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Is There Any Hope For Eric Duncan?

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Is There Any Hope For Eric Duncan?

Eric Duncan was drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 2003, out of high school in West Orange, New Jersey. His lefthanded power bat was well-regarded by scouts, although there were mixed opinions about his ability to remain at third base in the long run. He had a successful rookie debut, then an adequate season in 2004 split between the Midwest League and the Florida State League. Last year he was pushed to Double-A, where at 20 he was one of the youngest players at that level. He did not do well, knocking 19 homers but hitting just .235 and striking out 136 times in 126 games.

This year the Yankees started him off in Triple-A, and he was even less effective, hitting .209/.279/.255 in 31 games for Columbus. He was sent back to Double-A Trenton in early June and has done better, hitting .266/.363/.532 with 10 homers. Nevertheless, overall he's been something of a disappointment given his high draft status and lofty expectations. He has had a lot of problems with breaking pitches. Is there hope for him?

Absolutely.

  1. Duncan is still just 21 years old.
  2. His strike zone judgment since being sent back to Double-A has improved greatly. His BB/K ratio for Trenton this year is 25/28 in 173 at-bats, compared to 59/136 in 451 at-bats last year. He has increased his walk rate slightly, but cut his strikeout rate almost in half compared to last season.
  3. If Duncan had gone to college, 2006 would have been his draft season. A player jumping from college ball to Double-A and hitting .266/.363/.532 in his first try would be considered an excellent prospect.
Duncan has suffered from being rushed, and there's no guarantee that he will pan out in the way originally envisioned. But give up on him? It is way too early for that. I doubt he'll ever hit for a great batting average, but his power potential remains very intriguing.