Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/16/14

Danny Duffy is headed for surgery. After an MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in Duffy’s left elbow, it looks like Tommy John surgery will sideline the left-hander until next season. A former top prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system, Duffy reached the majors last season. And even though he struggled initially, the 23-year-old seemed to be making progress this year. And now that he’s out for the season, the Royals’ rise to prominence may be put on hold even longer.

The Royals entered the 2011 season having one of the best farm systems of all time. There wasn’t an analyst, a publication or a website that disagreed. And while Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have already experienced some success in the majors — and Wil Myers isn’t far behind — the Royals have shown just how risky it is to depend on pitching prospects.

Duffy’s injury highlights some of the issues facing the Royals once-prominent farm system. John Lamb also had Tommy John surgery last June and Mike Montgomery has regressed at Triple-A. While Lamb should make his return some time this year — and Montgomery is still just 23-years-old — Kansas City has to be discouraged by the injuries and lack of development.

Of the three, Duffy looked to be the most likely to live up to the prospect billing. He had already reached the majors, and he managed to win a spot in the Royals’ rotation this spring. Duffy’s performance, while uneven, was promising. Though he struggled with his control (14.9%), Duffy punched out batters at a nice clip (23.1%). Duffy’s performance against the Detroit Tigers on April 16, offered promise to what he might become. In that start, Duffy threw 6.2 innings and gave up just three hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

But things quickly went downhill for Duffy. He missed a start after complaining about elbow tightness, but he returned to pitch two more games before succumbing to elbow pain during a start against the Chicago White Sox. There have already been some questions about whether the Royals handled Duffy properly. Duffy threw 90 pitches in his first game back after he first complained of elbow soreness — and then he threw 102 pitches in just 4.1 innings against the Boston Red Sox. The Royals didn’t think much of Duffy’s soreness at the time, and they didn’t send him for an MRI. While that may not have changed anything, the decision to forego an MRI at the first sign of soreness is odd considering the Royals’ head trainer admitted that Duffy had a tear in his UCL since 2010.

What’s strange about that revelation is that Duffy was throwing much harder than normal this season. After averaging 93.3 mph on his fastball in 2011, Duffy was throwing 95.3 mph this year. And while it seems logical to assume pitchers with tears in their elbows wouldn’t be able to throw as hard, there is some thought that big gains in velocity could lead to Tommy John surgery. Keith Law has mentioned this theory in the past, sometimes citing Stephen Strasburg as an example. There are differing opinions, of course. Jeff Zimmerman recently posted an article that said pitchers who experience increased velocity don’t necessarily end up on the disabled list more often. Duffy’s injury — and his velocity jump — only complicates matters.

And even if we could prove big velocity increased lead to TJ surgery, we still wouldn’t know whether Duffy’s injury could have been prevented. Since the Royals were aware Duffy already had a tear in his elbow, they probably knew this day would come. So instead of sending him for an MRI at the first sign of soreness, they let Duffy see if he could overcome it. While he was able to put off surgery for two starts, both sides probably knew this was inevitable.

The Royals still have a lot of young talent. Hosmer, Moustakas and Myers look like future regulars — and Salvador Perez is locked up with a cheap extension. But to field a competitive team, the Royals need their pitchers to emerge, as well. With Duffy and Lamb on the shelf, the team needs Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi to start living up to their potential. There’s still a chance for this team to put it together one of these years, but things look slightly more discouraging after Duffy’s injury.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dekker changes his Twitter to painful memory

Five best quarterback situations in the NFL

MLB players want to trade lives with Tom Brady

WATCH: Ohio State dog urinates on Michigan fire hydrant

Gregg Marshall is staying at Wichita State

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Bengals troll Browns with April Fools’ Day joke

Malcolm Jenkins on McCoy trade: Could've gotten more

Does Romo restructure pave the way for Peterson?

Todd Gurley: 2015 NFL Draft Profile

Colts' Robert Mathis hopes to be back by training camp

LeBron thought Kyrie was a ballhog when season started

Gus Malzahn not happy about Michigan satellite camp

WATCH: Kaman pushes CP3 after shot to groin

Kelly Olynyk helps Celtics to win despite eye injury

Report: Boston mayor furious over Olympics rumors

Ravens commit tampering violation, show it on Twitter

Lightning won’t sell playoff tickets to non-Florida residents

Brad Stevens dismisses Texas rumor

Albert, Costas and Michaels to work together for the first time

A’s closer buying tickets to fill stands at LGBT Pride Night

13 U.S. senators call on FIFA to strip Russia of 2018 World Cup

The San Antonio Spurs are beautiful again

Auriemma blasts men’s college basketball: ‘The game is a joke’

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five best QB situations in the NFL

Dark horse Cy Young candidates

Final Four fact or fiction

Why WrestleMania 31 was an all-time great

Five worst QB situations in NFL

WATCH: Curry drops CP3 with crossover

Durant wants to spend career in OKC

This isn’t Tom Izzo’s greatest March masterpiece

Are the Angels being overlooked?

Top 20 players in the Final Four

Report: Tiger's plane spotted in Augusta

Moss shares story on meeting Deion

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.