Duke is a school that is well known for their academic superiority and excellent basketball program. Though baseball isn’t as popular, Duke lately has had great success in player development. Marcus Stroman is the only player from Duke to be taken in the first round, and now he is one of the top young pitchers in baseball. The Blue Devils look to have yet another 1st round pick in Junior Michael Matuella.
The 6’ 7″ Maryland high school product looks like he should be playing basketball but his fastball says otherwise. Matuella went from a little known high school pitcher, who MLB teams weren’t considering, to the top amateur pitcher in the country in a matter of just three years. When Matuella decided that he wanted to be a professional baseball player in his freshman year at Duke, he dedicated his life to baseball. He is a player who thinks about how something will affect his baseball career before doing it, whether it’s eating or working out. After devoting all of his time to academics and baseball, he may see his dream come true this June.
The Duke righty has a devastating two seam fastball that can reach into the upper 90’s. His fastball has great movement to it, with tail in on righties and away from lefties. Matuella isn’t a typical power pitcher. He uses a variety of off-speed pitches to complement his great fastball. Right now his curveball is a plus offering, his best off-speed pitch. This offseason, Matuella has worked on his slider, which may also have a chance to be a plus offering. During last season, he picked up a changeup quickly to be his third offering. Though scouts aren’t sure how good the changeup is yet, it could provide him with an excellent fourth offering. With all these great pitches, Matuella is now going to have to be consistent with his control of each pitch. After watching footage of Matuella last year, it seems that he does a great job of keeping his arm at a consistent release point, which will be a factor of control.
Two attributes that are really important in a player is work ethic and maturity. Just looking at how fast Matuella was able to improve as a player tells us that he has one of the best work ethics for a college pitcher. You can’t jump from a little known freshman to a potential number one overall pick in three years without working your tail off. When talking to him, he mentioned that he looked up to Roy Halladay, who was one of the hardest working pitchers in the 2000’s. Matuella spoke of how he wanted to lead by example and show the younger players of Duke, the right way to play the game.
Overall, I think Matuella is a potential top of the rotation starter. It may take a little longer to develop compared to other pitchers drafted near him because he lacks the innings that other starters in the draft class have, but this can serve as a positive because his arm will have less mileage on his arm than other college pitchers. Also, his room for growth may be even bigger this way. I think when June 8th comes around, whoever ends up taking the big Duke righty will be more than happy with the overall qualities that Matuella brings on and off the field.