The Ditch List: Is It Time To Give Up On These Struggling Starters (Danny Duffy & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know the players who have disappointed, but the bigger question is if they can turn things around or if it’s best to cut our losses and move on.  In terms of pitchers we have the added “bonus” of at least being able to pick our spots, if the upside remains, though that may be a small consolation prize.  Let’s take a look at two pitchers who we had high expectations for prior to the season and try to determine how we should proceed:


Danny Duffy – Kansas City Royals
Just about everything about Duffy has been a disappointment this season, as he:

  1. Struggled to generate a big strikeout rate (7.98 K/9)
  2. Seen his control regress (3.52 BB/9, after a 2.52 mark in ’17)
  3. Been pounded by home runs (2.11 HR/9)

The strikeouts aren’t an unreasonable mark, but can he improve in regards to the other two?  He’s never been a very good groundball pitcher, with a 37.1% career mark (33.1% this season).  The difference is in his HR/FB, as he saw his 7.6% in ’17 balloon to 16.4% so far.  While the risk of the home run is going to continue to loom large, it’s also easy to discount the mark based on two awful performances.  Of the 9 HR he’s allowed, 7 of them have come across two games (3 against the White Sox in his first start and 4 against the Red Sox in his most recent outing).

Duffy has also changed his approach from his successful ’17, significantly increasing the usage of his fourseam fastball:


Is it an adjustment in his usage that’s needed to correct the numbers?  Perhaps, and it’s something to watch.  It’s been a rough stretch, with 15 ER over 17.1 IP over his past three starts, but at the very least depending on the matchup he could hold value as a streaming option (at the least).  As long as it’s not a team that brings significant home run risk he should right the ship, and it’s not unreasonable to think he can get back to where he was last season (3.81 ERA).

He’s not a monster pitcher, who we had ranked as the #47 starter heading into the season, but there’s enough to keep a close eye on him.

Verdict – Streaming Starter (with the potential for more)


Vince Velasquez – Philadelphia Phillies
The owner of a career 4.54 ERA over 293.2 IP, Velasquez has always been viewed as a high upside starter (though one who has never backed up the hype).  His first seven starts of ’18 have been no different, with a 5.14 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.  It’s interesting because the strikeouts have been there (9.77 K/9) and the control hasn’t been a consistent issue (3.34 BB/9), so what’s been the problem?

  • He’s been tagged for 1.54 HR/9
  • He’s suffered from a lot of poor luck, with a .313 BABIP and 64.9% strand rate
  • He’s struggled to go deep into games, averaging 5.0 innings per start

The BABIP doesn’t look too bad, but a 22.5% Hard% shows that opponents haven’t been making terrific contact.  The strand rate is obvious, and should improve in time.

After posting a 42.5% groundball rate in ’17, he’s down to 34.3% in ’18.  That, as well as his home ballpark, helps to explain the home run issues.  The problem is that’s been a consistent issue over the course of his career (1.44 HR/9).  The bulk of the damage has come off his fastball (4 HR on his fourseam fastball, 1 HR on his sinker), so it will be interesting to see if he starts cutting back on the usage there.

He also needs to become more efficient, as it’s taking him around 87 pitches per start just to get to 5.0 innings.  That’s a poor number, and even if he was pitching well overall getting W is going to be extremely difficult.  While walks haven’t been a big issue, his control is obviously not there.

You put that together and it’s tough to trust him, at least right now, but if he changes his approach he could become intriguing.

Verdict – Not usable today, but worth monitoring

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  


  1. vince says:

    ck duffys stats pre and post 3 day rest start in April. as an ex pitching coach i would never had allowed that to happen, same with ross after 127 pitches no extra rest. playing million dollar lottery. brutal.

  2. BWAY says:

    SP I currently have SP J. Samardzija SF ( last 2 outing were ugly)would you drop him for either Caleb Smith MIA, Jake Faria TB, or Tyson Ross SD?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I’d lean Ross of those three, but don’t think any of them are more than streaming options

  3. vince says:

    Gee Tyson Ross ran out of gas after 5 innings and no one is referencing his 127 pitch and then no extra day rest last 2 starts. brutal

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