Sunday, September 13, 2015

Before They Were Astros: 3B/1B Matt Duffy

Jeremy Schmidt is back with another entry in his "Before They Were Astros" series, this time looking back at Matt Duffy on the heels of the news that Duffy will be joining the Astros tomorrow in Arlington. You can also read more about Duffy in my February 2012 interview with him and this June 2013 one as well. You can find Schmidt on twitter at @Jeremy_IP_TTM.

Matt Duffy - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Before They Were Astros: Matt Duffy

Matt Duffy has been called up to the Astros and is set to make his major league debut in Arlington against the Rangers this week. Duffy is a 6’3” 215 pound right handed corner infielder who the Astros drafted in the 20th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Tennessee. Duffy, in what has become a trademark of Houston drafts, is a high OBP player. How did he get to this point in his career? Keep reading to find out.

Matt Duffy played his high school baseball at a small all boys parochial school in Needham, Massachusetts named St. Sebastian’s School. It is a small school by many standards supporting an enrollment of only 375. While there Duffy batted .542 with 7 home runs to lead his team to the Massachusetts Independent School League title in 2007. He also pitched a shutout in the championship game.

Duffy went on to enroll at the University of Vermont where, as a freshman, he played all 51 games for the Catamounts. He acquitted himself quite well slashing .308/.363/.455 as a 19 year old. Duffy also pitched in 5 games picking up 2 saves with a 2.57 ERA. Despite Duffy’s impressive season the Catamounts didn’t make it to postseason play after finishing the season 27-24 and in the middle of the pack in conference play.

Returning to Vermont for the 2009 season Duffy continued his excellent performance and exceeded his freshman numbers rather easily. As a sophomore Duffy lead the team hitting .388 with a near .500 on base percentage. He hit 13 homeruns while driving in 57 in 50 games all while walking more than he struck out. Again the team’s success did not match Duffy’s as they missed postseason play. Duffy was named the American East Player of the Year to put a cap on his season. Early in that sophomore season, Duffy found out that Vermont would be ending its baseball program which resulted in his transfer to Tennessee to finish out his college career.

Matt Duffy’s first season at the University of Tennessee would see him move from shortstop to third base as he started 53 of 56 games. Duffy responded well to tougher competition hitting .304/.382/.444 on the season. He performed better as the season progressed hit .348 in SEC play. The Vols didn’t fair quite so well finishing conference play 12-18 finishing 10 games back of Preston Tucker and Nolan Fontana’s Florida Gators.

Duffy after going undrafted as a junior returned to Tennessee for his senior season. Much like the improvement between his freshman and sophomore years at Vermont, Duffy improved on his previous year’s performance by upping his slash line .312/.429/.497 again while walking more than he struck out. There wasn’t much more Duffy could do for his team as he lead the Vols in doubles, RBIs, walks, HBP, and OPS all while starting all 54 games.

Matt Duffy was selected with the 610th pick of the 2011 draft by the Astros and began his pro career with the short season Tri-City Valley Cats after signing. He would preform well to finish in his first taste of pro ball sporting an OPS of .787. 2012 would see Duffy promoted to the A level Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic league. Here Duffy would solidify himself as an interesting prospect as his power began to develop turning in 16 homeruns and 32 doubles. He posted a .387 OBP aided by 41 (yes 41) HBP.

2013 would see Duffy’s timeline sped up as he continued to prove himself capable at each level. Duffy began 2013 in hitter friendly Lancaster where he slashed .323/.397/.553 with 19 homeruns and 84 RBI in exactly 100 games. That performance led to a promotion to AA Corpus Christi for the final month of the season. Duffy’s 2014 season would begin with 2 more months with the Hooks where he improved on his final month of 2013 to post a AA total of 73 games with a line of .285/.326/.457. Following his promotion to AAA Oklahoma City to finish 2014, Duffy hit a quality .279/.333/.448 with 12 homeruns.

Matt Duffy returned to AAA for the start of the 2015 season, only this time to the new Astros’ AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies. Duffy’s 5th minor league season would be different than his first 4, oddly enough it would be a breakout season that somehow didn’t get him elected to a mid-season all-star team as he did in his first 4 seasons. Duffy’s season at Fresno was part of juggernaut team that will have to play for the PCL championship without him. He hit .294 with 20 homeruns and 104 RBI while scoring 94 runs on the way to winning the PCL MVP award and leading the Grizzlies to a franchise best 84-59 record and first playoff appearance since 1998.

Over the past few seasons the Astros’ marketing team has dubbed the day a highly touted prospect gets called up as the name of that prospect –day (SpringerDay, CorreaDay). In Duffy’s case the city of Fresno beat the Astros to the punch in proclaiming September 9th Matt Duffy day in recognition of his outstanding season and MVP award. Happy DuffyDayPartDuex Astros fans.

- Jeremy Schmidt -

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