Mike Hazen, the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, traded a productive pinch-hitter to the Pittsburg Pirates, Phil Gosselin
Duncan, 25, will be a non-roster invitee to major league camp on Monday, Feb. 13, when pitchers and catchers report to Salt River Fields. Last season, he appeared in 27 games and made 22 starts between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
As a starter, Duncan was 10-7 with a 2.47 ERA and .252 opponents batting average. He held right-handed batters to a .214 average with 84 of his 98 strikeouts.
Hazen, in a quote provided to venomstrikes.com from Diamondbacks media relations, was excited about the value Duncan could add to the organization.
“He’s a young starting pitcher with a very good performance history, Hazen said. “We like his ability to protect us in the rotation and the pen.”
This video by Adam Hayes, from Aug. 12, 2016, features Duncan pitching for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
John Sickles, executive editor, and writer for MinorLeagueBall.com, an SB Nation site, wrote a scouting report on Duncan.
"“He (Duncan) does not throw hard for a right-hander, his fastball topping at 92 and often in the upper-80s. He has a good curveball and change-up, and his ability to pound the lower part of the strike zone worked well in the high minors. The lack of big velocity limits his upside, but he has potential as a Chris Heston or Matt Shoemaker-type strike-throwing sleeper,” Sickles said."
In an interview from Feb. 2 with Jason Rollison of Pirates Breakdown, Duncan talked about his sinker and first spring training, albeit now in Arizona rather than Florida.
"“I have a ton of confidence in that pitch (sinker), it’s probably my best pitch,” Duncan said. “It is just about finding a way to consistently reproduce your delivery. That is my goal for the upcoming season, just to be more consistent.”"
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Gosselin, 28, set club records and led the majors in pinch-hit appearances (83) and pinch-hits (20) in 2016. The West Chester, Pennsylvania native also set a single-season team record for pinch-hit at-bats (77). Gosselin appeared in 122 games and hit .277 with 17 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 26 RBI.
Gosselin was designated for assignment on Feb. 7. For context, here is a definition of the DFA rule.
"“When a player’s contract is designated for assignment — often abbreviated “DFA” — that player is immediately removed from his club’s 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.If the player is claimed off said waivers by another club, he is immediately added to that team’s 40-man roster, at which point he can be optioned to the Minor Leagues (if he has Minor League options remaining) or assigned to his new team’s 25-man roster. If the player clears waivers, he may be sent outright to the Minor Leagues or released. Players with more than three years of Major League service time or who have been previously outrighted may reject the outright assignment in favor of free agency.”"
On the same day, Arizona agreed to terms with infielder Daniel Descalso on a one-year contract.
What does this all mean?
Gosselin’s impact off the bench last season was well known. In 168 at-bats against right-handers, he hit .274. As a team, the Diamondbacks hit .256, far below both the National League average of .254, and the Major League average of .255.
Also, Gosselin was arguably the team’s only productive bat off the bench. As a pinch-hitter, Gosselin hit .260, above both the National League and Major League averages of .219 and .209 respectively. Diamondbacks’ pinch hitters batted .208 (50-for-240). Granted, the difference between the team and Major League averages was 0.001 of a point, but that accentuates Gosselin’s impact.
At the same time, this offseason, Hazen sought left-handed hitters to balance the offense. The Diamondbacks GM acquired outfielders, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Gregor Blanco, along with infielder Daniel Descalso. Hazelbaker, Blanco and another southpaw, Socrates Brito will compete to be the fourth outfielder this spring. Ildemaro Vargas could also be in the mix. The Diamondbacks purchased the 25-year-olds contract from Triple-A Reno in November.
Duncan, who reached Triple-A for the first time in 2016, posted a 55.7 ground-ball rate between Double-A and Triple-A. Duncan was projected to start the year as a starter in Triple-A for the Pirates. He appears to control the strike zone consistently, but the right-hander’s lack of velocity will make it hard to stick as a starter in the big leagues.
Some spots in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen are up for grabs, and non-roster invitees have earned roles on major league rosters before.
If Duncan’s command and control leave a big enough impression on the coaching staff, he could be in the left field bullpen at Chase Field on Opening Night.