Sunday Notes: On KC’s Roster Bubble, Matt Duffy Ponders a Front Office Future

Matt Duffy is in camp with the Kansas City Royals on a minor-league contract, and as is common for veteran players in his situation, he has multiple opt-out clauses. Whether he ends up exercising any of them remains to be seen. The 32-year-old infielder is on the bubble with days left before the start of the regular season, and even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, there is a chance that he would accept a Triple-A assignment with a call-up in mind. All Duffy knows for certain is that he wants to keep playing.

“I’ve kind of made the decision that they are going to have the rip the jersey off of me,” said Duffy, who has battled injuries throughout his seven big-league seasons. “If I were to call it a career at some point in the next five years, I would find myself saying, ‘Man, I wish I’d have played one more year.’ Life post-baseball is going to be so much longer than anything the grind can throw at me. At the end of the day, I really enjoy what this game does for me in terms of pushing me to learn something new.”

Duffy is 12-for-36 on the spring, and he can provide more-than-adequate defense at multiple positions. Assuming he can stay healthy, he can help a big-league team — be it the Royals or someone else — for the foreseeable future. Even so, he knows that the clock is ticking. While many players who are asked about their post-baseball plans deflect the question, Duffy is forthcoming on the subject.

“I’ve thought about that a lot,” admitted Duffy. “The Major League front office path is very interesting to me. I find data and analytics fascinating as they relate to the game. I also enjoy working with teammates and younger guys, trying to help them improve themselves. So it kind of just depends on which itch I get. I’ve also considered going in a completely different direction and learning a new skillset in a different field, but if I step away from the game, will I miss all of the conversations, all of the camaraderie? There’s a lot to consider.”

The possibility of one day joining a front office is something Duffy is taking seriously. He’s already begun to take exploratory steps in that direction, talking to execs when the opportunity present itself.

“They have a very interesting perspective on the game,” said Duffy, who delved deep into the mental side of the game in a 2016 FanGraphs interview. “In the clubhouse, we know the feel. We know the competition and the in-game adjustments. They have a birds-eye view. A lot of them are looking through a data-oriented lens, which as players we don’t really see.

“I think that’s where a lot of teams have a disconnect,” continued Duffy. “The data guys can be shy and unsure of themselves around the clubhouse, where a lot of alpha-type personalities are walking around naked, very sure of themselves around other alpha dudes. Having someone there to be a liaison between those groups is a role that could potentially be very interesting to me.”

———

RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Doc Edwards went 3 for 3 against Arnold Earley.

Homer Ezzell went 5 for 6 against Dixie Leverett.

Ernie Lombardi went 11 for 26 against Elmer Riddle.

Elmer Valo went 11 for 19 against Dick Starr.

Rudy York went 9 for 14 against Emerson Dickman.

———

Brett Wisely has made a good impression in Giants camp. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays over the offseason in exchange for Tristan Peters, the 23-year-old prospect has been showing his versatility by playing second, short, and third, as well as getting looks in center field. His offensive game is what stood out last year down on the farm. Swinging from the left side, the former 15th-round pick put up a 117 wRC+ with 15 home runs and 31 steals at Double-A, earning himself a late-season Triple-A cameo. I recently asked San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler if Wisely’s hit tool will translate to MLB.

“That’s a question that’s almost impossible to answer until guys start to play in the big leagues,” Kapler replied. “You can say the same thing about Blake Sabol. Both of those guys were good offensive performers at the minor league level, and they’ve both shown well in camp. Sabol has had a really good offensive camp. You just don’t put a whole lot of stock in spring training performance.”

Sabol, a Rule-5 pick from Pittsburgh via Cincinnati, is 14-for-41 with three home runs in Cactus League action. A bat-first catcher, he also plays left field. Wisely is 7-for-39 with three home runs on the spring. Both have a shot at making San Francisco’s Opening Day roster, with Sabol seemingly having the better odds given his Rule-5 status.

———

Alex Lange established himself as one of Detroit’s best relievers last year. Over 71 appearances, the 27-year-old right-hander allowed just 47 hits while fanning 82 batters in 63-and-a-third innings. I recently asked veteran backstop Tucker Barnhart about Lange’s power arsenal.

