Promote SS Matt Duffy to AAA Fresno
As we approach the 2014 All-Star Break, one player I’m hoping the Giants will promote is their current AA shortstop Matt Duffy. Duffy is presently hitting .336 with a .397 on-base percentage for the Eastern League’s Richmond Flying Squirrels. His batting average and OBP are fifth and seventh best in the Eastern League, respectively, as I write this, no small feat for a middle infielder playing in this home park.
Duffy is currently 23 years old and a former 18th round Draft pick out of Long Beach State. Duffy had a very similar start at Class A Augusta last year, and the Giants, to their credit, promoted him after 78 games to Class A+ San Jose, where Duffy hit just as well and set himself for a promotion to AA ball this season. Duffy has now played 72 games at the AA level, so another eight to 13 games there before his promotion to AAA seems about right in my mind.
My great fear is that the Giants will do to Matt Duffy what they did recently to Brock Bond, another low-round Draft pick out of college (24th round out of Mizzou in 2007). The Giants seemingly just couldn’t accept the fact that Bond was more than just a late-round roster-filler even after he put up one good year in the minors after another. The Giants like toolsy prospects (i.e., those players with high ceilings based on their raw physical abilities), and I have to think that neither Duffy nor Bond are particularly toolsy if they got drafted so late out of college.
In 2009, after shooting through the low minors with stellar performances, Bond hit .333 with a .429 on-base percentage, both figures leading the Eastern League that year, as a 23 year old 2Bman playing half his games in a park (at Norwich, Connecticut) every bit as bad for hitters as Richmond is now. The next season he was putting up similar numbers at AAA Fresno and was even one of only two Grizzlies invited to play in the 2010 Pacific Coast League All-Star Game, when he went into a deep slump that dropped him down to a still very respectable .285 batting average and .397 OBP. What did the Giants do? They demoted him back down to AA Richmond!
Adding injury to insult, Bond got hurt in 2011 and missed most of the season. He came back in 2012 at age 26 and hit .332 with a .422 OBP (6th and 3rd best in the Pacific Coast League that year) in 106 games for the Fresno Grizzlies. Did the Giants reward him with a spot on the major league roster in 2013? No, they sent him down to Class A+ San Jose to start the season and kept him there! Now, that’s rewarding performance…
Bond has no power, but as a 2Bman that doesn’t really matter. My understanding is that the Giants believed his second base defense was poor. It probably was. However, he has turned 232 double plays in 385 minor league games at 2B, or 90 DPs per 150 games, which is a pretty good rate for the minor leagues.
Brock Bond has just started to play for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the perennial power in the independent-A American Association. He’s still only 28 years old, so there’s still time for him to go the Independent-A/Mexican League route to professional baseball success in Asia. Still, there’s no way to get around the fact that the Giants never gave him the opportunities his performances at the plate deserved.
Now the Giants have had Matt Duffy fall into their laps, an 18th round pick without great tools who has done nothing but hit in the minors. Have they learned their lesson? I kind of doubt it.
Duffy’s minor league defensive numbers suggest he’s got a shortstop’s arm, but not a shortstop’s range. If he can spend some time learning to play second and third, as well as shortstop, he could be a valuable back-up infielder at the major league level, if he continues to hit as he advances the way he has the last year and a half. At any rate, the Giants should reward his exceptional performance at AA Richmond with a promotion to AAA Fresno in the near future.
Finally, the Giants should also promote outfielder Jarrett Parker from AA Richmond to AAA Fresno soon. He’s the polar opposite of Duffy and Bond — a toolsy guy the Giants selected in the 2nd round of 2010 Draft whose performance on the field has never caught up to his tools. Still, he’s hitting .269./.365/446 in his second season at Richmond, and at age 25 this year, it’s time for him to get a shot at AAA Fresno so they can find out if he has any chance of being anything other than another of the Giants’ many wasted second round draft picks.