It has been widely expected that the Royals would be looking to sign at least two starters in free agency. With the potential departure of Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen in free agency, only James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie would seem to be assured of a spot in the rotation. Even with the young pitching on the horizon, it would seem as though the Royals could use a couple of veteran starters to help fill out the rotation, at least until their top prospects are ready.
However, those thoughts may not be correct. According to Bob Dutton, the Royals may be in the market for only one starting pitcher, ideally bringing back Santana before looking elsewhere. In fact, the Royals may look at Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and even Kyle Zimmer against pitchers like Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar if the price is not right.
With all the intrigue surrounding Ventura, and the potential of Zimmer to perhaps emerge as a future ace, it seems as though Danny Duffy has gotten lost in the shuffle. It may be understandable, as Duffy lost approximately fifteen months due to Tommy John surgery. Yet, it may be Duffy who is the most ready to help the Royals in 2014.
After his return on August 7th, Duffy had a solid five start run for the Royals before being shut down following his September 7th start due to a mild flexor strain. In those five starts, spanning 24.1 innings, Duffy put together a 2-0 record with an impressive 1.85 ERA. While he struggled at times with his control, walking 14 batters, he still struck out 22 while holding the opposition to a .213/.327/.281 batting line. Perhaps even more encouraging was his velocity. While his average fastball velocity was down slightly, Duffy averaged over 94 MPH with his fourseamer, and maintained an excellent variance in speed between his different pitches. With another offseason to move Duffy further away from the surgery, it may be possible that Duffy is able to get back to cruising along in at 95 to 96 with the fastball.
As strong as Duffy’s performance was during his brief stint this season, 2014 could be the point where he really takes off. Typically, pitchers get back to their previous level of performance after being two years removed from the surgery, and Duffy appears as though he is on track to be back just as strong as ever. If Duffy can begin to harness his pitches and improve his control, he could develop into a second potential ace in the rotation.
Danny Duffy has seemingly become the Royals forgotten pitching prospect, especially with the emergence of Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. However, Duffy may be ready to jump to the forefront once again.