The Tampa Bay Rays knew that Matt Duffy had heel issues when they acquired him from the San Francisco Giants. After that heel has continued to be troublesome, the Rays are looking for answers.
The fact that Matt Duffy was having problems with his heel was not news for the Tampa Bay Rays. They knew he was having problems with his left foot when he was acquired from the San Francisco Giants as part of the Matt Moore trade. Nonetheless, they expected that he would be an important part of their future.
After Duffy underwent season ending surgery on that troublesome heel in September, he was expected to be limited in Spring Training. Even with those limitations, Duffy was expected to be ready for Opening Day, ready to take over as the Rays shortstop. Instead, that heel has continued to give Duffy fits, as he has been limited to drills and strengthening exercises. That dream of Duffy being ready for Opening Day has gone by the wayside.
At this point, the Rays are searching for answers. Manager Kevin Cash stated that the team is talking to doctors and hoping for an answer in the next few days, although the thought is that some of the issues are not from the surgery. While Cash did say that he was not inferring anything from that statement, one can take it however they want.
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If Duffy can be healthy once again, he could be a solid piece to the Rays lineup. In 2015, he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, outpacing Jung Ho Kang and Noah Syndergaard. That year, he posted a solid .295/.334/.428 batting line, hitting 12 homers and stealing 12 bases.
While he was relatively solid last year, Duffy was not the same player. While he stole eight bases, his power was gone. He hit only five homers, and his doubles were cut in half. However, when looking at Duffy’s line drive rate and percentage of balls put in play, the advanced stats are virtually identical.
Where it is obvious that the heel was causing problems comes from his batting average on balls in play. His .290 BAbip was a slight bit below league average, but was also 46 points lower than his mark the previous year. If his heel was in better shape, not only could he have had more power, but he may have been able to run better as well, turning some of those close plays at first into base hits.
The Tampa Bay Rays felt that they had an important piece for the present and future in Matt Duffy. That may still be the case, but he needs to get on the field again first.