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We continue our series of articles debating the overall ranking of some of the most fantasy-relevant players of the 2018 baseball season with a player who broke out in 2016 and showed flashes of brilliance in 2017. Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy is a mid-round pick who has shown incredible upside since joining KC's starting rotation, but saw some give in his strikeouts and couldn't stay healthy last season.

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

We march on with Mr. Duffy. Harris Yudin will defend his position that Duffy is almost worthy of the top 100, while Nick Mariano has him buried outside of the top 200. Let's get ready to rumble!

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!


2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Danny Duffy

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
141 10 Danny Duffy SP 160 218 106 104 101 188


Harris Yudin's Ranking: #101 overall

Over the last two years, Danny Duffy sits 19th in ERA and 15th in FIP among qualified pitchers. While his K/9 and BB/9 numbers from last year (8.00 and 2.52, respectively) don’t jump off the page, he has recorded better-than-average strikeout and walk rates in each of those last two seasons (one of just 15 pitchers to do so, min. 140 IP each season). Compared to his numbers in previous years, the .309 BABIP and 71.3 percent strand rate from 2017 hint at some progression back to the norm, especially considering his career-high ground ball rate and improved hard-hit rate.

Duffy has cut his four-seam usage nearly in half since the start of the 2016 season, relying more heavily on his sinker, changeup and slider. This adjusted repertoire has played a large role in his breaking out over that span-- he’s thrown more pitches in the zone, he’s getting hitters to chase at those out of the zone, and he’s inducing a lot more whiffs.

Duffy only had a few poor outings last year. For some reason, he struggled with the White Sox (22 IP, 19 ER across four starts), and managed a 3.11 ERA on the year against all other teams. Of course, this matters since he will likely face his division foes three or four times again in 2018, but it’s interesting-- he posted an impressive 2.56 ERA over 31.2 frames against the South Siders in 2016.

Sure, he’s never thrown 200 innings in a season, but last year was the first time in his career he even had an opportunity to spend a full season in the big league rotation. A healthy Duffy should return solid value as a borderline SP2.

I’ll leave you all with an irrelevant, out-of-context tweet from Nick circa 2016, in which he half-heartedly endorses Duffy for the American League Cy Young award.


Nick Mariano's Ranking: #218 overall

Be careful what you tweet, kids. But just look at that timestamp, Duffy was slaying it down the stretch of ‘16 and the Royals were actually good. They had bats that offered run support and a bullpen that didn’t rival my high school’s.

We’ll get into fun numbers in a bit, but the traditional 5x5 roto game still relies on wins. Steamer has Duffy going 9-11 this year after going 9-10 last season. I don’t like projecting leaps and bounds when it comes to chasing Ws and he’ll get his cracks at the Tigers and White Sox (which should be fine, though Harris’ point about CWS getting to him is fun), but if I hesitate in wondering whether this arm can get me 10 wins then I put a red flag next to them. Vegas has the over-under for Kansas City's wins at 71.5, with only Miami (64.5) and San Diego (69.5) below them as of March 5. And glancing at Roster Resource, that bullpen has only two arms who they project to post an ERA below 4.30. Fangraphs is in line with that Vegas projection, giving KC 71 wins alongside the fourth-worst run differential in the league at -101 after the Mike Moustakas signing.

I know, I’m attacking the team and none of this means that Duffy can’t have a good season. But it makes it more important that everything else goes right. Now, we can talk about how Duffy posted that aforementioned 8.0 K/9 and how it’s better than average, but barely. Your leaguewide K/9 mark for starters was 7.96, and Duffy’s 8.0 was 66th out of 125 SPs with >100 IP. I'm not playing to come in 4th-6th place and I believe a guy on KC will need to ring up over a batter per inning to be worthy of sniffing the top 100. Maybe you're a little more bullish like ZiPS with their 8.18 K/9, but then we see another issue.

They only project him for 157.1 IP, 56th-most for SPs, which brings up the durability concern. I get how the 10-day DL gets abused, but Duffy has already had Tommy John and just last year saw an oblique injury and left elbow impingement sideline him. Or dugout him, whatever. The southpaw, like everyone else, reports that his health is in tip-top shape, that his elbow “feels really, really great” per Jeffrey Flanagan. I'm not worried about him pitching under 100 frames or anything, but these rankings would have me spending a ninth-round pick in 12-team leagues. Nah.

Then there’s the whole DUI issue, where the 29-year-old passed out mid-order in the Burger King drive-thru. I truly hope that it was a wake-up call, especially given the recent loss of KC’s own Yordano Ventura, let alone the general populace, but I can’t completely ignore that red flag either. I hope that his October surgery to remove loose bodies of cartilage and bone fragments helped too, but man these hopes are stacking up.

In all, Duffy has some durability/off-field concerns for me. The Royals have a ton of on-field issues. His pivoting to more breaking stuff is great in real life and I think it really helped in his hard-hit rate dropping from 36.6 percent to 29.8 percent alongside the improved first-strike rate. But I need the K’s. Unless you post an ERA close to 3.00, I’m going to pass over you for a guy with more whiff upside. Last season’s 3.81 ERA had a 3.46 FIP behind it, but also a 4.31 SIERA. I side with SIERA over FIP in most cases. I’ll let everyone else take the series of gambles on Duffy.


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