Danny Duffy: Buy or Sell?
Danny Duffy enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2014. Logging over 100 innings for first time since 2011, the Royals product notched 2.2 WAR across 25 starts with a 2.53 ERA. This was a revelation to dynasty fantasy baseball owners who’ve held on through the bad times, but Duffy’s performance was met with trepidation by non-believers. With a spotty health history and poor pitching peripherals undercutting the ERA, is Duffy a tweak away from consistent fantasy success, or is he a sell high candidate after a fantastic season?
Starting with a 94-mph fastball, Danny Duffy’s arsenal is built for durability and long term success. Duffy threw his four-seamer, sinker, and change-up over 77% of the time in 2014, in line with his career rates. Unfortunately, with a Tommy John surgery already under his belt at 23, and numerous skipped starts and multiple trips to the disabled list, he’ll always be an injury risk to some extent. But while heavy breaking ball usage would cause a recommendation of placing Duffy on a permanent “Do Not Draft” list, current pitch usage helps stabilize the profile and allow for hope of healthy, successful seasons to come.
Pitch selection buys Duffy some slack, but the left-hander didn’t achieve the peripherals we look for at ROTOscouting. A pitcher’s rates for strikeouts, walks, and ground balls are key indicators of performance trends. With a 6.81 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, and a 35.8 GB%, Duffy failed to reach any of our “sweet spot” benchmarks in 2014. Less of a strikeout pitcher this year than any season in his career, Duffy is a prime candidate for an uptick in K/9 in 2015. However, he’s never been known for command and has demonstrated fly ball tendencies his entire career, suggesting Duffy’s 2014 was him pitching to his ceiling.
A key for Duffy entering 2015 will be his change-up. With positive pitch values for his fastball and curveball, the lefty’s change-up was his least effective offering by a wide margin. Change-ups are most effective with three things: consistent arm speed to the fastball, 8-10 mph velocity difference off the fastball and movement. Rather than forcing weak contact, the change-up was squared up with greater frequency than the slider and curveball. The cause is the movement on Duffy’s pitches; his fastball and change-up are on the wrong side of straight. If Duffy can play with different grips or tweak his arm slot to add movement, it would help offset expected ERA regression.
With earned run average poor representation of a pitcher’s true ability, Danny Duffy’s ERA made him appear exceedingly valuable. But with a 4.31 SIERA and a 4.42 xFIP, Duffy was not really pitching at an ace level despite his 2.53 ERA. In fact, Duffy’s xFIP ranked 134th among starters with 100 inning pitched in 2014. For owners cashing in on Duffy during the season — well done — but was he around in September during the final throws of a fantasy baseball championship run?
At the moment, Duffy’s minor shoulder scare and Kansas City manager Ned Yost’s decision to use Duffy exclusively out of the bullpen for the World Series isn’t a confidence builder moving forward. The excitement surrounding Duffy has dwindled and a strong World Series performance or two out of the bullpen would be a boost heading into the off-season.
Buy or Sell: Taking Advantage of a Depressed Danny Duffy Market
Danny Duffy isn’t as good as his ERA and not as bad as his pitching-isolated peripherals. It’s nearly a given for the ERA to regress, but also likely for Duffy’s strikeouts to increase as evidenced by his historical performance. With a BB/9 near our sub-3.0 benchmark, it’s possible for Duffy to land within striking distance on two of three indicators of fantasy success.
Mike Newman recently hit on a couple of sleeper keepers including Carlos Carrasco (Click To Read) and T.J. House (Click To Read). If one can add players for free via subscription to ROTOscouting, then why trade for Duffy? For everybody else, Duffy falls into one of two categories.
Owners who added the lefty on the cheap this year would be smart to shop him at near peak value — especially is his shoulder proves healthy with a strong World Series appearance or two.
For dynasty owners who’ve kept the faith for years, Duffy is more of a hold candidate with the hope he settles in as a SP 3/4 for years to come. The investment of a roster spot across a handful of seasons makes it difficult to sell now. Any owner who kept the faith is in a strong position to take a wait and see approach considering the left-hander is now an asset.
For fantasy baseball owners, it’s important to note all regression candidates are not sell high situations. Instead, each player must be viewed through the specific context in which he was acquired. With an eye on cheap pitching, fantasy owners must always be on the lookout for post hype sleepers like Danny Duffy where a small investment can reap an ample reward.
21 Oct 2014 / Ben Flajole /
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