Jonathan Santucci is healthy and fully dedicated to pitching this season after being a two-way player in his first two years at Duke. After rehabbing from last year’s season-ending injury, Santucci excelled in the fall, setting the stage for an eagerly anticipated spring season.
Santucci, a left-handed pitcher, is determined to serve as the ace for the Duke pitching staff. This season holds significant importance for Santucci, as he’s eligible for July’s MLB draft. He previously received draft interest as a Massachusetts high school senior in 2021.
Now, Santucci hopes for a successful and injury-free season. Scouts rave about his competitiveness, pitch mix and untapped potential on the mound. They also consider him a potential first-round pick in July’s draft.
“The biggest thing is the maturity,” Santucci said. “Out of high school, it was a lot more stressful overall. At the end of the day, I was extremely happy with my decision to go to Duke. I think that was the best choice for me and my development. It’s a lot more relaxing now with being three years older and more mature. Now, my mindset is to think about it as much as I did back then and let my hard work speak for itself.”
Santucci is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound left-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, slider and changeup from a high three-quarters arm slot and low-effort, athletic and repeatable delivery. He relies on his above-average fastball, slider combination.
Santucci’s fastball touches 96 mph and features a lot of riding action. He likes to attack opposing hitters with his fastball in the top half of the strike zone, which generates plenty of swings and misses. His slider is his go-to secondary pitch and serves as a swing-and-miss offering. Occasionally, he will manipulate his slider to give a different look than a traditional slider.
Santucci’s changeup shows potential and tunnels well off of his fastball. He has worked on his changeup leading up to the spring to develop more consistency with the pitch. He plans on throwing it more frequently this spring.
“I just feel like my competitive nature when I’m out there is my biggest strength,” Santucci said. “I have the confidence in myself every time I take the mound that my pitches are better than whoever is in the box at the time and capable of getting anyone out at any given point. That mentality and going out there and having that mindset allows me to put my best stuff in the zone and go from there.”
In his first two years at Duke, Santucci posted a 4.22 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 36 walks allowed in 70 1/3 innings.
Santucci has tightened up his mechanics and worked on refining his pitches in hopes of improving his control and pitching deeper into games this season.
“The biggest key for me this spring is just being in the strike zone a little more and lowering my walk rate,” Santucci said. “It’s all correlated with my adjustments and getting in more efficient and consistent positions every time I pitch. I think that’ll help with my strike-throwing abilities.”
Santucci will play a key role in Duke’s success. Duke posted a 39-23 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals last season. It marked Duke’s second tournament appearance in the last three years.
This season, Duke hopes to take another step as a program and win a Super Regional. The Blue Devils are seeking their first College World Series appearance since 1961.
“I feel like last year a big focus was regaining the culture of Duke baseball,” Santucci said. “I think we did a really good job of that throughout the year, and I think that’s why we had the success we wanted. Coach (Chris) Pollard always says that we want to break down the door to Omaha (for the CWS). That is the ultimate goal for all of us, and we strive each and every day to achieve that level of excellence.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.