Duke and the MLB Draft

Posted by Laura Keeley on June 5, 2014 

Duke senior Drew Van Orden will hear his name called in the 2014 MLB Draft


Major league baseball’s three-day draft extravaganza kicks off tonight—but don’t expect to hear any current Blue Devils or signees get called in tonight’s first or second round this year (next year, with RHP Michael Matuella, will be a different story).

Baseball America’s list of the top 500 draft picks is a good gauge of players with a shot to go in the first 10 rounds (315 total picks). One recently graduated Blue Devil—senior RHP Drew Van Orden—makes the list at No. 395. Van Orden had a chance to sign a pro contract last offseason with the Boston Red Sox, but chose to come back to school and helped his stock greatly. Baseball America has him as the 120th-best option from the pool of draft-eligible arms out of a 4-year school. He closed the year with his first complete-game shutout, a 6-0 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

The only other player on the Baseball America top 500 list with a Duke connection is high school LHP Chris McGrath, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect out of Atlanta, who has signed with the Blue Devils. He comes in at No. 201. Perfect Game as recorded his fastball at 90 m.p.h.

McGrath could have a decision to make concerning choosing to begin his professional career or committing to spend at least three years at Duke. The MLB Draft has a slotting system, with recommended signing bonuses assigned to pick in the first 10 rounds. Each team has a pool of bonus money—overspending comes with harsh penalties. But teams are free to distribute their bonus money as they say fit. So, for example, a team could take a college senior—like Van Orden—with little leverage and offer him a below-slot bonus, and take the savings an apply them to another player—say a high school pitcher like McGrath—in hopes of enticing him to sign.

The recommended slot for the 201st pick in the draft, an early seventh-round selection owned by the Seattle Mariners is $198,100. Of course, there’s basically no chance that McGrath actually gets drafted in that slot, as he could go higher or lower, depending on everyone’s perceived signability. It’s all a big calculated risk: take the money upfront, or wait three years, develop more, and hope there is more money on the backend? Hard to say what a young guy should do.

As a reminder, Duke’s baseball team, which had one of the programs best seasons in the past 20 years but failed to make the NCAA Tournament, will lose seven significant contributors from this year’s squad. So an influx (and upgrade) of talent will be necessary to keep the program on the rise.

***In other Duke baseball news, Marcus Stroman, the 22nd pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, was quite impressive in his first major league start Saturday for Toronto. Stroman, who left Duke after his junior year and made his MLB debut on May 4, went six innings, scattering five hits and one run against six strikeouts, earning a win in the 12-2 Blue Jays win. The highlight of the outing had to be this wipeout slider, which left its victim shaking his head, muttering “wow.”

***Another former Duke player made his MLB Debut this week: OF Alex Hassan, the former 20th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2009. He went 1-for-3 in his Sunday debut, scoring a run.

Stroman and Hassan join LHP Chris Capuano (Red Sox, 8th round pick in the 1999 draft by the Diamondbacks) as former Blue Devils to play in the MLB this year.

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