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2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 15 Duke

Last season: 35-27 (15-15 in ACC); reached super regionals.
Final ranking: No. 18.
Coach (record at school): Chris Pollard (233-173, seven seasons).

Top 100 Draft Prospects: None

The good news: The Blue Devils have a lot of veteran players who have now played in two super regionals. Catcher Michael Rothenberg combines great catch-and-throw ability with a power bat that led the team in homers with 11 last season. Two-way player Matt Mervis might be poised for a huge senior year after an outstanding performance playing both ways on the Cape this past summer. The lineup is filled with plus athletes like shortstop Ethan Murray and outfielders Damon Lux, Chase Cheek and Joey Loperfido. Loperfido possesses incredible positional versatility, and if he starts in the outfield for Duke, it would be his third starting position in three years with the program. Friday starter Bryce Jarvis is back to lead the rotation after a quality 2019 season. A deep staff of experienced arms will give Pollard and staff the chance to mix and match as the season goes on, if necessary.

The bad news: The weekend rotation is fairly unproven behind Jarvis. Freshman Henry Williams is in the mix for a spot, and while coach Chris Pollard calls him the most advanced freshman he has had since coming to Duke, he’s still just a freshman. Sophomore Cooper Stinson and senior Bill Chillari are more experienced options, but each had an ERA above 5.00 last season and has something to prove. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Duke to be a team that leans heavily on its veteran bullpen, but it would help the Blue Devils reach their potential if a running mate emerged for Jarvis for a weekend role. There are also questions to be answered in the outfield. Loperfido is penciled into center field, with Cheek in right, but the latter might not be ready until March 1 after offseason ACL surgery. That leaves the likes of returning outfielders Lux and RJ Schreck and backup catchers Rudy Maxwell and Chris Dutra battling for playing time not only in left field, but potentially for Cheek’s at-bats if he’s not ready for opening day.

Player to know: Michael Rothenberg, C.

After serving in a part-time role as a freshman in 2018 behind veteran catcher Chris Proctor, Rothenberg became a star last season, leading the team in home runs and walks as one of two Duke players to appear in all 62 games played. Behind the plate, he flashes a strong arm, receives the ball well and does a nice job of helping manage the pitching staff. Catchers with plus defensive skills who also happen to be switch-hitters with power from both sides of the plate don’t grow on trees, but Duke has one.

Path to Omaha: The Blue Devils were one win away from Omaha each of the last two seasons, so with a veteran roster back, this isn’t a team that needs to catch a ton of breaks just to be in that position again. Replacing the production from the departed Kennie Taylor and Kyle Gallagher in the outfield will be key for Duke’s success, as will figuring out how the pitching pieces fit together. Pollard and his staff always seem to get the maximum value out of their roster, and with the talent at Duke getting better year after year, the ceiling has been raised.

Gage Workman Billmitchell

Ranking The 25 Biggest Holes To Fill On College Baseball Rosters In 2021

With the signing deadline now in the rearview mirror and every drafted player having signed a contract, it's time to rank the biggest voids on college rosters.

CMichael Rothenberg, Jr..269.390.4811152212
1BChris Crabtree, Jr..263.356.394332198
2BGrant Norris, Fr.HS -- Somerset, PA
3BErikson Nichols, Sr..255.325.318238239
SSEthan Murray, So..305.391.445540200
LFDamon Lux, So..000.200.000008
CFJoey Loperfido, Jr..261.361.389418157
RFChase Cheek, Sr..293.380.403124181
DHMatt Mervis, Sr..274.357.421631190
RHPBryce Jarvis, Jr.523.8175.2941
RHPCooper Stinson, So.145.4754.1781
RHPHenry Williams, Fr.HS -- Darien, Conn.
RPThomas Girard, Jr.152.3346.1619
RPMatt Dockman, Jr.613.8042.2392
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