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2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Duke

JR RHP Michael Matuella (2015)
SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Istler (2015)
SR LHP Trent Swart (2015)
rJR LHP Remy Janco (2015)
rJR RHP Conner Stevens (2015)
JR LHP Nick Hendrix (2015)
rSR LHP Dillon Haviland (2015)
rSO RHP James Marvel (2015)
JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove (2015)
rSR C Mike Rosenfeld (2015)
SR 2B Andy Perez (2015)
SO RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
SO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
SO RHP JR Holloway (2016)
SO C Cristian Perez (2016)
FR 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
FR LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
FR SS Ryan Day (2017)
FR 3B Jack Labosky (2017)

JR RHP Michael Matuella took a massive step forward last year while putting hitters down far more consistently (doubled his K/9 and then some) and flashing the kind of stuff that could potentially dominate big league hitters. Guys who are 6-6, 220 pounds that show plus command of a four pitch arsenal that includes a mid-90s fastball and three secondaries with a chance to be above-average or better don’t come around everyday. . I’m not quite as knocked out about him as I could be — and I fully acknowledge some personal bias is seeping in here as I’ve yet to see him throw a plus offspeed pitch in my own viewings — but I’m very much prepared to go all-in on him the second he’s back out on a mound this February. As is, even with me not as in love with him as I should be, he still might be the best overall prospect in the country and top prospect on my next 2015 MLB Draft rankings. So I don’t yet LOVE him as much as I’m hoping to but still think he’s likely the best prospect in the land. If that doesn’t tell you what kind of upside he has, I’m not sure what else I can say.

On top of his strong recent track record, deep and varied array of pitches, plus command, and above-average athleticism and size, it’s really the amount of extension, deception, and downward plane he gets on every pitch that make him a special talent. Kiley McDaniel has comped him to Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates. Baseball America has thrown out a Michael Wacha comparison. I like both of these. Me being me, of course, I have a few others to throw at the wall and see if they stick. Because I was born and raised on Philadelphia sports in the 90s, I’m obligated to share a cautionary comp I heard over the summer. Let’s get the negativity — relative negativity since this guy is still pretty good — out of the way first. This pitcher never showed quite the same fastball velocity as Matuella, but similarities include the following: groundball tendencies, well-rounded assortment of pitches, plus command, almost identical height/weight (this guy is a little thinner), and a nerve-wracking collegiate injury history (Matuella has the manageable but still worrisome back condition called spondylolysis). We’re talking former Missouri Tiger ace and current solid mid-rotation arm for the Twins, Kyle Gibson. An outcome like that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world by any means, but it’s not the ceiling you’re shooting for if you’re thinking of popping a guy 1-1. More optimistically, I could see Matuella rounding into the professional version of Zack Wheeler on the realistic end with — I’m so sorry I’m doing this, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it — a potential ceiling reminiscent of future Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay on the highest of high ends. All comps are imperfect and stacking up any amateur player with one of the game’s greatest all-time performers is more irresponsible than I’d like to be, but the pieces are there (similar repertoires, plus command, outstanding extension/deception/plane) for it to at least become a justifiable ultimate 100% best-case scenario ceiling. Just putting that into writing makes me incredibly anxious, so let’s quickly move on to some of the other potential Duke draftees.

rSO RHP James Marvel is coming off Tommy John surgery, but showed a really nice FB/CB mix when healthy. He also has one of the most underrated names in this year’s draft; just think about the corporate and movie tie-ins that could be made if he makes it big. I’m an unabashed JR RHP Kenny Koplove fan dating back to his earliest amateur days. Did I write that he’s “not the next [Marcus] Stroman, but not not the next Stroman if you catch my drift” after seeing him a few times in high school? Yes, yes I did. That might have just been a teeny bit too rich a comparison — well, technically it wasn’t a comparison since I hedged like crazy but you surely caught my drift, right? — but Duke appears to be finally buying in to the idea of RHP Kenny Koplove rather than SS Kenny Koplove, which feels like a smart move after the shortstop version of Koplove hit .191/.243/.224 last season. I do think Koplove could be a difference-maker on the mound and is a major 2015 draft sleeper at this point. His delivery is a pain for hitters to pick up, he has plenty of arm strength (94ish peak), and I’ve always liked his breaking ball (I remember it as a curve, but I’ve heard/read slider since). Factor back in his athleticism and relative fresh right arm, and you’ve got somebody to be excited about.

Joining Baby Halladay, Captain Marvel, and Not Not Marcus Stroman is a really strong veteran pitching core. There’s SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (strong stuff, good peripherals, below-average control), SR RHP Andrew Istler (stuff to start, but should play up enough in short bursts to get a look as a reliever), and SR LHP Trent Swart (crafty lefty profile who has no problem offspeeding you to death), all of whom could be senior signs with good springs. I’m actually surprised Istler, the most complete pitcher of the bunch, is back for a final year in Durham. I’m intrigued but unsure to expect out of other veterans like rJR LHP Remy Janco (limited innings), rJR RHP Conner Stevens (Tennessee transfer coming off a strong year), and LHPs Nick Hendrix (JR) and Dillon Haviland (rSR), both of whom jumped out at me as statistical favorites. There are no certainties here, but I’d be surprised if Duke got shut out on draft day after Matuella comes off the board.

At this point it should be fairly clear that Duke has some weapons on the mound. Will they hit enough to make any kind of noise in the ACC? That I’m much less sure about. I thought rSR C Mike Rosenfeld was on the verge of a statement 2014 season, but it never quite materialized. Still, his decent year with the stick (.268/.396/.335 in 194 AB) combined with his plus defensive abilities could be enough to keep him on follow lists around the league. Rosenfeld might be it as far as 2015 Duke bats go. I personally like SR 2B Andy Perez as a pesky middle infield prospect to watch, but he’s likely more good college player than future professional athlete. Future classes have talent in SO C Cristian Perez and FR 1B Justin Bellinger, so it’s not as if the lack of impact bats for 2015 is any cause for alarm.

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