have to take stuff, always be respectful, but you know, take stuff and retain it that you want to retain. … Just let stuff you know, for lack of a better word, in one ear and out the other because you just receive so much information. … If you don’t want it as information, you can’t store it, you just have to like let it go and move on to stuff that you that you can focus about when they talk to you, that helps you.
CJVE – Yeah, probably around September or October next year, I’ll be throwing off the mound again and then hopefully get assigned in spring training ’23.
Thanks a million again to C.J. Van Eyk for the latest episode of C’s Chat and the photos through his Instagram account @cjvaneyk. You can also follow him on Twitter @cjvaneyk17. Special thanks also to C’s play-by-play announcer Tyler Zickel for arranging the chat.