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2020 MLB Draft: Back to the Future

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Eight of the thirteen prep players selected by the Mets in the 2017 MLB Draft signed with the team. How have those other five done?

Tommy Wilson
Steve Sypa

In 2017, the Mets drafted thirteen high school players, down from the seventeen they selected in 2016. Of those thirteen, eight signed with the club- Mark Vientos, Jack Schneider, Bryce Hutchinson, Nate Peden, Yadiel Flores, Liam McCall, Noah Nunez, and Ronnie Taylor- while five elected not to- A.J. Labas, CJ Van Eyk, Ian McWilliams, Jake Eder, and Daniel Alfonzo. All five are juniors in 2019 and eligible for the 2019 MLB Draft, so let’s check in with them and see what they’ve been up to and how they’ve been doing.

A.J. Labas, RHP (17th Round, 517 Overall)

A standout from Trinity Christian Academy, A.J. Labas was one of the better prep pitchers from the state of Florida eligible for the 2017 MLB Draft. Armed with a fastball that topped out at 93 MPH with plenty of life, a changeup that flashed plus, and a developing curveball, he helped pitch Trinity Christian to a 19-7 season and a second-consecutive Florida Class 2A state title. Labas initially had a commitment to the University of North Florida but changed it to Louisiana State University.

After being selected in the draft, Labas elected to honor his commitment to LSU. Prior to even donning the purple and gold, he began receiving cortisone shots for back pain, an issue that had never been a problem at any point during his high school career. Just prior to Christmas, he underwent surgery to fix a herniated disk in his back. He rehabbed himself back into playing shape all throughout the winter and made his 2018 season debut in March, making 10 starts and appearing in an additional 3 games out of the bullpen. Pitching his way into the weekend rotation, the right-hander posted a 3.48 ERA in 54.1 innings, allowing 54 hits, walking 7, and striking out 32. In his final start of the regular season, Labas began feeling pain in his right shoulder and sat out regionals. The pain would linger and would eventually claim his 2019 season, as he underwent undergoing season-ending surgery to repair that same shoulder just prior to the start of the season. The 2018 All-American finally returned for the 2020 season but made just 4 starts before the NCAA ended the baseball season due to COVID-19. He posted a 3.55 ERA in 25.1 innings, allowing 16 hits, walking 3, and striking out 20.

CJ Van Eyk, RHP (19th Round, 577 Overall)

A right-hander out of Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida, CJ Van Eyk, at times, looked like one of the best prep right-handers eligible in the 2017 MLB Draft. Coming off a season where he posted a 0.16 ERA and county-leading 130 strikeouts, he was well on his way to duplicating those numbers in his senior season when he left a start with a forearm injury, limiting his performance for the rest of the season and causing his stock in the draft to drop. All in all, he posted a 0.73 ERA in 38.1 innings, recording 56 strikeouts, but had the injury not occurred, his numbers might have been even more impressive and his place in the 2017 MLB Draft even more prominent.

After being selected in the draft, Van Eyk elected to honor his commitment to Florida State University. He appeared in 19 games in his freshman year, starting five games. He posted a 2.86 ERA in 56.2 innings, allowing 42 hits, walking 30, and striking out 71 for the 43-19 Seminoles. Having demonstrated to head coach Mike Martin that his mid-90s fastball and devastating curve could make even the best college hitters look foolish, he was made a staple of the weekend rotation in 2019. He posted a 3.80 ERA in 94.2 innings for the year, allowing 82 hits, walking 39, and striking out 120, and was a big reason why the Seminoles made the College World Series, though they were eliminated following losses to the University of Michigan and Texas Tech. Van Eyk made just 4 starts in 2020 before the NCAA ended the baseball season due to COVID-19. He posted a 1.31 ERA in 20.2 innings, allowing 11 hits, walking 12, and striking out 25.

Ian McWilliams, RHP (30th Round, 907 Overall)

The brother of Sam McWilliams, who was selected in the 8th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies and is now a Tampa Bay Rays farmhand, Ian McWilliams was a four-year letter winner at Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In his senior year, he posted a 1.96 ERA in 35.2 innings, helping pitch the Buccaneers into the This game is part of the “2017 Tennessee Boys Baseball State Championship Brackets Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Division I Class AAA Semi 2 tournament.

After being selected in the draft, McWilliams elected to honor his commitment to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. According to his coaches at UAB, McWilliams rejected a fair amount of money to go pro, as clearly the Mets thought that his high-80s fastball and developing curveball and changeup would continue improving. He appeared in one game in his freshman year, recording a single out while allowing three runs on one hit and two walks, striking out one. His lack of time on the mound was because of an injury, and as a result, he redshirted in his second year at UAB. In his second year, his redshirt freshman year, the right-hander appeared in four games, allowing 6 earned runs in 2.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, walking 4, and striking out 0. He appeared in two games in 2020, his redshirt sophomore year, before the NCAA ended the baseball season due to COVID-19. He allowed 6 runs in 0.2 innings, allowing 1 hit, walking 4, and striking out 1.

Jake Eder, LHP (34th Round, 1027 Overall)

A transfer to Calvary Christian Academy in Clearwater, Florida from Delray Beach Atlantic High School in Delray, Florida, Jake Eder posted a posted a 1.25 ERA in 56 innings with 81 strikeouts in his senior year, and that factors in a shaky start to the spring. He came within a few outs of helping pitch Calvary into the state finals, but a shaky bullpen blew things for the team in the end. Considered one of the best left-handed prep pitching prospects in the Florida thanks to an electric fastball that sat in the low-90s and a curveball and changeup that both flashed average-to-above-average, Eder fell far down the draft board as he was considered an extremely tough sign because of his commitment to Vanderbilt University.

After being selected in the draft, Eder elected to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt. In his freshman year, he made 9 starts and 11 overall appearances, posting 5.45 ERA in 33.0 innings pitched, allowing 25 hits, walking 22, and striking out 37. In 2019, his sophomore year, Eder pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and he posted a 2.88 ERA in 34.1 innings, allowing 23 hits, 15 walks, and 37 strikeouts. He notched three saves over the course of the season, including a three-inning appearance against the Michigan Wolverines to clinch the Commodores’ second College World Series title. He was stretched back out and started four games in 2020 before the NCAA ended the baseball season due to COVID-19. He posted a 3.60 ERA in 20.0 innings, allowing 20 hits, walking 9, and striking out 27.

Daniel Alfonzo, 3B (38th Round, 1147 Overall)

The son of former MLB All-Star, member of the ‘greatest infield ever,’ and 2019 New York-Penn League champion Brooklyn Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Alfonzo is a chip off his father’s shoulders. Thanks to his father’s genes and the years of private coaching, Daniel Alfonzo had a decorated high school career and was head and shoulders better than his peers. He was named Bayside High School’s MVP in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, leading the PSAL in home runs at times and never ending a season with a batting average lower than .471.

After being selected in the draft, Alfonzo elected to honor his commitment to Adelphi University. He did not participate in baseball in 2018, his first year there. He transferred to Monroe College in 2019 and appeared in 44 games for the Mustangs as their starting third baseman. He hit .338/.473/.633, with 9 home runs and was a major reason why the team went 33-19, won their second consecutive Eastern District Championship, their fifth Region XV title and made their second consecutive JUCO World Series appearance. Alfonzo returned to Monroe for the 2020 season, his sophomore year, and appeared in 6 games as their starting third baseman before the NCAA ended the baseball season due to COVID-19. He hit .333/.417/.524 with 1 home run in that limited time on the field.