2015 MLB Draft Profile: RHP Michael Matuella, Duke

This is the sixth in my 2015 MLB Draft profile series. Next up is a guy who was a 1-1 candidate after last year’s draft, and it isn’t Brady Aiken.

Previous entries
Dakota Chalmers
Chris Betts
James Kaprielian
Ke’Bryan Hayes
Kolby Allard

Vitals
6’7, 220 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
DOB: June 3, 1994
Days younger than Julio Urias: -801

Location
Durham, N.C.
Duke University

Rankings
Baseball America: 23
ESPN: 19
FanGraphs: 24
MLB.com: 28
Perfect Game: ?
Scouting Baseball: 40

Slot recommended bonus (No. 24): $2,094,400
Slot recommended bonus (No. 35): $1,756,100

Editor’s note: All information of draft prospects compiled from internet sources, scouting reports and video.

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Word last summer was there was a kid at Duke University — noted baseball powerhouse — who could be a No. 1 overall pick contender. That kid was Michael Matuella, who, if not for undergoing Tommy John surgery this spring, would be a real 1-1 candidate for the Diamondbacks. Instead, his misfortune could end up being the Dodgers’ fortune.

Just a quick (obvious) note: All this information and analysis is obviously pre-TJ, and it remains to be seen if he can fully recover from it (85-90 percent success rate).

Matuella is a big kid at 6’7, 220 pounds, so he’s basically maxed out physically, but he uses all of that physicality on the mound. He possesses a fastball that sits in the 93-96 MPH range and has plus-plus potential. He can sink it as he gets good downward plane on it due to his height. He can also cut it. His curveball is a potentially plus pitch in the high-70-to-low-80s that has a 12-6 break. It has some depth and could be a real weapon against either-handed hitter at the next level. His slider is a low-to-mid-80s pitch that isn’t as refined as his curveball, but it flashes at least average potential (closer to solid-average). He also has a mid-80s changeup that could end up being a really good off-speed pitch if he trusts, develops and throws it more. It features sharp fade down-and-away to lefties.

His delivery pretty clean and repeatable. He sets up on the first base side of the bag (with his right foot barely on the rubber) with his glove at belt-level. When he makes the turn on the rubber, his back leg collapses a bit and he has a long stride toward the plate, allowing pitches to get on hitters quickly. With a 6’7 frame, he has some of the best extension of any available prospect. He sometimes doesn’t follow through completely on his pitches, which causes them to be flat. His front side will open up and he’ll miss up-and-away to left-handed hitters. But unlike a lot of tall pitchers, he does incorporate his bottom-half well. As his front foot strikes, his top half looks like it could get a little east-west (side-to-side) and become a cross-body delivery (ala Jake Peavy), but he’s able to avoid that. His arm is in really good position when his front foot gets down and he delivers from a high three-quarters arm slot.

Video

Aside from the pretty standard TJ procedure, Matuella has been diagnosed with spondylolysis. So, what is it? The Cleveland Clinic explains.

“Spondylolysis is a specific defect in the connection between vertebrae, the bones that make up the spinal column. This defect can lead to small stress fractures (breaks) in the vertebrae that can weaken the bones so much that one slips out of place, a condition called spondylolisthesis. Spondylolysis is a very common cause of low back pain.”

And it’s apparently common enough to not cause too much concern.

“Spondylolysis affects about 3 percent to 7 percent of Americans. The condition is a common cause of low back pain in children and the most likely cause of low back pain in people younger than 26 years of age. Spondylolysis is more common in children and teens participating in sports that place a lot of stress on the lower back or cause a constant over-stretching (hyperextending) of the spine, such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and football. It is seen more often in males than in females.”

While it’s something to keep an eye on, it also won’t deter teams from taking a chance on his massive potential. I’m guessing it won’t be something that hinders his career, but I’m also not a doctor.

The Dodgers can afford to take a chance on Matuella at No. 24 or (if he makes it) No. 35. He should sign for an over-slot amount, seeing as he would have been a Top 5 pick and has some leverage as a college junior. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter with the floor of a back-of-the-rotation guy. If he stays healthy (his elbow and back), he could be special and quite the grab for the Dodgers in a draft that is lacking elite talent.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.