Former OHL pick sets sights on 2018 MLB draft as a pitcher

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Former OHL pick sets sights on 2018 MLB draft as a pitcher

Postby Digger on Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:29 am

Former OHL pick sets sights on 2018 MLB draft as a pitcher

Eric Cerantola delivers a pitch during the East Coast Pro Showcase. (Cliff Welch/Getty)

Shi Davidi
@shidavidi
September 15, 2017, 11:07 AM

TORONTO – Eric Cerantola used to be a hockey player, a right-winger talented enough to be selected in the eighth round of the 2016 Ontario Hockey League draft by the Owen Sound Attack. But after a year of rapid development on the mound that earned him a coveted spot on the Canadian junior national team, the right-hander from Oakville, Ont., is very much a baseball player, one building up steam toward the 2018 draft.

“Once I committed to Mississippi State (in July), that told me baseball is going to be the way to go,” says the 6-5, 195-pound right-hander. “I gave the GM from Owen Sound (Dale DeGray) a call and he was very supportive. Hockey has really helped me in baseball to compete and have bit more grit when you pitch.”

As a result, Cerantola will be one of the most closely watched participants in this weekend’s Tournament 12, the annual showcase hosted and run by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Now in its fifth year, T12, as it’s more commonly known, is arguably the single most important event for Canadian amateurs looking to get noticed. Dozens of scouts from pro teams trying to get the jump on the 2018 draft class along with American college coaches and recruiters eager to hand out scholarships and round out rosters are in town to identify talent that suits their needs.

So far, more than 50 participants have been selected in the draft and over 200 players have gone on to play in college.

“For a lot of kids, this will be the pinnacle. You’re playing in a major-league stadium. You’re playing on the same field as the players you watch on TV. You have a who’s who of Blue Jays alumni around. It’s just a great overall experience for young Canadian kids,” says Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams who helped conceive of the idea. “And it takes a critical mass of players and puts them in one spot. There’s somebody for everybody here, whether you’re a pro scout or a collegiate upper Division 1 program, mid-major, a smaller Division 1 or a junior college. There’s value here and it’s not just one or two players.”

Cerantola earned some notice at T12 last year, at the end of a fine first season with the Great Lake Canadians, which helped him break in with the junior national team last October. At that point hockey and baseball were relatively even for him, but things picked up when he joined the Canadians, who took notice of him during a tournament in Oakville.

“The first time we saw him he was in right field,” says Adam Stern, the longtime national team stalwart who is the Canadians’ director of player development and under-18 manager. “When we saw him throw the ball, it was like, he’s in the wrong spot.”
They made him a pitcher and, with a classic hurler’s frame and growing strength, it played immediately. The fall trip with the junior national squad pushed Cerantola’s baseball aspirations to another level.

“That really gave me a pretty big hint that baseball could be very serious,” he says.

The 17-year-old made representing Canada in the recent under-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ont., his primary goal this season and ended up getting the ball against the United States, the eventual tournament champion. He allowed three earned runs over five innings with five walks and seven strikeouts in an 8-3 loss during the tournament’s Super Round.

“You have guys you can’t make mistakes against or they make you pay for it,” says Cerantola. “That’s what happened when I pitched against the States and gave up that solo shot (to Triston Casas). He was a hitter you had to be careful with.”



BEN NICHOLSON-SMITH

The Canadians eventually lost to Japan in the bronze-medal game, a disappointing end but a still solid result to a team that featured right-hander Landon Leach, a converted catcher who was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Twins this year.

Despite Cerantola’s relatively limited experience as a pitcher, his rapid progress is making him one of the more intriguing draft-eligible Canadians for next year.

“He’s got a chance to be a really high pick,” says Hamilton. “There’s still a lot to come, a lot to project, but his arm works. He’s got great downhill plane. It’s going to be a plus breaking ball. He’s 6-5 and still growing.”

That growth is coming both physically and mentally, as Cerantola locks in on the nuances of pitching now that his hockey gear has been put away in storage.

“Maturing, getting bigger, stronger and at the same time working on mechanics and stuff like that,” is his list of progress points this season. “This was my second full year of pitching. I was still a little raw, I still am a little bit, but I’m starting to get a little better at it, figuring out how to pound the zone. That’s how you get to be successful.”
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