SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At D-backs' camp, it was No. 8 prospect Jon Duplantier, a 22-year-old right-hander. Projected as a second-round pick in the 2015 Draft
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At D-backs' camp, it was No. 8 prospect Jon Duplantier, a 22-year-old right-hander.
Projected as a second-round pick in the 2015 Draft as an eligible sophomore at Rice, Duplantier instead missed the entire season with a shoulder impingement. He avoided surgery and returned to the Owls in 2016, winning Conference USA pitcher of the year accolades and ranking second in NCAA Division I with 148 strikeouts in 111 innings. After signing for $686,600 as a third-rounder, he worked just one inning in his pro debut because of a minor elbow issue and didn't pitch during instructional league after straining a hamstring.
MLBPipeline.com: How heavily recruited were you out of high school?
Duplantier: I had one offer in football from Yale and one offer in baseball from Rice. My senior year, I tore the meniscus in my right knee playing quarterback. At that point, I thought it's got to be a sign. I broke my collarbone the year before, and two years before I broke my left wrist. I wasn't made to be hit by 300-pound monsters. Early in my high school career, I was small. I was 5-foot-7 and a buck-twenty as a freshman. By my junior year, I was 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 and I was pitching in relief. My senior year, I started pitching every week. But in the summers when everyone was doing showcases and in the fall when they were at Jupiter [for the World Wood Bat Association World Championship], I was grabbing my helmet and playing football.
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MLBPipeline.com: How tough was it to endure your lost 2015? If I remember correctly, there was a lot of uncertainty and there was still talk late in the season that you might be able to pitch.
Duplantier: It was a day-to-day, have-no-clue type of thing. We kept getting other opinions. Early on, they just told us it was shoulder inflammation. That wasn't working. I spent my sophomore year rehabbing and trying to throw bullpens. In early May, I threw a bullpen and it was good, but every third or fourth pitch hurt. We got another opinion, and they said it was an impingement. They told me I'd be good in two weeks. I really didn't know if they'd ever figure out what was wrong with my shoulder. I don't know how many times I joked I was going to switch to pitching left-handed or become a knuckleballer. People would ask me when I was coming back and I couldn't tell them. Luckily, I found some other things that could bring me joy and happiness besides baseball.
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MLBPipeline.com: What changes did you make when you returned to the mound?
Duplantier: I went from a long, slingy delivery to a high three-quarters slot. The goal was to tighten everything up so I wouldn't sublux my arm, get everything tight and in a power position. It changed the breaking ball I needed. It didn't affect the action on my fastball, which still has run on it, and it didn't affect my velocity. My changeup was the same. I just couldn't throw a slider because it forced me to use a lot of different muscle groups, so I went with just a spike curveball. The spike lets me attack hitters up and down.
MLBPipeline.com: After you came back last spring and had a big redshirt sophomore season at Rice, did it come as a shock when you lasted until the third round?
Duplantier: A shock? No, it wasn't a shock that I didn't go on the first day with my history and the story of Rice pitchers in pro ball. It was a little disappointing. Eighty-eight guys get picked before you, and you meet some of them and you're like, "Nah." Day two was a breeze. The Diamondbacks talked to me in the morning. That was sweet. I told my dad. When my mom heard my name called, she freaked out.
MLBPipeline.com: After everything you've been through the last couple of years, how are you feeling this spring?
Duplantier: I feel like I have a brand-new body. I'm 100 percent ready to go. My elbow last summer, I was just tired. I went from zero innings pitched to 111 with a new arm slot, just a lot of new things, and I got tired. The rest healed it. I would have pitched 25 innings tops anyway. They sent me down here for rehab and I went to a full stretching program when I hadn't been stretching. That's how I hurt my hamstring.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.