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Coming off two beeline cool bounded appearances, Duke adeptness accept its best aggregation yet in 2020, with an accomplished and able calendar and the centermost casting agents of the Chris Pollard era. Knowing that, the Blue Devils take the No. 15 baronial in D1Baseball.com’s preseason top 25.
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Below are a few facts to accede aback breaking bottomward the 2020 Duke club:
2019 record: 35-27RPI: 44Coach (record at school): Chris Pollard (233-173 in 7 seasons)Ballpark: Durham Bulls Athletic Park (10,000)Postseason history: 8 regionals (active streak: 2), 3 CWS trips (last in 1961), 0 civic titles
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In this examination of Duke’s 2020 season, we’ve graded the Blue Devils in anniversary characteristic of the game: Hitting, power, speed, defense, starting pitching, abode and experience/intangibles. But afore we begin, let’s present our projected calendar for Duke in 2020.
Grading the Blue Devils: Aloof as scouts brand affairs application the 20-80 aloof scale, we use a 20-80 calibration to appraise teams in our top 25. A account of 50 in anniversary chic is average, about to a archetypal NCAA clash team; 55 is hardly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is able-bodied above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or hardly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is able-bodied below-average; and 20 is the acute in that direction.
Duke allotment eight players who logged at atomic 150 bowl appearances from an breach that started apathetic aftermost year but came on able bottomward the stretch. Attending for this breach to be far added abounding than the assemblage that ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring in 2019.
Murray, a first-team Apprentice All-American a year ago, is the best authentic hitter on the team, with few holes in his right-handed stroke, and Duke drillmaster Chris Pollard said he played like an All-American for best of the fall. He’ll acceptable serve as the agent that makes the Blue Devils go out of the leadoff spot, and Joey Loperfido’s outstanding bat-to-ball abilities and adeptness to carve adamantine liners the added way makes him a acceptable fit in the 2-hole. Duke’s breach struggled while Loperfido was afflicted in the aboriginal bisected aftermost year. He didn’t put up the numbers he’s able of afterwards his return, but his attendance in the calendar still helped Duke’s breach gel in a big way backward in the season.
Chris Crabtree and Matt Mervis accompany Loperfido as mature, concrete run producers from the larboard ancillary of the plate, and the switch-hitting Michael Rothenberg is additionally decidedly alarming from the larboard side. Acceleration merchant Chase Cheek is yet accession accomplished lefty bat in this lineup, admitting with a abundant altered apparatus set — he’s a contact-oriented hitter with acceptable baby brawl skills. Maxwell is an accessible blemish candidate, a actual concrete 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-handed hitter who showed accomplished feel for his butt all spring. Right-swinging Erikson Nichols and Grant Norris are scrappers who should be able to hit situationally and accumulate the chains affective adjoin the basal of the lineup.
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The outfield account is far from settled, and several added candidates for jobs could be advantageous abhorrent pieces. Inferior Steve Mann has some backbone and athleticism in his bunched 6-foot frame. The Devils accept been cat-and-mouse for him to appearance added bendability at the plate, but he could bloom with approved arena time. Green RJ Schreck had some acceptable moments as an abrasion backup aftermost spring; he’s a grinder with some feel for his butt from the larboard side. Fourth-year inferior Chris Dutra has battled injuries for the aftermost two years and is athirst to acquire arena time in 2020, and he has apparent the adeptness to bullwork out complete at-bats.
Rothenberg was Duke’s alone double-digit home run hitter a year ago, but apprehend the Devils to hit for absolutely a bit added adeptness with a added complete calendar in 2020. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Rothenberg smacked 11 homers aftermost year, advancing on able bottomward the amplitude afterwards a asperous aboriginal half, and connected to appearance off his bat acceleration in the fall. In Duke’s final abatement scrimmage, I saw him rip a distinct to appropriate that exited the bat at 101 mph, afresh bake a bifold to the right-field bend with a 107.7 mph avenue velocity. He’s a adversary to advance the ACC in homers as a junior.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Mervis has additional raw adeptness from the larboard ancillary and looks abreast for a huge chief year afterwards starring in the Cape Cod League and in the fall. Crabtree is 6-4, 230 and has flashed lefty pop at times, but the Devils are still cat-and-mouse for him to drive the brawl added consistently — this could be the year his backbone translates. Maxwell is yet accession behemoth in this calendar at 6-4, 225, and it’s alone a amount of time until his righty adeptness shows up; attending for a jump from him this year as well.
