Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but out of sight can also mean out of mind. That latter has been true for the Tampa Bay Rays presumed starting shortstop Matt Duffy.
When the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Matt Duffy as part of the package for Matt Moore, he appeared to be a bargain. Duffy had been a solid rookie, finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year vote as he produced a .295/.334/.428 batting line, hitting 12 homers and stealing 12 bases. It seemed as though he would become a productive all around player.
He struggled last season, putting together a combined .258/.310/.357 batting line, hitting just five homers and stealing eight bases. Duffy started to perform better after his trade to the Rays, but his season came to a halt when he injured his Achilles tendon in his left heel. The injury required surgery, and while Duffy was expected to be ready for Spring Training, he has been slow to heal. Now, his availability for the start of the season is coming into question.
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While he has struggled in coming back from his ankle injury, Duffy has become a bit of the forgotten man when it comes to the Rays. Perhaps that is due to the injury, and the questions of when he could return, but that does not change what Duffy could mean to the lineup when he is ready.
Duffy could actually prove to be an answer atop the lineup. Regardless of who leads off for the Rays, they will need someone with excellent contact skills hitting behind them. With his lifetime 15.6% strikeout rate, Duffy has proven that he can handle a bat. Adding those skills at the beginning of the lineup could help ignite the Rays attack.
The biggest problem with that is that it is still unknown when Duffy will get on the field. He is going to need some game action, and these delays may necessitate that he begin the year on the disabled list. However, if he can come back healthy, and perform like he did in 2015 for the Giants, Duffy could be a player that is remembered for years to come by the Rays faithful.
Matt Duffy may be a forgotten player on the Tampa Bay Rays now, but that is because he has yet to step on the field this season. When that happens, his all around game could make him memorable.