Friday, December 29, 2006

Prospect Profile: Eric Duncan (#10)

Age: 21 (22 in December)
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205 lbs
Drafted: 1st round out of High School in 2003
Position: 3rd/1st
Throws: Right
Bats: Left

Tools: Eric Duncan is not going to make anybody mistake him for a triathelete. On the other hand, he is no Jason Giambi. His tool is his bat. From the start, Eric Duncan was looked on by scouts as a big time power hitter. This is a mischaracterization of Duncan. Eric Duncan will never be a 30+ home run guy. He simply does not have the swing for it. He tends to be very uncomfortable pulling balls, prefering to drive pitches in to left center field. He is one of the best in the minors at doing so. His eye at the plate is extremely selective, resulting in comparisons to Chipper Jones. His defense at 3rd was average at it's absolute best, although he has proven to be a passable 1st baseman.

Performance: The Yankees have attempted to change this, adjusting his swing to be more pull happy. The result? Lines of .235/.326/.408 as a 20 year old at AA and .209/.279/.255 as a 21 year old in AAA. He recovered in Trenton this year, hitting .248/.355/.485. In between the years, he earned the AFL MVP honors after posting a .362/.423/.734 line. Duncan has a weird power stroke that will produce lots of doubles and a decent amount of homers. The comparison is Jason Giambi is way off in this regard, as Duncan is anything but a dead-pull hitter. He has had a major strikeout problem in the high minors, punching out 136 times in 126 games in 2005 and 24 times in 31 games in AAA in 2006. The strikeouts did improve after being sent back to AA, striking out only 38 times in 57 games (equal to 108 in a 162 game season).

Outlook: I am mixed on my opinion of Duncan's future. He spent most of 2006 experiencing bad back problems, almost resulting in surgery. Those problems have again resurfaced in the AFL this year. Back problems tend to be chronic and very debilitating. If healthy, there is no doubt in my mind that Duncan will be an effective major league player. The strikeout level that he maintained in his second trip to AA is certainly low enough to maintain a decent major league batting average, and his isolated power at AA has been top of the line (.237 in 2006, Alex Rodriguez has a career .268 ISO). I love any player who can hit to all fields like Duncan can, and the plate discipline is a big plus. His minor league stats aren't great, but the Yankees have consistently rushed him from level to level. Just being in AAA at 21 this year was an accomplishment, even if he failed miserably. I believe that Duncan could blossom in to a .270/.370/.500 hitter in the majors.

Grades: Ceiling B+, Health C-, Comparison: Erubiel Durazo