Murray afraid somewhat with his pop as a freshman, and Pollard said he flashed “big-time power” at times this fall, authoritative him a solid bet to adeptness bifold abstracts in homers. The aforementioned goes for Loperfido, who has abundant backbone to the adverse field, authoritative him able-bodied ill-fitted to booty advantage of the Blue Monster in larboard acreage at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Athletic green Damon Lux, who is appropriate in the mix for an outfield job, additionally has aperitive raw adeptness but lacks experience. Mann and Dutra additionally activity casual right-handed pop.
Duke ranked in the average of the ACC backpack in baseborn bases aftermost year and isn’t adored with outstanding acceleration this year, but there are still some acceptable runners. Cheek is a able-bodied above-average agent who swiped 20 accoutrements in 23 tries aftermost year, and he’s by far the bigger blackmail on the basepaths. Loperfido is an above-average to additional agent underway and picks his spots able-bodied on the basepaths (he was 8-for-10 in steals aftermost year). Duke can aerate its acceleration by arena Lux, Mann or Schreck in the outfield instead of Maxwell; Lux has decidedly acceptable speed. Norris and Murray are both solid runners as well, and so is redshirt green Wil Hoyle, who will activity Norris for the additional abject job.
Loperfido’s abrasion acquired some guys to comedy out of position aboriginal aftermost year, so the Devils accomplished with a blah .969 fielding percentage. But they should be bigger this spring. Murray is one of the nation’s top arresting shortstops, with actual acceptable range, instincts, accomplishments and a burglarize arm. Norris is a approaching ambush with a accepted 70 arm, which should advice him about-face the bifold comedy as able-bodied as anybody in the ACC. His arresting accomplishment gives him a leg up over adolescent additional abject candidates Thomas Keehn, Hoyle and Graham Pauley.
Rothenberg will do the all-inclusive majority of the catching, and he’s got a adventitious to be one of the top catchers in this abstract chic because he owns an accessible additional arm and has developed accurately as a receiver and blocker. Maxwell continues to advance as a apostle abaft the bowl and should spell Rothenberg from time to time. Maxwell doesn’t run abundant and is still acquirements to comedy the outfield, but the Devils would adulation him to win a job out there to accumulate his bat in the lineup.
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The absolute outfield mix is up in the air, abnormally aback Cheek absent the abatement while convalescent from a broken ACL suffered aftermost May and accepting a accessory setback in September that resulted in a additional activity to abolish some blister tissue. The Devils achievement he’ll be aback to abounding backbone by the time the division starts, but if not, Loperfido abstracts to authority bottomward centermost field, area he looked acceptable this abatement afterwards arena additional abject aftermost year and aboriginal abject as a freshman. If Lux apprehension up in the lineup, he gives Duke a additional exceptional arresting outfielder to go with Cheek; that duo additional Loperfido in some agreement would accord the Devils enviable ambit in the grass.
Nichols is as abiding as it gets at third abject — his avant-garde instincts, anatomy ascendancy and authentic arm will accumulate him in the calendar alike if he slumps at the plate. Crabtree offers a big ambition at aboriginal abject but led the aggregation with 11 errors a year ago. He and Mervis (who has apparent bendable easily on defense) could circle at aboriginal and DH.
Duke’s weekend circling has astronomic upside if Bryce Jarvis and Cooper Stinson can booty the leaps avant-garde that the coaches ahead and Henry Williams proves as acceptable as he looked in the fall. There’s some ambiguity here, but the abeyant accolade is huge. And there’s acceptable abyss of added starting options should any of those projected weekend guys struggle.
Jarvis came into his own bottomward the amplitude aftermost year, casting blithely on a civic date in cool regionals adjoin Vanderbilt, afresh angry bottomward a able advance to assurance with the Yankees as a draft-eligible sophomore. He adopted instead to absorb the summer abacus strength, aggravating to access his acceleration and advance his breaking stuff, and his adamantine assignment bore actual bake-apple in the fall, as his fastball jumped from the 89-92 ambit to the 94-96 ambit every time out, his slider flashed plus, his activity became accession accepted weapon, and his signature changeup remained double-plus. Scouts who saw him in a flat adjoin Coastal Carolina appear that he looked like a first-rounder, and he’s a able bet to become an All-American as a junior.
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The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Stinson is a behemoth like his earlier brother Graeme (a above Duke star), and like Graeme he has adeptness stuff, with a 91-94 fastball and the adeptness to absence bats with his slider, which helped him arbor up 78 strikeouts in 54.1 innings as a freshman, admitting he absolved 43. Stinson afar his non-throwing accept aback his scooter was hit by a car in the offseason, befitting him out for best of the fall, but he was aback throwing bullpens afresh in November and feels great.
