Danny Duffy: Not a Natural, O-Royal, or Royal

Josh DugganCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2010

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 12: U.S. Futures All-Star Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the 2009 XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium on July 12, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As we embark on another season in which the Kansas City Royals look to be competing for fourth place in the American League Central, there were only a few things that we Royals fans had to look forward to.

That list got a little shorter yesterday when Danny Duffy decided to walk away from the game. 

For those keeping track at home, Duffy's likely retirement makes three pitching prospects widely regarded as Top 10 prospects within the organization that are no longer with the Royals; the other two being Danny Gutierrez and Dan Cortes, who were traded for next to nothing and much worse than nothing, respectively. 

Now that the organization has systematically dispatched of all top prospects with the Christian name of Daniel, let's hope Dayton Moore & Co. don't decide that the Mikes are next. 

With this development and the John Manuel podcast report earlier in the offseason in which the organization was bristling with top pitching prospect Mike Montgomery over his desire to incorporate long-toss into his workout regimen, the pessimist within has to worry about whether any of these top-notch pitching prospects will ever pan out. 

After all, Danny Duffy was arguably the most advanced of any of the Royals' young hurlers up until Wednesday, with only the relatively untested Aaron Crow being as close* to the Majors as Duffy had been. 

*Realistically, Crow's age and the fact that he came along through the college ranks likely would have resulted in Crow making it to Kansas City even before Duffy's injury, but now that's all speculation.

It should be noted that Duffy's strained left elbow could surely have been a factor in his decision "to leave baseball at this time to reassess his life priorities,"* despite assertions to the contrary.

*J.J. Picollo quote from a club statement cited in the afore-linked Bob Dutton article in the Star.

Regardless of the current organizational depth, especially when speaking of left-handed pitching prospects, this is a blow that isn't easy to stomach. 
When thinking about what Gutierrez and especially Cortes yielded on the trade market as the "currency of baseball," it becomes nearly impossible to choke down the vomit as the spectre of future horrible trades looms over the 2011/2012 optimist's start-date for competitiveness. 

Yes, the likes of southpaws Montgomery, John Lamb, Noel Arguelles, and Chris Dwyer still populate the top 15 (conservatively) of nearly every Royals prospects list, but after the injury-related setbacks to Jeff Bianchi (the injury-plagued shortstop closest to the Majors in the organization) and Mike Moustakas were already painting the beginning of the farm's 2010 in an undesirable light. 

The decision of such a highly-touted prospect to walk away from the game after getting so close to the Bigs takes it to a whole new level.

As for Duffy, I cannot speak to what he is going through or what the rationale behind the decision to walk away was, but I think we all wish him the best.  Moreover, I think we Royals fans all hope that "the best" includes him returning to the club in the near future.

One thing that sticks out from the Picollo-issued statement is the following sentence:
Should Danny decide in the future to return to the game, we will be happy at that time to discuss the possibility.
To me, this sentence does not read as an entirely empathetic stance taken by the front office. 
If he is in some sort of crisis (the report in the Star in which his former strength and conditioning coach chalks up some of his issues to his being very introverted and not Type-A implies this is possible), it would seem that the treatment that Allard Baird gave Zack Greinke might best serve both the organization and most importantly the young injured pitcher. 

If there is a bright side to this whole situation, it is that there is at least a shred of chance that he returns to the Royals.  At least it is more likely to happen than a Grant Desme return to the A's.

Regardless, the Royals are down one top prospect, and they are hardly an organization operating with a large margin of error.