Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: February 2, 1983
Brian Duensing's dream was to play baseball professionally, and on March 7, 2003, that dream almost came to an end. Pitching against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in a game that featured freezing temperatures, Duensing tore his left elbow up. He would eventually need Tommy John Surgery, and would miss nearly two years of college baseball.
Duensing began his college career at Nebraska in fine fashion, being named to the Freshman All-American Baseball Team by Collegiate Baseball. That season, he went 6-2, and finished the year with a 4.73 ERA. More importantly, he appeared in his first of two College World Series, and was the Cornhuskers' starter in the Big 12 Championship Game.
He entered his sophomore season full of promise, and high expectations for himself. Duensing got off to blazing start, posting a 3-0 record in his first three starts. He also dominated then-number 7 Wake Forest, pitching a complete game shutout. However, his season ended on March 7, and he opted to not have surgery.
In 2004, Duensing redshirted, and received Tommy John Surgery. He would go on to miss the entire season, but he vowed to be back helping Nebraska the following year. He even wore tee-shirts that read, "I used to throw 95" on the front, and "The Few, The Proud, The DL", on the back.
He did come back the following year, and put together a season far beyond anyone's expectations. The left-handed went a perfect 8-0, and bailed out Nebraska in the Big 12 Tournament. In his two starts during the tournament, he threw 15 consecutive scoreless innings, including 7 2/3 scoreless in the Big 12 title game against Baylor.
The Twins took Duensing in the third round of the 2005 June Draft, making him the 83rd selection overall. The lefty was the first Husker pitcher taken in the draft, and followed teammate Alex Gordon, who was the second pick overall. The Twins assigned him to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League.
For Elizabethton, Duensing made 12 appearances during the 2005 season, including nine starts. He proved to be better than advertised, as he posted a 2.32 ERA, and struck out 55 batters in 50.1 innings of work. Although his record was only 4-3, he was mostly victimized by bad run support, and did not let up more than three earned runs in any appearance.
Repertoire.Fastball, Slider, Changeup
Fastball. Duensing used to have a plus-fastball before the surgery, and now uses a heater between 86-90 miles per hour. The good thing about his fastball is that it has great sinking action, which allows him to induce many groundballs, and strikeouts. While he has lost velocity, it really has not changed how effective he is on the mound with his fastball.
Other Pitches. Many scouts believe that his slider and his changeup are his two best pitches. He is a crafty lefty, who uses all his pitches to get hitters out. He throws a three-fourths slider, with tight, sharp rotation. When you combine that with a plus-changeup, that he can spot anywhere he wants, it makes for a pretty dangerous pitcher.
Pitching. Duensing is a great "pitcher", and that is one reason he has excelled, even after a potential career-threatening surgery. He has great command of all his pitches, and knows what to throw, and when to throw it. He has the tendency to be a little wild, as his six wild pitches show, but he did only walk 16 batters all season long. He is a luxury to have on your pitching staff, because he can dominate as both a starter, and as a reliever. Most scouts agree that he has a "feel for pitching."
Projection. Duensing appears to be ready for the starting rotation on a full-season team in 2006. Whether he stays there on not is still up in the air, as the Twins want to give him as much time as possible to get that left arm stronger. He has shown the ability to dominate out of the bullpen, and his future could be as a long reliever, or lefty specialist. Either way, he is a big addition to the Twins organization.
ETA. N/A. As you all know, it is rare for us to give a not available as to someone expected arrival in Minnesota, but Duensing is a rare case. Any player who goes through Tommy John Surgery is going to have his ups-and-downs, especially someone who has to go through it in college. Duensing has the character, and the stuff to move quickly through the organization, but it is all about that left arm holding up. He has experience in big-time games, and if he continues to stay healthy, my best estimate is the 2008 season. However, he has overcome a lot during his short career, and could surprise us all during these next two Minor League seasons.