Sep 5, 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

Danny Duffy as a Reliever


Aug 7, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals find themselves in the enviable position of having several young starters on the cusp of making an impact upon the major league roster. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have already reached the majors, with Kyle Zimmer expected to join them by the middle of 2015 at the latest. However, despite Duffy’s youth, there may be more concerns about his being able to develop into a top of the rotation starter then there are with Ventura or Zimmer.

The potential issues with Duffy come down to more than his injury concerns. He has not displayed an ability to pitch deep into games, which may partially be due to the Royals protecting his arm last season. The other potential issue, which could tie into his inability to pitch deep into games, has been his lack of control at the major league level. As detailed over at Royals Review, Duffy has the second highest walk rate of any pitcher under the age of 25 with between 100 and 200 innings at the major league level since 1990. His 11.6% walk rate, which accounts for intentional walks being removed, is quite simply too high for Duffy to be an effective major league starter.

Perhaps Danny Duffy would be better suited for the bullpen. The only player listed above Duffy on the list, Eric Gagne, completely reinvented himself as a closer, saving 84 consecutive games at one point and winning a Cy Young award. Of course, his PED use may have helped to contribute to his sudden competence in the majors, but Gagne’s turnaround began once he went to the bullpen. During the height of his dominance from 2002 until he injured his knee and arm in 2006, Gagne had lowered his walk rate from 12.7% to 5.3%.

It is possible that a similar turnaround could happen for Duffy if he was to transition into a role as a reliever. The Royals have already had other starters that have failed in Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis succeed in relief roles. Unfortunately, if that is the route that the Royals eventually take with Duffy, there may not be much room for him there either, unless further trades are made. Or, perhaps another team looks at Duffy as a potential reliever, and he ends up being included in a trade package.

The 2014 season may be an important year for Danny Duffy’s future. With Ventura and Zimmer seemingly ready to claim their places in the starting rotation, Duffy will need to prove that he is capable to pitching deeper into games and that he can limit his walks. If he is unable to do so, then Duffy may find himself attempting to resurrect his career as a reliever. While that has worked for Hochevar, it would still be disappointing if Duffy is unable to become the starter that the Royals need, regardless of how well he performs in the bullpen.

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  • jimfetterolf

    Duffy’s problem last year was inconsistent release point on his curve, which was his third pitch after his slider and cutter were retired during his rehab. Let’s see what he looks like come spring, I expect the curve to be locked in and a fourth pitch added and I expect him to trust his stuff and be a little less cute working the edges, instead going after hitters when they are down. He has spoken about the nibbling rather than going for the throat when he has a batter down 0-2.

    A better case might be made for Ventura, two plus pitches and a mediocre third, basically Aaron Crowe with an extra 5mph. Key for him to make the rotation is a fourth pitch and better command of the third.

  • moretrouble

    People who judge Danny Duffy by his performance in the last half of the season last year have no idea what the rehabilitation for ulnar collateral reconstruction involves. I was surprised they allowed Duffy to pitch on the big club at all last season. And, for those who complain about Duffy’s curveball, they ought to realize that breaking pitches are the last thing that comes back. We’ll see how much progress he’s made by spring, but unless you’ve been in close proximity to someone who has had the surgery and gone through the rehab, you have no idea just how difficult it is. Cut the kid some slack.

  • Royals_Fan

    Duffy has been in the league for 3 years and a year and a half has been out because of TJ surgery. The Royals aren’t going to put him in the bullpen. He may struggle at times going far into a game, but isn’t that the point of a bullpen, much less the best bullpen in the league? He was brought back slowly last year and I feel like he did pretty well coming off injury. The reality is he’s young. He will get better and be able to go deeper into the games, but sending someone to the bullpen just because he can’t make it more than 5 to 6 innings is stupid. Not every pitcher can do that every game, hints the point of a bullpen. I’m kinda getting tired if people saying Duffy isn’t going to cut it. If he isn’t going to cut it then they would have traded him or traded someone in the bullpen for some value by now. They are looking for a #2 and I have a good feeling Santana or even Garza will be that for the Royals. Duffy will start. No way Davis or Hoch beat him out and after pitching a year. He’s a solid 4/5 and for bring as young as he is that is fine for the Royals right now.