Danny Duffy was once considered among the better prospects in baseball, though Tommy John surgery slowed his ascent. A crowded rotation caused him to open the season in the bullpen, but with Bruce Chen injured Duffy has been given his chance. Through three starts he’s posted a 1.06 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, though it’s easy to write them off (.125 BABIP, 85.7% strand rate). Does that mean he’s not a pitcher with upside, however, since the luck indicates a massive regression?
The biggest issue, outside of the luck, is his pathetic 4.24 K/9 while starting this season (17.0 IP). He is averaging 94.0 mph while starting, so it’s not that he isn’t getting velocity. Throwing the pitch 74.1% of the time isn’t ideal, so we would like to see a bit more usage of his secondary pitches.
It certainly couldn’t hurt, as he owns a 5.0% SwStr% in May. Among pitchers who have worked at least 10.0 innings (181), that mark places him 171st. It’s no wonder the strikeouts haven’t been there, thus far.
Over his minor league career he posted a 10.5 K/9, including a 10.0 mark in 53.0 innings at Triple-A last season. There is definitely the potential for an improvement, as we have to assume that there was going to be an adjustment period for him moving from the bullpen to the rotation. With three starts under his belt and having thrown 97 pitches in his last outing, the shackles should be off.
Today he faces the Angels, who are in the top half of the league in strikeouts this season (367 entering play on Thursday) and after that comes the Astros (second most). Don’t be surprised to see a jump in his production over the next few outings.
If the strikeouts improve, even with a luck regression there should be production. His biggest issue had always been his control in the Majors, despite a 3.0 BB/9 in the minors. Overall he’s at 3.55 this season, and 3.71 as a starter. As long as he keeps the mark in check, it isn’t going to hurt him.
His line drive rate is also a concern, though it has regressed since moving to the rotation:
- Starter – 23.4%
- Reliever – 27.8%
The number as a starter isn’t ideal in itself, but it is based on a small sample size. It’s only 117.0 innings in the minors since 2011, but his 17.8% mark is encouraging. Obviously we’d like to see the line drives disappear for groundballs (36.3%in the Majors), but that doesn’t appear to be in the card.
Clearly he’s not going to be the perfect pitcher, given the lack of a big groundball rate. Still, decent control and strikeout upside make him worth considering based on the matchup. Consider him a worthy streamer, at the least, with the potential for more.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, ESPN, MLB.com