Making the case for Danny Duffy as a full-time reliever and 2016 postseason legend.
As practically every baseball writer spends the week wondering what baseball can learn from the Royals, the theme that emerges is of an organization whose moves confounded expectations every step of the past three years. Which raises the more interesting question: What will Kansas City do to puzzle us—and stay competitive—next?
Consider: The Royals' remarkable success in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings is not just about how dominant the Herrera/Davis/Holland, and later Herrera/Madson/Davis, trios were, but about where those elite relief pitchers came from—reclamation projects, late-round picks, converted disappointing starters, TJ recoveries. The Royals will certainly be without Greg Holland next year (whether they re-sign him or not, he'll be downed by Tommy John surgery), and likely without Ryan Madson, a free agent. Franklin Morales is also a free agent, and Blanton and Brandon Finnegan—who both provided quality innings earlier in the year—had already been excised by October. The bullpen will have to be reinforced. If recent history is any indication, the club's next stud reliever isn’t searching for a new home this winter, but rather is hibernating on the roster already. Given their uncanny ability to turn former starters Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar into, respectively, the best reliever in the game and Luke Hochevar, their next potential unconventional experiment moving forward should be left-hander Danny Duffy.
The 26-year-old southpaw posted a lackluster 4.84 Deserved Run Average (DRA), which ranked 116th out of 141 pitchers who eclipsed the 100-inning plateau, over 24 starts this season. The rest of his rate stats—which include a 1.39 WHIP, subpar strikeout (6.7 K/9) and walk (3.5 BB/9) rates—and the lack of a third pitch to complement his four-seam fastball and slider (which accounted for nearly three quarters of his pitches), provide little optimism that Duffy remains a breakout starting-pitching candidate going forward. He also hasn't shown the ability to hold up under a starter's workload, missing significant time with elbow or shoulder injuries each of the past four years.
For the second consecutive season, Duffy was bumped from the Royals rotation for October. This year, it happened in September, and over the season's final two weeks, starting Sept. 20th against Detroit, Duffy was extremely effective out of the bullpen.
In six relief appearances, he fired 8 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits, striking out 12 and issuing just a pair of free passes. He followed up the surprising finish to the season with six postseason appearances in which he allowed four runs on seven hits (a .417 BABIP didn’t help matters), while striking out nine and walking nobody.
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Did you see Danny Duffy posting a top-five ERA? Neither did Craig, who examines whether he can keep it up.
If someone had asked you back in April to guess the pitchers with the five best ERAs entering September, odds are you’d do pretty well. Clayton Kershaw is a given, as is Felix Hernandez. Chris Sale is as near a lock as there is, and Johnny Cueto wouldn’t have been too far down the list. You wouldn’t have been crazy to throw Yu Darvish or Adam Wainwright in there, but you would be wrong. No one would have foreseen Danny Duffy in the top five.
For good reason, too. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Duffy missed most of the following two seasons. He has totaled nearly double the innings in 2014 that he threw in 2012-13 combined, and he’s been far more effective in doing so. It’s not that Duffy was bad in that span, posting a 3.90 ERA (3.96 FIP) in 2012 and a 1.85 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 2013. Since returning though, he’s been a different pitcher. He’s striking out fewer batters and walking significantly fewer batters, and it’s set up a model of sustainable success for him, even if it’s robbed him of some of his fantasy ceiling.
Scouts' takes on Danny Duffy, Brett Lawrie, Bubba Starling, Zack Wheeler, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
Two aces have off nights, a pair of young players excel for Kansas City, and more.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Even the best pitchers get shelled from time to time, and Felix Hernandez is no exception. The Mariners ace recorded only nine outs in yesterday afternoon’s meeting with the Rangers, who stranded two runners in the first inning and then unleashed a merciless coup that bumped King Felix off his throne.
Hernandez came within one out of leaving two more Texas runners on base in the second inning, but Leonys Martin would have none of that. The center fielder worked the count to 2-1, putting Hernandez into a fastball situation with two on and two away. The right-hander aimed for the outside corner, but his 89-mph sinker stayed elevated over the outer third, leaving him watching helplessly as Martin walloped the offering over the fence in the left-center field gap. Hernandez’s pitch was a mistake, but Martin—who was homer-less to that point in August—deserves a good deal of credit for capitalizing on it.
Notes from a night that featured two no-hitters: a solo performance by Mariners righty Victor Sanchez and a combined effort by three Salem Red Sox led by Henry Owens.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Victor Sanchez, RHP, Mariners (Low-A Clinton): 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. Sanchez is pitching in full-season baseball at the age of 18. He features a plus fastball, a potential easy plus changeup, and a potential plus curveball. Look for Sanchez to keep improving in the second half of 2013, with a chance to move squarely onto the prospect radar next year; 63.2 IP, 57 H, 20 ER, 8 BB, 41 K in 12 starts.
Position Prospect of the Day: Henry Ramos, CF, Red Sox (High-A Salem): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 K. Ramos is a switch-hitter with plus raw power. He currently plays center field, but fits better defensively in right. Ramos will be challenged by upper-minors pitching and most likely will be a very good organizational player; .310/.383/.643 with 2 2B and 4 HR in last 42 at-bats
With the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheelers making their debuts today, Bret looks at the next wave of players who could come up and help your fantasy team.
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were all talking about Super Two status and when we'd see the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler at the major-league level. Oh wait, it was yesterday (they're both making their major-league debuts today). So as far as speculation, here at The Stash List, we move on from one very important group of players to another less attractive one. At this point, we've seen almost all of the top prospects that were waiting for the call due to service-time reasons—guys like Billy Hamiton and Oscar Taveras are not included here since there are other reasons why they have not been called up yet. So what is the wave coming in the horizon? Players who will see their values increase due to trade deadline activity.
Now, this next phase has its concentration in a few different areas, but the biggest focus is pitching—both starters and closers. There are already rumors of current closers Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Bobby Parnell, and Casey Janssen being moved over the next month or so, and there are sure to be more as we get closer to July 31. Same with Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Bud Norris in the rotation. The trading deadline presents playing time opportunities that weren't there before, and while it's still a little early to start acting on some of these impulses, it's never too early to start thinking about them. So while not all of these players who move on to contenders will have successors worthy of owning, there are definitely guys to keep tabs on as rumors begin to fly. This applies tenfold in AL- and NL-only formats, where playing time is king.