Red Sox draft two control-first collegiate pitchers on Day 2

July 10th, 2023

In this age of eye-popping velocity, the Red Sox went in a different direction on Day 2 of the Draft on Monday, taking a righty and a lefty who thrive on pitchability and location while mainly living in the low 90s.

The righty is Matt Duffy, who hails from Ontario and pitched at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. The first thing you should know about him is that his mid-to-lower three-quarters arm slot causes deception that will have hitters muttering on their way back to the dugout. The Sox took him in the fourth round, making him the first pitcher the club selected in this year’s Draft.

“The velocity is not going to stand out, but if you ask the hitters that face him, they’ll read the scouting report and it will say 89-92, and they’ll walk back to the dugout and say, 'There’s no way that’s 92. It seems a lot faster,'” said Canisius head coach Matt Mazurek.

The lefty is Connelly Early, who pitched this past season at Virginia after transferring following two years at Army. Early was the seventh player and second pitcher snagged by the Sox in this year’s Draft -- going in the fifth round.

The most noteworthy thing about Early is that he has every chance to be a late bloomer, given that baseball understandably had to take a backseat on many occasions while he was at West Point.

“From a pitcher’s standpoint of getting physical and putting on weight, you’re going to have a hard time doing that [at Army] just because of what they go through,” said Brian O’Connor, Virginia's head coach. “That’s where he made a huge jump this year is just his physicality, and there’s a lot more there still to go.

“He was 85, 87 there at West Point. Certainly, what those kids at West Point go through is great, obviously. We’re all grateful for them and what they do. When he decided to leave there and come to Virginia, he put on a lot of strength and the fastball jumped to more like 88-92 and he’ll clip you at 93, 94 at times.”

O’Connor is sure that Early will wind up being one of the best under-the-radar selections in this year’s Draft.

“This is kind of like taking a high school, upside left-handed pitcher,” O’Connor said. “Even though he’s 21, he just hasn’t been able to put on those pounds and that strength. For me, this guy pounds the zone with strikes but it’s more about where he could be two and three years from now. He doesn’t have any man muscles. That’s coming because of the situation he was in.

“He was awesome for us down the stretch and he’s a fierce competitor. As you can imagine a West Point guy would be, he’s tough as hell. I felt like whoever got him was really going to get a steal because of where the future is for him, I think.”

While Duffy is more of a finished product than Early, his success is driven by some subtle intangibles that should suit him well in professional baseball.

“He’s just got a mature approach overall,” said Mazurek. “He has a very level-headed approach. We call him a slow heartbeat guy because there’s no moment that’s too big for him. He just goes out and he’s so consistent every time out. He pitches better in big moments, and you wouldn’t know it by his emotions, if that makes sense.”

Given Duffy’s funky arm slot, he could make a transition to the bullpen if the Red Sox decide to put him there at some point.

“He did that last summer in the [Cape Cod League] and he did awesome,” Mazurek said. “He’s just going to adapt and he’s got three pitches that are going to improve. In the right system, someone is going to take his fingers and his pressure points on his slider and they’re going to turn that pitch into a monster, too.”

In all, the Sox drafted six pitchers out of their 10 selections on Monday, all of them from the collegiate ranks.