Matthew Duffy was drafted in the 20th round in 2011 out of the University of Tennessee and was a New York-Penn League Mid-Season All-Star. Duffy had a very solid season at Tri-City, hitting .298/.370/.417/.787 with 20 doubles, one triple and two home runs over 63 games. On to the questions ...
WTH: You played at the University of Vermont until they discontinued their baseball program and ended up playing for the University of Tennessee Vols. Can you tell me a little about that process, how it affected you personally, how it affected your development as a ballplayer, etc.?
MD: When I found out that the University of Vermont was dropping their baseball program I was pretty shocked. It's something that doesn’t happen very often in the world of NCAA athletics. It was two weeks before our first game my sophomore year and they said that there will be no more team after the upcoming season. It was really crazy for the next couple of months because I was trying to play my season and also go through the recruiting process with other schools. Luckily I had a really good season and it opened the eyes of many schools. One of the schools was the University of Tennessee. I took a trip down to Knoxville to watch a game, meet the coaches, and take a look around. It was on Easter Sunday because that’s the only day we at Vermont didn’t have a game. I really enjoyed myself, the facilities were great, and I thought it would be a great fit for me. Tennessee was a step up in competition from the University of Vermont as far as baseball goes, so it definitely helped me develop as a player. I was exposed to a lot more scouts and much better pitching. The transition from Vermont to Tennessee ultimately made me more prepared for professional baseball.
WTH: You had played SS earlier in college but were moved to 3B. Can you tell me a little about that transition and how you feel you have developed defensively over time?
MD: The transition from shortstop to third base was fairly smooth. I played in the Cape Cod league the summer after my sophomore year at Vermont and played the whole summer at third base. So when I got to Tennessee I was much more familiar with the position. I also sort of outgrew the position as well. I got to college at 6’1 190, and left at 6’3 230. Defensively, playing shortstop helped me ultimately become a better defender because your range is tested and you have to have good footwork. Its a lot easier going from shortstop to third base, than third base to shortstop. Hopefully I can continue to improve at third.
WTH: In looking at your offensive numbers, I was struck by your consistency. You hit lefties & righties, home & away, day games & night games and across the season. The worst split I could find for you was .252 BA with bases empty which you more than made up for with a .352 BA with RISP. What is your approach at the plate?
MD: At the plate my approach is pretty simple. It changes from pitcher to pitcher and depending on the situation of the game. But ultimately I’m just looking for a pitch that I can drive. I try to use the middle of the field and hit line drives.
WTH: The Astros minor league system currently lacks depth at 3B. And with the recent move of 2010 supplemental first round pick Mike Kvasnicka from 3B back to Catcher, the opportunities for that position have increased. What can you do (or are you doing) to take advantage of those opportunities?
MD: I am honestly just trying to make myself the best player that I can be with what tools I have been given. I don’t really know a lot about other third basemen in the organization, I can only control what I do, and worry about how I can make myself more valuable to this organization.
WTH: You hit a lot of doubles in 2011 at Tri-City, but not a lot of home runs. Do you think your stroke lends itself to developing more home run power?
MD: I hope so, but I really don’t want to change too much. I think more than my swing, the lack of home runs could be just lack of experience hitting with wood bats. But I honestly don’t know. I will continue to hit like I always have until someone tells me otherwise. Home runs are obviously a big part of the game and being a third baseman you are expected to produce offensively, so I hope I can help whatever team I am on win games with whatever it is they need.
WTH: You made 12 errors for Tri-City in 2011, 11 in roughly the first half of your games and 1 in roughly the second half of your games. What adjustments did you make that helped you cut down on the errors?
MD: Mostly I think I just relaxed and settled down. I think most of the errors were throwing errors, and I was just rushing when I didn’t have to. I like to think that I can be a plus defender at third base, and I’m going to continue to work at it. But I also think that the help of Stubby Clapp, our manager and infield coach, helped me a lot. He would work with us quite a bit, and really helped us understand the positions we played.
WTH: What was the biggest surprise for you about life in the minor leagues?
MD: The biggest surprise to me, which wasn’t really a surprise but more of an adjustment, was the day in and day out routine of playing everyday. In college you usually play four games a week and sometimes five. So mentally preparing yourself to play every day was the biggest surprise/adjustment that you make when playing in the minor leagues.
WTH: What pitcher (of your Tri-City teammates) would you least like to face as a batter?
MD: The last pitcher that I would want to face on Tri-City would probably be Nick Tropeano. He throws any pitch in any count, so he will keep you guessing all game.
WTH: What expectations do you have going into your first spring training? What will you be working on?
MD: I am looking forward to spring training. My expectations are that it is going to be a lot warmer than Boston, and a lot better weather to play baseball. The time spent at spring training will definitely help get me ready to go for this season. I don’t know where I will be playing, but regardless of that, I hope I can help my team win games and continue to improve to become a better baseball player.
WTH: Can you tell me one thing about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear?
MD: I played hockey growing up and wanted to play in the NHL.
Well, the NHL's loss is the Astros' gain. Thank you for your time and good luck in 2012!!!