Scouting Twin Prospect #22: Brian Duensing

It is not often that a player goes through career-threatening surgery, and then is drafted in the third round of the Major League Draft two years later. But that is the case for our number 22 prospect, Brian Duensing. Duensing made three stops during the 2006 season, and could play a huge role in the Twins future plans.

Vital Statistics:
Name:Brian Duensing
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: February 2, 1983
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 195
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

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.>P>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.

The 2006 season was one of promotions for Duensing, who was promoted just as much as any other prospect on the Twins farm. He began the season with the Beloit Snappers, and after earning All-Star Game recognition, was promoted to Fort Myers. For Beloit, Duensing posted a 2.94 earned run average in his 11 starts, and struck out 55 batters.

Duensing would go on to make only seven starts for the Fort Myers Miracle, joining one of the better pitching staffs in the Florida State League. He had a 4.24 earned run average before being promoted to New Britain, and at 23-years old, found himself on the fast track to the Minnesota Twins.

Brian was even more impressive at New Britain, appearing in ten games for the Rock Cats. The crafty lefty had an earned run average under four, and though he was plagued by the long ball. Still, it was his third level in one season, and he should be with the Rock Cats when the Twins break camp in April.

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 will be in the starting rotation for the New Britain Rock Cats in 2007, though it would not be surprising if he was with Rochester. He eats innings, and has shown no ill effects from his almost career-threatening injury. If he can continue to spot his pitches, then he should have another successful season in 2007.

ETA. 2008. Duensing silenced all his critics in 2006, and appears poised for another great year in 2007. He is no regarded as one of the better left-handed starting pitching prospects in the Twins organization, and brings one of the better arsenals of all other lefties. He is never going to blow anybody away with his fastball, but if he continues to dominate with his breaking stuff, then the promotions will continue to come in. Look for Duensing to at least make it to Rochester in 2007.

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