Danny Duffy, the Royals’ #8 prospect (according to Baseball America), has walked away from baseball. According to Royals Prospects’ Greg Schaum, Duffy’s passion for the game has waned and he intends to return to school. While Duffy will certainly draw immediate comparisons to Grant Desme, the A’s prospect who quit the game earlier this winter, Schaum sees it differently. As might be expected from a close follower of all things Royals, Schaum writes:
People have said that Duffy mirrors Greinke in several ways (both are a bit quirky and unique)…he changes speeds with the best of them and does not realize he is even doing it. I guess, he and Greinke now have something else in common…They have both walked away from the game…Let’s hope Danny comes back and reaches his potential like Zack did.
While Duffy doesn’t have Greinke’s physical gifts–and who does?–he is not lacking in talent. Rany Jazayerli, whose reaction to this latest news I am eager to see, very recently wrote that “Duffy has known nothing but success since turning pro. Last year, he had a 2.98 ERA for Wilmington, allowed just 108 hits and 41 walks in 127 innings, while striking out 127 – and those were easily the worst numbers of his career.” Jazayerli was skeptical of Duffy’s ceiling, recognizing he might have a lot of Chris George and Jimmy Gobble in him. Nonetheless, Jazayerli saw rotation potential in Duffy, giving him the second-best odds of any left-hander in the organization of making it as a #3/4 starter.
Despite his lack of elite physical tools, or perhaps because of them, Duffy is known for his confident approach to the game. Schaum notes that he’s a “tough kid” with “tremendous want.” Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star quotes Royals assistant general manager J.J. Piccolo, who said that “[s]hould Danny decide in the future to return to the game, we will be happy at that time to discuss the possibility.” Certainly, Greinke’s situation is at or near the high end of best possible outcomes to this scenario, from the Royals’ perspective. Not only did Greinke find a measure of peace in his personal life, he rediscovered his desire to play and managed to give his young arm a rest along the way.
Ordinarily, I’d enjoy hypothesizing about a Dayton Moore-led conspiracy to save mileage on the arm and push the team control period into a player’s prime years, but I don’t think that’s appropriate here. For one, it’s clear that Greinke had serious issues to deal with, and it appears that Duffy might as well. Secondly, if Moore was capable of such chicanery, he surely would have had the savvy to avert the trainwreck that is the 2010 Kansas City Royals offense. In any case, two isolated incidents do not necessarily indicate an organizational breakdown, but I sure hope that Moore (or Piccolo, or someone–anyone) is evaluating the club’s player development system. People have difficulties in life and sometimes need breaks. But the Royals had better make sure that they’re not causing such problems any more than a baseball career, generally, wreaks havoc on a player’s mental and emotional well-being.