“In my opinion, Alex Lange had the best overall stuff on that team,” said Barnhart, who caught for Detroit last season and is now with the Chicago Cubs. “His stuff is way, way up there. The things he can do with the baseball are incredible. He just started throwing it last year, and his sinker was moving at 18-19-20 horizontal. He’s a special dude. I loved catching him, for sure.”

———

A quiz:

Tom Seaver holds the record for most Opening-Day starts (16) but he doesn’t hold the record for most consecutive Opening-Day starts. Who does?

The answer can be found below.

———

NEWS NOTES

Eric Nadel, who has been broadcasting Texas Rangers games since 1979, won’t be in the radio booth for the start of the season. Nadel released a statement this week saying that he is receiving treatment for anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Ryan Lavarnway and Jed Lowrie announced their respective retirements this week. Each began his professional career in the Red Sox system. Lavarnway, who was drafted out of Yale University, was Boston’s 6th-round pick in 2008. Lowrie, who played his college ball at Stanford University, was the team’s first-round selection three years earlier.

——-

The answer to the quiz is Jack Morris, who made 14 consecutive Opening Day starts from 1980-1993. Seaver (1968-1979) and Robin Roberts (1950-1961) are tied for second with 12 straight.

———

Tigers fans who were following the team in the 1990s will remember Justin Thompson. More to the point, they’ll remember what might have been. A Houston-area high school phenom whom Detroit drafted 32nd overall in 1991, Thompson went on to make an American League All-Star team at age 24, this in a season where he went 15-11 with a 3.02 ERA over 223-and-a-third innings. The excellence was short-lived. The southpaw began dealing with arm issues, and the ensuing two seasons yielded a combined record of 20-26 with a 4.47 ERA. From that point forward, he pitched in just two more big-league games.

I asked one of Thompson’s former Detroit teammates about him on my recent visit to Arizona Diamondbacks camp.

“He had a really promising career,” said Damion Easley, who is now an assistant hitting coach with the D-Backs. “A lefty. Dominant. Good fastball. Good slider. Attacked hitters. For whatever reason, he just couldn’t stay healthy. It’s a shame. He had an upward trajectory, and I think he would have been a multi-year All-Star.”

Thompson’s lone All-Star season was 1997, and a year later, Easley made one of his own. Blessed with a long career — he played 17 seasons as an infielder — Easley banged out 27 home runs, and drove in 100 runs, for Detroit in 1998.

———

Miles Mikolas is wealthier after signing a two-year contract extension worth $40M with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week. A handful of years ago, the 34-year-old right-hander was the recipient of a far different kind of wealth. Playing with the Yomiuri Giants from 2015-2017, Mikolas gained a wealth of cultural experience that he treasures to this day.

“Long story short, it was tons of fun,” Mikolas said of his time in Japan. “You get there and things are a little different, but they’re very polite and they explain things. They want to explain why they do things, and from a cultural standpoint, not just baseball. It’s a great country. Tokyo is a great city. If you’re open to the experience, it can be a really fun and enriching place to be. And the baseball is great. From a talent standpoint, we’ve seen the guys who have come over, and there are a lot of other Major-League-quality players in Japan. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of them coming over here.”

Mikolas went 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA in his three NPB seasons. His Yomiuri teammates included Garrett Jones, Scott Mathieson, Casey McGehee, and Hirokazu Sawamura.


———

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Team Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto has gone 33-10 with a 1.54 ERA over 386-and-two-thirds innings over the last two NPB seasons. The 24-year-old Orix Buffaloes right-hander has allowed 261 hits while fanning 411 batters.

The NPB season starts on Thursday with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters hosing the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, with a full slate of games following on Friday. The Orix Buffaloes are the defending champions, having defeated the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in last year’s Japan Series.

The KBO season is set to kick off on Tuesday April 1 with all ten teams in action. SSG Landers logged the league’s best record last year, then captured the Korea Series title, beating the Kiwoom Heroes in six games.

