School: Duke; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-6; Weight: 220
Previously Drafted: N/A
Background: Largely viewed as the potential #1 overall pick heading into the 2015 season, Matuella, a 6-foot-6 right-hander out of Great Falls, Virginia, last just six starts and 25.0 innings before a problematic elbow forced him to undergo the knife. He would finish his final collegiate season with a 24-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a barely-there 1.08 ERA.
This, of course, is just the latest malady for Matuella, who missed a chance to showcase his potential premium talent against the top collegiate players in the country when he was diagnosed with spondylosis, a degenerative osteoarthritis of the joins between the center of the spinal vertebrae and/or neural foramina. It should be noted that the disease is not viewed as a career-altering diagnosis.
Matuella had a coming out party of sorts during his sophomore campaign two seasons ago as he more than doubled his strikeout rate (jumping from 4.2 K/9 to 10.65 K/9) while showing the rare ability to limit free passes (2.31 BB/9).
It also should be noted that despite the injuries Matuella still has a chance to become the highest drafted player in Duke’s history. Former outfielder Stephen Kesses was taken with the 16th overall pick in the January Draft – Secondary Phase and more recently Blue Jays budding ace Marcus Stroman was nabbed with the 22nd pick three years ago.
Projection: Front-of-the-rotation potential, especially after posting a 93-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio after his previous 93.1 innings of work, Matuella offers a tantalizing mix of swing-and-miss ability with strong control, particularly for a bigger pitcher.
And in draft class that lacks a true standout #1 pick, Matuella could have easily settled that argument had he not required Tommy John surgery.
In terms of ceiling – and the assumption he can fully bounce back from TJ – Matuella has the upside of a #2-type arm, though that comes with some added risk: (A) he really faced, at least on a consistent basis, top tier talent and (B) he’s tallied just 139 innings of work over the last three seasons. He could very easily be pushed into a late-inning role as well.
Finally, a pair of high-ceiling pitchers – Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde – both managed to land in the 18 selections last season despite going down with wonky elbows as well.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
Floor: 1.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
Grade: First Round, Top 15 selections
Photo Courtesy of goduke.com.