Despite a recent lack of widespread success on the diamond, Duke Baseball has a long track record of producing drafteable MLB Prospects. Last year, three Blue Devils were drafted, with center fielder Jimmy Gallagher leading the pack as a 7th round (239th overall) selection of the Chicago White Sox. The 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, however, might see a Duke draftee have his name called in a much higher round.
A recent scouting report on the blog Saberscouting projects Duke junior first baseman Nate Freiman as a third-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft, which will be held June 5-6 in Orlando, Fla. Run by a pair of scouts employed by Major League teams, Saberscouting compares the 6-foot-8 Freiman to “Richie Sexson (with much better bat handling),” and describes him as a “polished hitting prospect” whose “great strength and approach could allow him to be a 40 home run type hitter.”
Freiman has been the offensive centerpiece for the Blue Devils over the past two seasons, each year leading the team in virtually each offensive category, from batting average RBI to home runs, and his shift this season from catcher to the team’s full-time first baseman allowed Freiman to have an excellent year at the plate in 2008, hitting .368/.428/.626 with team leading totals of 9 home runs and 43 RBI.
If drafted in the third round or higher, Freiman would be the first Blue Devil selected that early since 2002, when OF Larry Broadway was drafted by the Montreal Expos. And before Broadway, the last Duke player to be drafted that high was current New York Mets reliever Scott Schoenweis, who was picked in the 3rd round in 1996.
But it’s no guarantee that Freiman would leave before his senior season if he were drafted this June, as the All-ACC Academic Team said recently in an article on GoDuke.com that he “loves school and expects to be back next year.” If a major league team came calling for Freiman in a high round however, the opportunity (and compensation) of a jump to the pros may be too good to pass up. Additionally, it is common for MLB teams to offer draftees contract clauses that will pay for the remainder of a signee’s college education, meaning that if he left early for a pro career, Freiman would likely have his college education taken care of if he ever wished to complete his degree.
If he does return for his senior season, look for Freiman to reprise his role as Duke’s offensive anchor in a year when the Blue Devils will have legitimate postseason aspirations for the first time in many years.
-by Will Flaherty