2020 KC Royals season preview: Danny Duffy

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images /

2019 was an up-and-down season for KC Royals starter Danny Duffy. Can he carry the momentum he gained from an excellent September into this season?

Welcome to the continuation of Kings of Kauffman‘s 2020 KC Royals season previews. Leading up to spring training, we’ll be breaking down 30 different Royals. Our analysis will include what they accomplished last season, what to expect this season, along with any other information pertinent to the player. Today’s subject: Danny Duffy.

From 2011-2013, Duffy spent time battling injuries and inconsistency. Starting 31 total games over that span, doubt surrounding the southpaw’s future as a starter began to sink in. He then combined to go 28-23 with a 3.36 ERA over the next three years, cementing his status as one of the best pitchers on the team.

This performance led to a five-year, $65 million extension signed before the 2017 season. After putting together a respectable 2018 campaign, Duffy crashed hard in 2018. It was his worst year since his rookie season, which led to immense pressure heading into 2019.

What did he offer last season?

While Duffy’s 2019 doesn’t look like anything special on the surface, a deeper dive reveals some pretty interesting numbers. On the year, he went 7-6 with a 4.34 ERA in 130.2 innings. The home run ball remained a problem, but his saving grace was cutting down on walks allowed. Duffy’s BB/9 went from 4.1 in 2018 to 3.2 last year.

Before straining his hamstring, Duffy’s ERA hovered around 5.00 (4.93). Upon returning, his month of September was terrific. Posting a 2.37 ERA in just over 30 innings while striking out 25 batters, he was about as “gnar” as gnar can get. It was an awesome way to end what was otherwise a rough year for the veteran hurler.

What should we expect in 2020?

Here are two stat line projections for Duffy’s 2020 season, courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs:

B-Ref: 8-8 record, 141 IP, 4.53 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
FG: 10-12 record, 184 IP, 4.73 ERA, 7.75 K/9, 3.14 BB/9

B-Ref seems a lot more accurate to me from an overall standpoint. Duffy should pitch more than 141 innings if he can remain healthy (something that is far from a lock at this point), but him topping 180 innings simply doesn’t seem likely. If he struggles out of the gate while in the rotation, the Royals very well could move him to the bullpen to finish out his current contract. I don’t see that happening, though — at least for one more year.

The verdict

Danny Duffy is facing the most important season of his career. At 31 years old, this is likely the last chance the KC Royals will give him to live up to the potential he’s flashed over the years. 2016 was the last time we saw him at the top of his game and while it’s silly to demand that several years down the road, I do believe we will see a rejuvenated Duffy to the tune of an ERA in the 3.90-4.15 range in 2020.

Next. USA Today predicts a 65-97 record for the KC Royals in 2020. dark

What do you think, Royals fans? Will Danny Duffy turn in his best effort at age 31, or is he bound for a bullpen role?