Full Scouting Report: Danny Duffy
The good news is Duffy is back from his sudden departure from baseball in spring training and he's brought his outstanding talent with him.
Duffy's Arizona Fall League numbers are not impressive, as is the case with many pitchers in the AFL, but the Royals have to be thrilled with how good their prized lefty's stuff has looked of late. Here's what I saw from Duffy on Wednesday in Peoria.
Since coming back from his break from the game, Duffy has reached heights in terms of velocity he hadn't been reaching before. His stronger and more athletic frame could be part of the reason why. The 22-year-old southpaw moves well around the mound and has the coordination to repeat his delivery well.
There is still some room for him to grow in the lower half, but for the most part his frame is that of a tall, lean athlete. He shows off fast-twitch muscles and it shows in his quick arm action and strong follow-through.
The very quick arm is the key for Duffy and he does an excellent job, for the most part of getting on top of the ball and finishing with his arm out in front. At times, he tends to drift out of his balance point and his command suffers, but it doesn't appear to be any sort of consistent problem.
Working from a high three-quarter delivery, Duffy gets good snap with his arm action and hides the ball well, particularly to lefty hitters. Because of that good follow-through and quick arm, he creates a lot of fastball life and allows his velocity to play up a couple ticks.
One definite issue for the Royals' southpaw, though, is working out of the stretch. Both his command and raw stuff seem to suffer when he isn't working out of the windup. Part of it a preoccupation with the runners, and another is some discomfort with his mechanics without that full windup. It's something many young pitchers have to contend with, but it's especially an issue for Duffy.
Overall, there are still some inconsistencies in the timing of Duffy's mechanics. As he showed in a strong outing on Wednesday, when he's on time with his landing and arm action he can be as good as anyone. But obviously he has to string together a number of outings where he is just as consistent.
Duffy has a lot of strong attributes but it's the fastball that will set him apart. There have been varying reports on Duffy's velocity since his return, but the buzz about his velocity being up is absolutely true. On Wednesday, Duffy worked at 92-94, never pitching below 91 and reaching 96 mph twice. And throughout the outing he routinely touched 95 mph.
Not only were the raw radar gun readings highly impressive, but the late hop and run that continually allowed him to miss both lefty and righty bats stood out even more. Duffy is able to change eye levels and work at the top of the strike zone, something most pitchers are unable to pull off. He's at his best when he's pounding the zone with his fastball and merely sprinkling in his secondary offerings.
He has some lingering command issues over the plate with the fastball, but with this type of velocity and life he'll get away with more mistakes than most pitchers. The velocity suffered a bit in the stretch but still never dipped below 91 mph.
"Flashes of brilliance" is a phrase that can be used quite frequently when it comes to Duffy. It applies to his overall command, his changeup, and more than anything else, his curveball. At times on Wednesday, Duffy was snapping off clear-cut plus curveballs at 74-77 mph that graded out as 6s on the 2-8 scouting scale. But, in general he seemed uncomfortable locating the curveball down in the zone with any real consistency.
He hung several curveballs up and out of the zone, where hitters were unable to do any real damage. A bit lower and he'd serving up a boatload of home run balls. His timing with his landing foot and arm action and getting some consistency there will be the key to just how consistent his curveball gets. If that can be worked out, some of the nasty 11-5 curves he snapped off on Wednesday could be a weapon for him at any time at any level.
One of the more pleasant surprises from Duffy on Wednesday was his changeup. And it could be this pitch that puts him over the top as a front-of-the-rotation type pitcher. He showed he could change eye levels by throwing the fastball up and fading the changeup down and away from righty hitters.
Thrown at 79-81 mph, his changeup has superb differential and some good dead-fish action down and away. He even mixed it on the inner part of the plate to lefty hitters with some legitimate success. If he can't master the curveball command enough for it to be his go-to secondary pitch then he may have a real option in his changeup. There were flashes in this outing of a plus pitch.
If you are looking for a comparison, one of the more clear-cut ones out there is Cole Hamels. The fastball velocity is almost exactly the same, the bodies are similar, and they both work in curveballs and changeups as their primary secondary pitches. Of course, Hamels' changeup, being one of the best in the game, is at a different level, and he also has the cutter in his arsenal, so there are some caveats to this comparison. But they are certainly left-handers cut from similar cloth.
With the clear-cut plus fastball from the left side, the flashes of the plus hook, and developing changeup, Duffy has the type of stuff you put near the top of a big league rotation. Whether he ever develops the type of command in the zone to be that type of pitcher remains to be seen. Right now, he's not a guy who is pinpointing his pitches and relies more on challenging hitters with his plus stuff over the heart of the plate.
Right now, his overall command of his secondary pitches make him more of a third starter or perhaps a two. But, if he can consistently spot his curveball or changeup, then we suddenly have an ace-type pitcher on our hands. In either case, the Royals have to be very pleased that they have Duffy back on the baseball field.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.