Williams, the centerpiece of Duke’s 2019 recruiting class, appeared accessible for primetime already during an outstanding fall. Tall, angular and projectable at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Williams has a clean, accessible arm activity from an over-the-top slot. He formed decline at 90-93 for best of the fall, and his fastball plays up added because of its aerial circuit amount (2400-2500 rpm range). He additionally flashed a bang breaking brawl at 79-81 with 11-to-5 appearance and a circuit amount up to 2511, as able-bodied as acceptable feel for an 83-85 changeup.
The acceptable midweek amateur and best accessible abeyant accession on weekends is chief lefty Bill Chillari, who has made 23 starts over the aftermost two seasons. Chillari is abiding Eddie, a acumen southpaw with an 86-88 fastball, solid changeup and breaking ball. Green righty Jack Carey is accession applicant for a starting role. He can assignment in the low 90s aback he’s at his best, and his 82-83 changeup is his best accessory pitch. But he fabricated big advance this abatement with his 79-83 slider, and he threw some actual acceptable ones in the abatement apple series.
The added starting applicant is chief righty Eli Herrick, who was 91-92 in his final airing of the fall. He pitched heavily off his high-spin fastball aftermost bounce and gets a lot of swing-and-misses up in the zone, but he lacked a reliable accessory angle to accumulate hitters from sitting on the heater. But like Carey, he fabricated a lot of advance with his slider this fall, and Pollard said it looked like a additional angle at times.
Pollard says this is the centermost casting agents he’s anytime had, which will be a above asset in the bullpen. But in accession to depth, the Blue Devils additionally accept a arch afterpiece in Thomas Girard, who sits consistently in the low 90s every time out and owns one of the best breaking assurance in the ACC, which was the active force abaft his 61 strikeouts in 46.1 innings aftermost year. Assuming Stinson, Williams and Chillari authority bottomward starting roles abaft Jarvis, it agency Carey and Herrick will accord Duke two added actual acceptable pieces in the bullpen, with swing-and-miss being that would comedy in the backward innings and the adeptness to amplify out and angle assorted innings as needed.
Scouts accept consistently admired two-way aptitude Mervis best as a casting anticipation — and he was accomplished off the bank in two scoreless innings in our abatement look, anguish the area at 91-93 and assuming an bigger 81-83 slider forth with a close changeup that charcoal a assignment in progress. Afterwards logging aloof eight innings a year ago, Mervis should see abundant added bank activity as a senior, acceptable as a key bureaucracy man. Additionally accumulate an eye on redshirt apprentice righty Jimmy Loper, who has progressed able-bodied in his acknowledgment from Tommy John surgery. He showed acceptable command at 87-89 in the abatement but could add acceleration as he continues to body strength. His best angle is a 79-81 mph changeup with acceptable arm speed, and he additionally showed a able affliction ambit at 75-76.
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Strike-throwing inferior Matt Dockman, a acumen lefty with alarm and bamboozlement as able-bodied as avant-garde command of his fastball and a additional changeup, is a accurate abode bedrock from the larboard side. He’s additionally one of Duke’s best trusted firemen, and his outstanding pickoff move and calm address advice him advance with men on base. And sophomores Aaron Beasley and Kyle Salley accord Duke two added advantageous options from the larboard side. Salley works at 86-88 from a three-quarters slot, but his calling agenda is a 73-77 mph breaking brawl with austere chaw (spin amount in the 2700-2800 range), which makes him actual boxy on lefties. Beasley has some alarm in his abbreviate three-quarters arm activity and battery delivery, and his 86-89 fastball showed acceptable benumbed activity up in the area in the fall, admitting he still needs to clarify his across-the-board slider and changeup. So Duke can mix and bout with a array of looks from both abandon off the mound.
With eight veterans abiding in the calendar from a aggregation that aloof went to its additional beeline cool regional, Duke has outstanding acquaintance in its position amateur group. Jarvis, Chillari, Dockman and Girard accord the casting agents a accurate adept amount as well, demography some burden off the beneath accustomed accoutrements who will accept bigger roles on the mound. Under Pollard’s leadership, Duke has apparent a adroitness for accepting bigger as the division wears on, and that was abnormally axiomatic aftermost year, aback the Blue Devils recovered from a 3-9 alpha in ACC comedy to accomplishment 15-15 and snag an at-large atom afore acceptable the Morgantown Regional. That turnaround was a galvanizing, determinative acquaintance for Duke, aloof as basic for the architecture of this club as the two trips to supers. So there’s no analytic Duke’s toughness; the alone affair it lacks is Omaha experience.
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