The Twins drafted Tyler Duffey out of Rice University in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Throughout his collegiate career, he posted some impressive numbers (2.25 ERA, 11.6 K/9), but the team used him as a reliever. Minnesota signed him and shifted him to a starting pitcher role. Duffey slowly worked his way through the team's farm system, and his numbers seemed to improve with each promotion before earning his first call-up.
As a 24-year-old, Duffey made his big-league debut and made a strong impression in his first ten starts. He posted a 3.10 ERA with a 131 ERA+ and 8.2 K/9. It looked like he might fit into the team's long-term plans as the organization looked to get out of the bottom of the American League. His sophomore season saw a slump as his ERA jumped to 6.43, and he had a 1.50 WHIP. Minnesota decided to shift him to a relief role following the 2016 season, but there were some struggles with that transition as well.
From 2017-2018, Duffey appeared in 75 games with a 5.53 ERA and an 86-to-22 strikeout to walk ratio. Some pitchers can find more success as relievers because of increased velocity and only needing one secondary pitch. Things still weren't clicking for Duffey, but one coaching change might have made all the difference.
Wes Johnson's arrival to the coaching staff signaled a clear turning point for Duffey as he became one of baseball's best relievers for multiple seasons. From 2019-2021, Duffey posted a 2.69 ERA (163 ERA+) with a 1.06 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 144 innings. Minnesota was able to utilize Duffey in a fireman role as he came into challenging situations and got the team out of jams. Duffey's Win Probability Added was nearly two wins higher than any other Twins reliever during that three-year run.
Relievers can be fickle and signs of Duffey's decline started appearing over the last handful of seasons. His velocity has declined for three consecutive years, and the 2022 season has been his worst as a reliever. He ranks in the 15th percentile or lower in average exit velocity, xBA, hard hit %, and xSLG. Only Emilio Pagan and Jharel Cotton compiled a lower WPA among Minnesota's relievers during the 2022 campaign. Duffey saw himself move up and down the bullpen hierarchy this season, but his inconsistency eventually forced the team to waive him.
For now, right-handed pitching prospect Cole Sands will take the place of Duffey in the bullpen. Sands, and particularly his delivery and curveball, are reminiscent of what Duffey had in his good years. He will get a chance in the bullpen, though it's very possible the team will recall lefty Jovani Moran as soon as he reaches 10 days since his demotion.
Fans will likely focus on Duffey's recent struggles as he leaves the team, but that doesn't tell the entire story. He was one of baseball's best relievers throughout multiple seasons. He helped the Twins win games and impacted the organization on and off the field for the last decade.
What will you remember most about Duffey's time with the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.