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Hok Talk: What to do with Danny Duffy

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The lefty hurler has talent. But how can the Royals most effectively use him?

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Media Day
Do not question Danny Duffy’s fierceness; if this look is any indication, he will bite your nose off.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Duffy will be starting his rehab assignment in Northwest Arkansas, today, as he takes one step closer to returning to the big leagues. Before Spring Training started I think many of us assumed he would be the opening day starter. Now no one is even sure what his role will be when he returns.

There are lots of factors that go into this, of course. First of all, does he have the skill? I think we can all agree that when everything is working for Danny Duffy he more than belongs in a major league rotation. But how often can he keep everything working? Last year in 28 starts he managed only five with a game score version 2 over 70. Admittedly that’s an arbitrary cutoff point but starts of that score are higher are the really good ones we want from Danny. You don’t expect anyone to have all or even most of their starts be that good but it might have been nice to see at least a quarter of his starts go that high. In contrast, he had six starts below 30 including one at -3. I didn’t even know it was possible to get a negative game score.

The other obvious factor is where can Duffy stay the healthiest. If he can be healthy in the rotation, great. If he can’t, could he last longer in the bullpen? Moving oft-injured starters to the bullpen in order to keep them healthy is a time-honored tradition. Sometimes it even works. Would it work for Duffy? No one knows.

Another factor is what the heck does Danny Duffy want to do? If he’d rather be a reliever the Royals might be better served to just go with it, now. If he’d rather be a starter maybe they should give him one more try at it.

And, of course, what’s best for the team? The bullpen is in horrible shape. A Danny Duffy there could definitely give them a boost. And sure, the rotation has looked mediocrish as compared to the nightly tire fire that is the Kansas City Royals bullpen. But do we really think that’s going to last? Heath Fillmyer definitely doesn’t inspire confidence in me. And really; would it surprise you if any of the other guys just stopped being effective, either? If Duffy could start, could stay healthy, and wanted to start mightn’t he upgrade the team even more as a starter than as a reliever?

I think the answer to that last one is clear. There is a reason starters get paid more than relievers. If Duffy can and wants to start, there is no doubt he should as far as immediate value to the team goes. But whether or not he can is a big question. Duffy, unlike a lot of the other players on the Royals roster, has very little to prove. He is here until at least 2021. The chances that the Royals trade or release him are exceedingly small. When healthy he’ll be on the big league roster without question.

So there’s no pressing need to stick him in the rotation and prove he whether he belongs there. He won’t make the team magically playoff-capable no matter where the Royals stick him. Given all of that information, I think the Royals should probably put him in the ‘pen, at least as long as injuries allow. He seems to be comfortable there and it wouldn’t hurt to let him build up some innings and confidence there before looking at moving him back to the rotation next year. That might also be the best place for him to go to help the development of the other pitchers. There’s no evidence that Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Jorge López, and Heath Fillmyer feel more pressured to go longer or pitch better because of a weak bullpen but I’d be surprised if it didn’t tickle the back of their minds at least a little.

In a world where there’s very little to push the decision in either direction, that will just have to be enough.

UPDATE: It sounds like the Royals are planning to put him back in the rotation. So...

Checking in on the 2015 heroes

If you’re like me you get periodically curious about what the heroes of the 2015 squad are up to. If you’re like me you’ll appreciate that I went and looked them up for you and provided you the answer for so far in 2019.

Lorenzo Cain hasn’t lost anything off his excellent campaign last year and the Brewers front office has got to be slapping each other on the backs for managing to get him. His batting line is actually nearly identical but with a little more power, so far. And he’s still a well above-average defender and baserunner, too.

You may have heard that Mike Moustakas was named the Brewers opening day second baseman. By all accounts, he’s holding his own there. Some stats say he’s a little below average some say he’s doing just fine. One thing there’s no debate about is that Moose is tearing the cover off of the ball. He’s already launched half a dozen homers and has an ISO over .300 on his way to a 133 wRC+. If he maintained that it would be the best offensive season of his career.

I bet on the Padres to win the NL West this year in large part because I thought they’d be getting what we here in KC knew as “Odd-Year Eric Hosmer.” Unfortunately, they seem to be stuck with “Outrageously Over-Priced Eric Hosmer.” The bad news is that his results have so far been even worse than last year and would be far and away the worst of his career. There’s good news, too, though. His groundball rate is drastically lower than it has been - lowest of his career, in fact - and he’s hitting the ball harder than ever but with a BABIP almost 70 points lower than his career norm and he hasn’t hit an infield fly, yet. It seems likely he’ll pull a Hunter Dozier any day now and start racking up lots of extra base hits.

Kendrys Morales got traded to the Athletics and things aren’t going well for him in Beane-town. He’s only got a single home run. Jarrod Dyson is still with the Diamondbacks and he’s currently carrying an impressive 120 wRC+ buoyed by plenty of walks and this:

Wade Davis is still with the Rockies. He’s actually only pitched in six games so far and has only earned a single save. He’s striking out a lot of people and hasn’t given up a run yet, but he’s also walking nearly a batter per inning and he’s only pitched 5.1 innings. Greg Holland has joined the Diamondbacks as their closer. Holland has four saves in seven games and generally looks completely untouchable in the early-going. Kelvin Herrera is with the White Sox, as you’ve probably noticed, and he’s pitching lights-out for them though he is just a setup man as Alex Colomé is their closer.

This information doesn’t really mean much to the Royals, I guess. It’s just nice to see the guys we remember so fondly doing so well. Even if it’s for another team. If they’re still doing well when the Royals are good again and they beat up on KC...well that’s a problem for another day.