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2017 MLB Draft Report – Duke

Lefthanders that stand 6-10, 230 pounds are always a lot of fun, especially when they attack hitters from a really funky angle with more power (85-90, 92 peak) than most sidearmers we see. That’s James Ziemba. Karl Blum is plenty big in his own right — not 6-10, 230, but 6-5, 210 ain’t nothing to mess with — with quality stuff (88-93 heat, average or better 79-81 breaking ball) and little to no idea where anything is going. Chris McGrath is a good arm (93 peak, good SL) that needs innings. Mitch Stallings can get it up to 90 MPH with a nice 79-81 changeup. Luke Whitten is like a much smaller Ziemba in that he’s got an effective fastball (87-93) and slider (low-80s) combo that comes at you from a much lower slot than the norm. I have nothing on Nick Hendrix — a rarity for an accomplished fifth-year college player at a major university — but his peripherals are always good so maybe there’s something there. If you’re scoring at home, that’s six potentially draftable pitchers for Duke with five of them bringing it from the left side.

The seventh intriguing 2017 arm for Duke might be my favorite of the bunch. What Ryan Day lacks in stature (5-11, 165) he more than makes up for in arm strength (90-94 FB) and athleticism. I’ll admit to some trepidation with him as his general effectiveness has consistently overshot his mediocre peripherals, but two-way talents like Day are often guilty of blooming later rather than sooner. He’s one to watch for sure. An eighth intriguing 2017 arm is also Duke’s first intriguing 2017 bat. Two-way Jack Labosky is either a third baseman or a righthanded pitcher depending on where you stand. Like fellow ACC two-way standout Donovan Casey at Boston College, Labosky’s best bet in the pros is on the mound. Based on a quick check with some smarter people I’ve asked that’s a bit of a minority view, but I’m sticking with it for now. While I appreciate Labosky’s thump and defensive prowess at the hot corner, I think his sinking fastball (89-90 MPH) and diving change (79-80 MPH, flashes plus) make him a better long term bet as a pitcher. That’s an opinion highly subject to change with three months of daylight separating us from draft day.

Maybe it’s me overvaluing versatility, but I can’t help be a little intrigued at Peter Zyla and his history at second, outfield, and catcher. He could be a useful 2018 senior-sign if teams are less enamored with versatility than I am. My notes on Jalen Phillips include the question “time to bail?” so you might have some clue as to where I’m leaning on him. The long-awaited breakout simply hasn’t happened…yet. Time is clearly running out for the redshirt-senior. In a similar vein, Justin Bellinger felt poised for a monster 2017 after making a ton of progress as a hitter from his freshman to sophomore seasons. So far, not so much. Still, it’s way too early to give up on him; quite the opposite, in fact, as he remains one of the most appealing first base prospects in this college class, early struggles or not. Hard not to fall for his size, power, and underrated feel for hitting when he’s at his best.

As much as I try to stay away from publicly commenting on future classes — not for the lame claim it’s “too early” that others use, but for the fact these already long pieces would be untenably long — I can’t help but throw a little love Jimmy Herron‘s way. Herron, an early FAVORITE for 2018, is legit. Plus runner, plus arm strength, intriguing power upside, great approach…it’s a really appealing package. From both a tools and performance standpoint, Griffin Conine isn’t all that far behind. Future looks great for the Blue Devils outfield.

*****

rJR RHP Karl Blum (2017)
rJR LHP James Ziemba (2017)
rSR LHP Nick Hendrix (2017)
JR LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
SR LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2017)
JR LHP Mitch Stallings (2017)
JR LHP Luke Whitten (2017)
JR RHP/SS Ryan Day (2017)
JR 3B/RHP Jack Labosky (2017)
JR 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
rSR OF/1B Jalen Phillips (2017)
JR 2B/SS Max Miller (2017)
JR 2B/OF Peter Zyla (2017)
JR OF Michael Smicicklas (2017)
SO RHP Al Pesto (2018)
SO RHP Hunter Davis (2018)
SO OF Griffin Conine (2018)
SO OF Kennie Taylor (2018)
SO OF Jimmy Herron (2018)
SO SS Zack Kone (2018)
SO SS Zack Kesterson (2018)
SO C Chris Proctor (2018)
FR LHP Adam Laskey (2019)
FR LHP Graeme Stinson (2019)
FR RHP Coleman Williams (2019)
FR LHP Bill Chillari (2019)
FR RHP Cam Kovachik (2019)
FR RHP/1B Matt Mervis (2019)
FR C Chris Dutra (2019)
FR OF Chase Creek (2019)
FR 3B Erikson Nichols (2019)

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