Tyler Duffey Is Giving the Twins Reasons for Optimism

The Twins' young right-hander has been mowing down hitters this year. Can he continue this pace?

The Minnesota Twins selected Tyler Duffey in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft as a reliever out of Rice University. They decided to convert Duffey to a starting role, and after a few years, at the end of the 2014 season, he was ranked Minnesota’s 16th-ranked prospect.

Duffey got his first taste of Major League baseball at the end of the 2015 season, and he was fantastic. He made 10 starts down the stretch and finished with a 5-1 record, a 3.10 ERA, and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

Duffey registered an ERA+ of 133 during those 58 innings, which was ahead of Madison Bumgarner (129) and just behind Matt Harvey (136). Also, Duffey’s FIP of 3.24 last year shows his success wasn’t a fluke.

Now, in the 2016 season, the Minnesota Twins haven’t been very good, with just a 10-29 record, but Duffey has been even better than last year.

How Good Has He Been?

Duffey’s made four starts, throwing a total of 24.1 innings with a 1.85 ERA. He’s walking just 1.8 hitters per nine innings, while striking out 8.5 per nine. Duffey also currently owns an insane ERA+ of 228, which is the sixth-best in all of baseball.

Here’s where Duffey ranks in several other important pitching categories this season.

Category Value MLB Rank
ERA- 45 7th
BB% 5.0% 14th
FIP- 72 18th
FIP 3.03 21st
xFIP- 84 21st

Duffey grades out as one of the best starting pitchers so far this season, and his last start, against the Cleveland Indians, was his best.

He went seven innings, didn’t allow a run, and struck out six while walking just one batter, earning him a Game Score of 70 -- the third-highest of his short career.

Pitch Repertoire

Duffey primarily relies on three pitches: a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, and a knuckle curve.

In his two big-league seasons, he's thrown his four-seamer 31.5% of the time, his two-seamer 21.2% of the time, and the knuckle curve 34.3% of the time.

His four-seamer averages 90.3 miles per hour, his two-seamer 89.6, and the knuckle curve 78.9.

Duffey also sprinkles in his changeup 5.7% of the time this season, which has registered 82.0 miles per hour on average.

Can He Continue?

With only the heat and the knuckle curve, Duffey will need to develop his changeup in order to keep hitters off balance during his time in the league.

However, he strikes out plenty of batters and doesn’t hand out many free passes. Duffey’s had success so far in his Major League career, and owns a usable swinging strike rate of 9.6% (league average is 10.0% this season) and a SIERA of 3.73.

The Twins are in rebuild mode, but the 25-year old Duffey has pitched well enough to be part of their rotation in the future.