Top area prospects in next week’s MLB draft

The Major League Baseball Draft starts Wednesday and ends Thursday. Instead of going 40 rounds, this year’s draft has been reduced to five in a cost-cutting measure.

Each pick in the condensed draft has an assigned value, and teams cannot spend more than what they were allotted in those rounds without incurring a penalty. It becomes more of a salary cap. 

In all, 160 players will be drafted. Those who are not picked are limited to signing bonuses of $20,000 or less. With such a shortened field, the number of Tampa Bay area prospects also is limited. Here are the locals who ranked among Baseball America’s top 250 prospects in the nation, the ones most likely to be selected. 

RHP CJ Van Eyk

High school: Steinbrenner

College: FSU

BA rank: 46

Three years ago, Van Eyk was selected in the 19th round by the New York Mets. He likely would have been taken higher but arm soreness forced him to shut down his senior season at Steinbernner after just 38 innings on the mound. Van Eyk developed into a solid starter at FSU. Last season, he had a 3.81 ERA and averaged more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings. The junior was off to another strong start with a 1.31 ERA to go along with 25 strikeouts and 12 walks in 20.2 innings pitched before the season was canceled.  

Photo credit: Aydan Child/UAA Communications

RHP Tommy Mace

High school: Sunlake

College: Florida

BA rank: 75

Taken in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Reds three years ago, Mace opted to play in college. At Florida, he has gone from a relief role to a starter. This year, the junior had a 1.67 ERA with 26 strikeouts and five walks in 27 innings of work. For the past few months, Mace has been working with teammate Brady Singer, a first-round pick in 2018. Mace also is honing on his analytical skills on the mound with former Bishop McLaughlin standout Nate Pearson, a first-round pick who is now a prospect in the Blue Jays’ organization. 

C Jackson Miller

High school: Mitchell

College: Signed with Wake Forest

BA rank: 99

A four-year starter, Miller improved significantly at the plate. As a senior, he was off to the best start of his high school career with a .500 average and five RBIs in the seven games played before the season was canceled. Miller was part of a stellar Mustangs lineup that helped the team get off to a 7-0 start and finish as the No. 6 team in the country according to MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25. He also was a solid pitcher who went a combined 12-2 the previous two seasons. 

LHP Mason Miller

High school: Mitchell

College: Signed with Florida Gulf Coast

BA rank: 108

Throughout his high school career, Miller never pitched more than 16 innings in a season. Still, he used his breaking ball to strike out batters at an impressive rate. Miller recorded 65 career strikeouts, an average of two per inning. And he won, too. Miller was 4-1 overall, including 2-0 this season. Two years ago, he teamed with Jackson Miller (no relation) to form a solid 1-2 punch on the mound. Jackson played primarily behind the plate this past season.

RHP Carson Ragsdale

High school: Bishop McLaughlin

College: USF

BA rank: 191

In three seasons as Bishop McLaughlin’s ace, Ragsdale went a 19-8 and led the program to the state semifinals in 2014. He was used as a reliever at USF before missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery. This season, Ragsdale returned and impressed scouts with a fastball that clocks around 90-93 mph. In four starts, the junior had a 2.84 ERA and recorded 37 strikeouts with just seven walks in 19 innings. 

C Matheu Nelson

High school: Calvary Christian

College: FSU

BA rank: 249

After a solid high school career, Nelson was selected in the 39th round by the Phillies in 2018. He opted to go to Florida State and made an immediate impact, hitting .282 with six home runs and 29 RBIs as a freshman a year ago. His .442 on-base percentage that year was second on the team behind Drew Mendoza. Nelson is a draft-eligible sophomore according to Baseball America.