Sep 2, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Is Danny Duffy Being Overlooked?

Aug 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (41) sits in dugout during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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  • Eric Akers

    I have thought that the Royals are in trouble if he cannot make the rotation next year. I expect both Zimmer and Ventura to start in AAA. If we do not sign a pitcher, then we would be left with Duffy, Hooch, Davis, and Will Smith as possibilities. If Duffy does make the rotation, then we would need someone like Davis to be a potential long man every time Duffy takes the hill.

  • jimfetterolf

    I think we can survive a rotation of Shields, Duffy, Davis, Smith, and Guthrie with Ventura, Zimmer, and Dwyer just up the freeway and Chen as swing man and Hoch in the ‘pen, although I expect a battle for the 3 and 4 spots in my list.

    The key for Duffy is a consistent release on the curve so he can throw it for strikes.

    Key for Davis is mental, don’t abandon mechanics and overthrow.

    Key for Smith is to sharpen the curve or change.

    Key for Ventura is command and mix.

    Key for Dwyer is an uptick in velocity.

    Hochevar will also be in the mix.

    • Scott McKinney

      That rotation would likely be genuinely poor. Davis and Smith have no business in a MLB rotation. Davis is two pretty good pitches, enough to make him a good reliever. He doesn’t have a decent third pitch. He can’t get batters of the opposite handedness out and once batters have seen him a couple of times in a game, they hammer him. He’s not a MLB starter. In addition to his tools, his stats show that.

      Smith is in the same boat, only his first two pitches aren’t even as good as Davis’s.

      Also, Guthrie is a below average MLB starting pitcher, in decline.

      And if Hochevar is genuinely in the mix for a rotation spot, the Royals are in huge trouble. He’s a dumpster fire as a MLB starter. Ditto for Dwyer, who really isn’t even a genuine SP prospect anymore.

      The Royals are desperately in need of an average or better starting pitcher. They need that even more than an upgrade at 2B or RF.

    • jimfetterolf

      Looks like the targets are falling, mlbtr having Josh Johnson narrowed down to four NL teams, this after Tim Hudson signed 2/23 with the Giants. Haven’t seen numbers on Johnson but they may be surprisingly high with new money and a shortage of pitchers. Makes in-house a bit more likely with an extension of Shields perhaps more probable.

      • Dave Hill

        Shields is someone that I think the Royals need to extend regardless. He’d be a great mentor for the young starters that are coming through the system, and it is difficult to find a true stopper to front a rotation.

        • jimfetterolf

          Agree. I expect it to happen late in the off-season when Dayton Moore has a better idea of future long-term commitments. If we get none of the targeted pitchers nor make the mistake of signing Beltran, I think Shields gets three or four extra years and a big push will be made to tie-up Hosmer and maybe even Duffy after spring training.

          • Scott McKinney

            Shields would get 5 years after 2014 on the open market. So why would he agree to an extension for only 3-4 additional years? And what makes you think the Royals and Glass are willing to spend the huge money it would take to extend Shields?

    • moretrouble

      My interpretation of the noise coming out of Kauffman is they’re willing to fill the 4-5 spots internally, but they’d rather have some experience in Santana’s spot. Not that they couldn’t fill that spot internally, it’s just the risk of having three inexperienced people in a rotation for a team that has playoff expectations.

      Your scouting assessment of these guys is pretty good. Here’s where I agree/disagree:
      Duffy – just needs to rest. He’s been throwing non-stop ever since his rehab began. Remember, breaking pitches are the last thing to develop after TJ. I think he’s a lock for the rotation, if he proves he’s healthy.

      Davis – You’re right in that his tendency to elevate comes from a power pitcher mentality. He’s got a pretty good catcher chirping at him, along with a darn good pitching coach and I think he’ll figure it out.

      Smith – needs to keep the ball down. He doesn’t have the gas to elevate and his pitches flatten out up there. Smith has that great low, late life on his pitches and he’s very effective below the belt. He’s a pitch to contact guy that can be effective at Kauffman.

      Ventura – can throw upstairs effectively, but you’re right about command and mix. He’s never thrown in a league where guys can catch up to him. On the big club, he’ll have to throw breaking pitches in fastball counts and learn how to keep guys from sitting dead red, so to speak, like they do with Herrera. Whether he can do that or not right now, who knows.

      I haven’t heard anyone mention Dwyer in the mix for a rotation spot, but I have heard Zimmer’s name mentioned repeatedly. I really haven’t seen either of those guys pitch in person, so I’ll leave it right there. Hochevar, however – I think he’s good right where he is. I hope they keep him in the pen.

      Chen – I hope they re-sign him, although I don’t think he has the arm to pitch 200 innings. They used him well last season and he’s a great change of pace guy.

  • KingofKauff

    I think they’re hesitant to commit anything to Duffy because of his shaky track record (quitting) and health. They need innings eaters to keep the bullpen a strength and the roster makeup consistent. A guy struggling to get through five innings is stressful for a team.

    • Eric Akers

      I don’t remember Duffy quitting. I thought that was Dwyer.

      • Hunter Samuels

        Duffy only “quit” in the sense that he stepped away from baseball for all of a couple of months. I don’t think that is much of an issue in the minds of Royals’ brass anymore.