Chase DeLauter was a lightly-recruited two-way player out of the West Virginia high school ranks. He committed to James Madison University as a pitcher his junior year in 2017-18, describing it as “the only offer I had out of high school,” he said.
DeLauter reported to JMU as a two-way player after the coaching staff offered him the opportunity to do both during his senior year in 2019. Now, DeLauter is entering his third season at JMU. He has mostly worked as an outfielder. While DeLauter believes he can pitch, focusing on his skills as a position player has benefited him, as he has thrived in his first two years at the plate.
DeLauter is one of the top players in college baseball and one of the top position players in the 2022 MLB draft class. In the summer, DeLauter had a breakout performance in the Cape Cod League to put him squarely on scouts’ radar.
If DeLauter hears his name called in the first round of the 2022 draft, he would be the highest pick in JMU history, surpassing two players drafted 34th overall.
“It was hard at first and sometimes it gets to me a little bit,” said DeLauter on receiving draft attention. “But at the end of the day, it is still a game. My main goal is towards the team. I think just being myself is what’s going to help me. I just can’t get overwhelmed with any of that stuff.”
DeLauter has destroyed opposing pitchers in his first two years at JMU. He posted a .382 batting average with seven doubles, one home run and 14 RBIs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The 16-game season gave DeLauter a taste of college baseball. It also gave him confidence going into his sophomore season last year. He hit .386 with 12 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 21 RBIs in 101 at-bats in 26 games last year.
DeLauter played extensively in the summer, appearing in 34 games in the Cape Cod League. He batted .298 with seven doubles, nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 124 at-bats in the wooden-bat league.
On the mound, DeLauter has worked 22 innings, posting a 5.73 ERA with 19 strikeouts and 13 walks. DeLauter anticipates pitching this spring and believes he has the potential to thrive in that role.
DeLauter’s future is as a position player. He is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound left-handed hitting outfielder with five-tool potential. He has an easy left-handed swing and hits for average and power. Scouts project him as an above-average hitter with above-average power in pro ball.
One skill that draws rave reviews is his plate discipline. DeLauter has a notable eye and feel for the strike zone. He has drawn 55 walks and struck out 42 times in his college career at JMU and in the Cape Cod League.
Defensively, DeLauter has experience playing all three outfield positions. He has a strong arm that profiles in all three outfield spots. He also has the range, athleticism and overall skills to play solid defensively. DeLauter profiles best in right field but deserves an opportunity to prove he can play center field in pro ball.
“Honestly, I think I am a five-tool player,” DeLauter said. “I can help the team win in any way possible regardless of the situation. That is the most important thing for me and my team.”
In the offseason, DeLauter worked on refining his skills. His goal is to build off his first two seasons and dominate opposing pitchers throughout his junior season.
“In the offseason, my focus was getting faster and stronger,” DeLauter said. “I just worked on my weaknesses overall. I also want to stay mentally consistent in the game and continue to get stronger in the weight room.”
Last year, JMU posted an 11-17 record, including a 6-9 mark in conference play. The Dukes haven’t won the Colonial Athletic Association since 2011, which also is the last time they qualified for the NCAA tournament.
This season, DeLauter hopes to leave his mark on the program by leading the team to an impressive result.
“I want to win as much as possible,” DeLauter said. “I want to see how far our team can go. We have a great group of guys. For me, winning is all I am focused on.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.