Michael Matuella was pegged as a potential top-five pick before the season began, but a second straight year marred by injuries caused him to drop all the way out of the top 75.
The Texas Rangers selected the Duke right-hander with the 78th pick—the third pick in the third round—in the 2015 MLB Draft Tuesday afternoon, making him the highest drafted Blue Devil since the Toronto Blue Jays took Marcus Stroman with the 22nd overall pick in 2012.
The Great Falls, Va., native just completed his junior year, allowing only three earned runs in 25 innings before his season was derailed by injuries. Matuella was hampered by arm stiffness early in the year, a seemingly minor injury that snowballed and culminated in him undergoing Tommy John surgery April 14.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander—whose best pitch is a mid-to-high 90s fastball with hard downward movement—has been rehabbing intensely in the weeks following the surgery, and is set to pick up a baseball for the first time in mid-August. Matuella said before the draft he plans on returning to game action sometime next spring, roughly one year after surgery.
The Rangers have a little more than a month to agree to terms with Matuella before the July 17 deadline. Major League Baseball announced in April the allotted recommended signing bonuses for each slot, and the 78th pick received a $777,600 figure.
The 78th pick last year—catcher Mark Zagunis—received a $615,000 signing bonus from the Chicago Cubs. Matuella has the option not to sign with the Rangers, and said before the draft that he would consider putting off professional ball for one more year and returning to Duke for his senior season.
After being selected, Matuella expressed his eagerness to sign and begin his professional career, while Kip Fagg—the Senior Director of Amateur Scouting for the Rangers—stated the team has "full confidence" it will be able to sign the flame-throwing right-hander.
But Matuella was not the only Blue Devil selected Tuesday.
In the ninth round, the Cincinnati Reds selected Duke senior Sarkis Ohanian with he 265th overall pick. Ohanian was a relief ace for head coach Chris Pollard out of the bullpen this season, posting a career-best 1.97 ERA to go along with 62 strikeouts and just 11 walks.
The ninth round selection of Ohanian and third round selection of Matuella marks the first time since 2002 that Duke has had two players picked in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
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