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What Matt Duffy brings to the Rays offense

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Duffy hit 16% above average last season, with a .295/.334/.428 slash line in 612 plate appearances as a 4.9 fWAR third baseman. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Kris Bryant.

This year, in 286 plate appearances before going on the disabled list with an Achilles strain, Duffy hit 12% below average for the Giants, with a .253/.313/.358 slash line.

When he hit well, his BABIP was a high-but-not-ridiculous .336, and when he hit poorly, his BABIP was a low-but-not-ridiculous .282. But while both the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems think he’ll be around league average, they’re not working off a ton of data.

Duffy doesn’t have a ton of power, but he also won’t strike out very much. He hits to all fields — which is a thing that may or may not have added value in this shifting world we now live in — and has virtually no handedness platoon split.

Matt Duffy Spray Chart

Right off the bat we should note that Duffy is the kind of player we can reasonably expect to have a high BABIP based on his decent athleticism, the fact that he doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls, and that he uses the whole field (a nice balance for the team’s current emphasis on power hitting). Expect him to improve his 2016 batting line just by getting a bit more lucky.

But there’s more.

The most interesting thing written about Matt Duffy’s offense was by Eno Sarris back in April. It turns out that while he doesn’t hit a ton of home runs, because he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough, Duffy is one of the players who most often hits the ball at an “ideal” launch angle.

The point there is that Matt Duffy has a good swing for hitting home runs. He just needs to get a little bit stronger and to hit the ball a little bit harder, and then the power will come.

Maybe the Rays know that about Matt Duffy’s launch angle and think it’s good analysis. Maybe they believe he’s a breakout waiting to happen—that he really is the much-discussed “next Ben Zobrist.”

When Tampa Bay was trading Ben Zobrist, they apparently approached the Giants looking to make a swap for Duffy, which is the interest that precipitated this trade.

Or maybe they just think he’s a slick defender with an average bat who will be an instant upgrade at shortstop, and will push Brad Miller into a position he can better handle.


Either way, Duffy is a solid baseball player who the Rays will find a place for on their infield, playing for the league minimum this and next year before entering salary arbitration.

Get used to him, Rays fans. He’ll be in Tampa Bay for at long time.