———

Danny Jansen was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 out of an Appleton, Wisconsin high school. The now-27-year-old catcher was taken in the 16th round, which isn’t what he expected. There were no expectations. When, and to which team, was a complete mystery.

“I got hurt my senior year,” recalled Jansen, who is currently heading into his sixth big-league season with Canada’s team. “I broke a little weird bone in my hand, on a foul tip, so I didn’t play many games. One of them was a sleety game — there was ice and rain — and the area scout for the Blue Jays was there, dealing with it. His name is Wes Penick. But I didn’t think even the Blue Jays were an option. I didn’t think the draft was an option, either. I followed it, but I didn’t know if I’d be going to college, junior college, or what was going to happen. So, it kind of took me by surprise.”

Jansen grew up rooting for the Cubs — he inherited his fandom from his family — but he’s more than happy to be playing north of the border. “When you get drafted by the Blue Jays, you realize that you’re not just playing for one team,” explained Jansen. “You’re playing for the one team in a country. That’s meaningful.”

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The Red Sox have dropped trademark applications for the word “Boston” (The Mariners and Astros have filed applications for “Seattle” and “Houston,” respectively.) Michael McCann has the story at Sportico.

Mark Appel wrote about the grief and goodbyes that came with getting released by the Phillies.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Lynn Worthy looked at the best and worst case scenarios at each position for the Cardinals 2023 roster.

Our friends at MLB Pipeline ranked all 30 farm systems.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Sam Rice finished his career with 2,987 hits, the highest total for a player who fell short of 3,000. A speedy outfielder who batted .322 while playing from 1915-1934, the Morocco, Indiana native hit 15 home runs at Washington’s spacious Griffith Stadium, and all were of the inside-the-park variety (per his B-Ref bio page). Rice spent all but one of his 20 seasons with the Senators.

Paul Goldschmidt slashed .411/.515/.813 in 137 plate appearances versus left-handed pitchers last year. He is .329/.434/.613 in 1,626 plate appearances versus lefties over his career.

Vince Coleman played the final six games of his 13-year career with the Detroit Tigers in 1997. Once a prolific base-stealer with the St. Louis Cardinals — he swiped 549 bags over his first six seasons — Coleman had one hit in 14 at-bats as a Tiger.

The 1934 World Series featured a player-manager on each side. The St. Louis Cardinals were skippered by 36-year-old Frankie Frisch, who played 140 games as an infielder and batted .305. The Detroit Tigers were skippered by 31-year-old Mickey Cochrane, who caught 124 games, batted .320, was voted AL MVP.. St. Louis won the Series in seven games, with Frisch’s third-inning, three-run double breaking a scoreless tie and spurring the Cardinals to an 11-0 win.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Gary Carter to a free-agent contract on today’s date in 1991. The Hall of Fame catcher batted .246 with six home runs in his lone season with LA.

The Chicago White Sox released Mike Squires on today’s date in 1986, ending the Kalamazoo, Michigan native’s big-league career after 10 seasons on the South Side. A slick-fielding first baseman, Squires appeared in two games behind the plate, making him one of the few left-handed-throwing catchers in MLB history.

Players born on today’s date include Shawn Hare, a Central Michigan University product who played for the Detroit Tigers in 1991-1992, and for the New York Mets and Texas Rangers in the ensuing two seasons. He didn’t play much. All told, the left-handed-hitting outfielder appeared in 64 games and logged 10 hits. The last of the knocks, which came in his final MLB at-bat, was a ninth-inning two-run single off of David Cone.

Also born on today’s date was Marcus Hatley, whose career comprised two relief appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015. Born in Honolulu, Hatley pitched an inning and a third and wasn’t charged with an earned run.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
raregokusmember
11 months ago

I didn’t know the origin of Mikolas’s Lizard King nickname until this week, but I think that turned me off him for good. He’s always been a red ass but there’s clearly some cruelty there too.

Kevbot034
11 months ago
Reply to  raregokus

Yeah it’s a disturbing video honestly. I’ve always felt really sad for the poor little lizard :/