The 2016 MLB Draft gets underway this evening but we still have plenty of preview material for you. There are several additional players to discuss, beginning early this morning with Rice University right-hander Jon Duplantier.
Born in Delaware, Duplantier attended high school in Katy, Texas. He was on the radar for the 2013 draft due to a 90 MPH fastball, intelligence, and athleticism, but he was also committed to Rice and wasn't advanced enough as a pitcher for teams to buy him out; as a result he went un-drafted. His freshman year in 2014 was quite solid: 2.29 ERA in 59 innings over seven starts and 11 relief outings. He followed up with an excellent run through college summer ball, but he missed the entire 2015 season with a sore shoulder.
Surgery was avoided but he entered the spring of 2016 as a question-mark, needing to prove that he was healthy and that his stuff had not declined. He's done just that, posting a 3.24 ERA in 111 innings over 16 starts and one relief outing, giving up just 77 hits with 148 strikeouts against 47 walks.
Duplantier is a 6-4, 225 pounder, born July 11, 1994. His fastball has picked up since high school and now runs 91-96 MPH, with movement. He also has a plus curveball and a change-up that can be solid-average with a little more development. His athleticism, makeup and mound presence are those of a major league starter; the main weakness in his skill set is command, which can be inconsistent. His stuff has been so good that college hitters struggle to square him up, but some control tightening will be needed at higher levels.
There's little question about Duplantier's ability: he could develop into an above-average starter or a power closer. The main doubt is health: Rice pitchers have a reputation as ticking time bombs when it comes to injuries, and Duplantier has already missed a year with shoulder trouble.
He would be a certain first round pick and perhaps a very early one if his durability were more certain. As it stands he shouldn't last past the second round and could still go late in the first or in the compensation round.
In this interview clip, Duplantier discusses modeling his game on Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer.