Scouting Yankees Prospect #7: Eric Duncan

Drafted in the first round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, Eric Duncan had his roughest season yet last year. But dealing with his first major injury in his career and learning a new position last season, the Yankees have continued to remain patient and confident with their young slugger. Here's a scouting report on Eric Duncan.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Eric Duncan
Position: First Base
DOB: December 7, 1984
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 205
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

"It was definitely a very trying year at times with my struggles and my injuries," Duncan said of his 2006 season. "I went through a lot of things, some stuff I had been through before and some stuff I had not been through. I learned a lot. I had a lot of positives and you learn a lot about yourself from keep plugging away and things start working out for you and other things don't. As a whole, during the regular season, I learned a lot and I'm looking forward to taking that into this next year."

Dealing with a back injury for the majority of the season, while he refuses to make excuses, the fact is he missed nearly two months last year and was sent back to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time.

"In the Arizona Fall League, that's such a great situation out there," said Duncan. "The setup for the players out there is so beneficial. You're with all these other great players that you can rub elbows with and talk to about what they like to do practice-wise and game-wise. Some coaches have some different views, it might click with some guys. The setup for the players is such a valuable experience. I've loved going out there the last two years."

He wound up hitting .257 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 26 games for the Peoria Saguaros in the AFL. While those numbers might not jump off the page, the fact his back remained healthy at the end of the year was most important and he contends that back is feeling fine with the new season rapidly approaching.

"Right now I'm feeling good," he admitted. "I've been down here in camp since January 16th. I'm getting ready for the season and I'm full-go. I'm working out everyday and I'm ready to go. I get to the park early and leave kind of late. That back thing, as long as I have a say in it, it's not going to flare back up again."

Even though he hit just .209 with no home runs with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in 2006, and finished the year in Double-A Trenton, Duncan appears ticketed to return to Triple-A to start the 2007 season after participating in Scranton's Winter Caravan last month.

"That caravan up there has been one of the greatest experiences I've been a part of," said the former first round pick. "The excitement the fans are showing, I've never seen anything like it. They're real excited up there for the Yankees to come to town."

Such a clear indication that he'll once again begin the year in Triple-A might come as a shock to his critics, but it's not surprising to Duncan himself.

"As far as going up to Triple-A again, I'm ready for it," he confidently told us from the Yankees' minor league complex. "Last year I had all the confidence in the world going up there. With the things that happened, it wasn't nearly what I wanted. It wasn't what I was expecting out of myself and what the Yankees expected out of me."

"I'm looking forward to going up there. I don't think I'm looking to redeem myself or prove anything. I'm pretty confident in my abilities that I don't think I need to prove anything. I just want to go up there and do my best. I know if I do my best and stick to my plan that everything will work out."

Once primarily focused on driving the ball to the opposite field earlier in his career, it seems his offensive plans have changed over the past couple of seasons by trying to pull the ball more.

"I feel I'm going my best, I feel the most confident when I'm able to go the opposite way and drive the ball to the opposite field," said the left-handed slugger. "As I've found out as I've moved up the levels, the pitchers get a lot smarter and the coaches get a lot smarter and the book on you is out before the season starts and especially during the season when you're facing teams two and three times."

"They start finding your weaknesses fast and they start pounding that. In my case they started pounding me inside and I might have started over-compensating and looking too much in there. That will get you off-balance and throw your timing off with all the pitches, whether they're inside or outside."

"You have to be able to trust yourself and realize when they do come inside you're able to get them out of there and go outside and that is my strength," he continued. "You've got to stick to your plan."

As publicly stated by Brian Cashman this winter, part of the defensive plan for Eric Duncan in 2007 is to have him play primarily at first base and mix in a few games over at third, a situation that Duncan says he is very comfortable with.

"I did that last year when I went over there every once in a while," he said of playing first and third. "I liked it. I've taken a liking to first base. I take pride in it. I can help out my infielders a great deal. I found that as a third baseman you appreciate your first baseman. Now I take a lot of pride in that."

"Being able to help my team out and be that valuable where we're facing a righty that day and they want to give somebody a break and keep a left-handed bat in there and throw me out there to third base, that's great to have that versatility. I'm looking forward to the challenge and like I've always said, whatever they [the Yankees] want me to do, whether it's centerfield, pitcher, catcher, I'm more than willing to do it."

A third baseman in high school and in his first three season in the organization, there had been talk about moving Duncan to first base as early as Spring Training in 2005 but the move wasn't official until he played there for the Columbus Clippers on Opening Day last season.

"I'd say mentally preparing myself," he listed as the area of his defensive game at first base he needs to work on the most. "Because of the lack of reps that I've had and the level I've been playing at, the game is quick. There are certain things you need to be able to do at each position, especially at first base. Because of my lack of reps I find myself not fully aware of what's going on."

"I need to be fully locked in and prepared at all times and be ready for 'what do I do when the ball is hit to me in this situation'. Because it's a totally different position, I need to keep myself aware of what's going on at all times."

"I've never zoned out or spaced out, but there's times because it's a different position and the ball is hit to you with runners on first and second with one out, that's never happened to you in your entire life and maybe you freeze a little bit. I have to make sure I'm ready for that play."

As if dealing with an ailing back for a majority of the season and playing a brand new position weren't enough to affect him in 2006, the fact that he has been pushed through the farm system at an unprecedented pace and began the year as a 21-year old in Triple-A could have added to his offensive woes.

Coming off his most disappointing season and failing to live up the expectations of a first round pick, Duncan's critics have lined up in record numbers, with many people already beginning to write him off.

"If somebody has written me off I don't know what I'd say to them," Duncan said in his defense. "I don't know if I can say anything to them because it's kind of ludicrous. I don't think if you speak to anybody rational that they're going to write off a 21-year old that started the year off in Triple-A. It's kind of irrational if you think about it in some respects."

"I'm always going to have my bumps in the road," he continued. "Obviously I'm looking to have a huge breakout season. What I can say to the fans is that I know I'm working hard everyday to continually get better and hopefully someday contribute to the big league team. That's pretty much all I can do and I'm trying my best at it."

Still very confident in his abilities, Duncan believes he is primed for a breakout season and just needs to stay healthy in order to tap his true potential.

"Obviously it would be great to stay healthy for 142 [games] or however many games long the season will be," he said of his goals for 2007. "Last year it was the back. The season before I was able to stay injury free. I've also learned we're playing a certain amount of time, the big thing with me is you're going to have your ups and downs in close to 600 at-bats over the course of the season."

"Everybody is going to go through their rough spots but you need to stick to your plan. All the players at that level are good and they're there for a reason. Don't hit the panic button and starting changing things too soon. You've got to trust yourself and trust your abilities and you'll come out of it."

While he is normally the type of player to spit out all the cliches and 'take things one game at a time', deep down Duncan knows he is getting closer to the big leagues, especially on the heels of a return trip to Triple-A.

"To tell you the truth, that's everybody's deep down goal," he said of making it to the big league this coming season. "You see these cases where guys from lower levels will make it all the way up there. Especially with the situation I was put in last year and I'll be put in there again, anybody that starts the year in Triple-A, you're just one phone call away."

"With all the work you've done in your entire life, it's a pretty special time whenever you start the year in Triple-A. Obviously I'm going to be looking at that as a goal because it's so close. If I go out there and do well in that one at-bat or that one ground ball, the future will take care of itself."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2006

Columbus

.209

110

3

0

6

7

0

9

24

.279

.255

2006

Trenton

.248

206

15

10

29

32

0

32

38

.355

.485

2005

Trenton

.235

451

15

19

61

60

9

59

136

.326

.408

2004

Tampa

.254

173

20

4

26

23

0

31

47

.366

.462

2004

Battle Creek

.260

288

23

12

57

52

7

38

84

.351

.479

2003

Staten Island

.373

59

5

2

13

11

1

2

11

.413

.695

2003

Gulf Coast

.278

180

12

2

28

24

0

18

33

.348

.400



Batting and Power. Just a career .253 hitter with the Yankees, most scouts agree his is a much better hitter than he has shown thus far. Not only did he reach Triple-A quickly after just two full minor league seasons as a high schooler, but he had his approach at the plate changed in his career to try and take advantage of his power by pulling the ball more. As a result, he hasn't been able to find a comfort zone yet offensively. When he's going right, he is a patient hitter who will wait for his pitch and drives the ball to the opposite field with excellent power.

Base Running and Speed. While he isn't the quickest player on the field, Duncan has good base running instincts and can be aggressive on the base paths. Averaging around eight stolen bases per year in his previous two seasons, the fact that he attempted just one steal in 2006 is clear evidence just how much his back was ailing. He has average to slightly above average speed for a first baseman.

Defense. As Duncan mentioned above, he is still learning the nuances of positioning himself in the field and how to handle certain situations defensively. His defensive game at first base is still a work in progress but he has shown an ability to pick balls out of the dirt and he's athletic enough to display decent range around the bag. He's not a great defensive first baseman but scouts believe he has the chance to develop into a solid one.

Projection. While he has yet to prove it on the field thus far, Duncan has the chance to be a very good offensive player. He possesses plus power potential, and while he may never be a .300 hitter at the big league level, he should hit for higher averages than he has been. His patient approach projects him to eventually bat third in a Major League lineup but lacks the consistent contact hitting ability to be effective there. Once he gets comfortable at the plate and starts tapping his true potential, Duncan projects to be a solid #5 hitter cut in the mold of a Jason Giambi type and, while he still has plenty of room to develop defensively, he could compare similarly as better suited for the designated hitter role if he can't further advance his game.

ETA. 2007. All signs point towards Duncan beginning the year in Triple-A Scranton. If he can remain healthy, he should vastly improve his production at the plate from a year ago. While it might be better for his development to keep him in the minor leagues for the entire year, it seems quite likely that he will make his Major League debut at some point in 2007 and have a bigger impact with the Yankees in 2008.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n \r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Eric Duncan
\r\nPosition: First Base
\r\nDOB: December 7, 1984
\r\nHeight: 6'3\"
\r\nWeight: 205
\r\nBats: Left
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"It was definitely a very trying year at times with my struggles and my injuries,\" Duncan said of his 2006 season. \"I went through a lot of things, some stuff I had been through before and some stuff I had not been through. I learned a lot. I had a lot of positives and you learn a lot about yourself from keep plugging away and things start working out for you and other things don't. As a whole, during the regular season, I learned a lot and I'm looking forward to taking that into this next year.\"
\r\n
\r\nDealing with a back injury for the majority of the season, while he refuses to make excuses, the fact is he missed nearly two months last year and was sent back to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time.
\r\n
\r\n\"In the Arizona Fall League, that's such a great situation out there,\" said Duncan. \"The setup for the players out there is so beneficial. You're with all these other great players that you can rub elbows with and talk to about what they like to do practice-wise and game-wise. Some coaches have some different views, it might click with some guys. The setup for the players is such a valuable experience. I've loved going out there the last two years.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe wound up hitting .257 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 26 games for the Peoria Saguaros in the AFL. While those numbers might not jump off the page, the fact his back remained healthy at the end of the year was most important and he contends that back is feeling fine with the new season rapidly approaching.
\r\n
\r\n\"Right now I'm feeling good,\" he admitted. \"I've been down here in camp since January 16th. I'm getting ready for the season and I'm full-go. I'm working out everyday and I'm ready to go. I get to the park early and leave kind of late. That back thing, as long as I have a say in it, it's not going to flare back up again.\"
\r\n
\r\nEven though he hit just .209 with no home runs with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in 2006, and finished the year in Double-A Trenton, Duncan appears ticketed to return to Triple-A to start the 2007 season after participating in Scranton's Winter Caravan last month.
\r\n
\r\n\"That caravan up there has been one of the greatest experiences I've been a part of,\" said the former first round pick. \"The excitement the fans are showing, I've never seen anything like it. They're real excited up there for the Yankees to come to town.\"
\r\n
\r\nSuch a clear indication that he'll once again begin the year in Triple-A might come as a shock to his critics, but it's not surprising to Duncan himself.
\r\n
\r\n\"As far as going up to Triple-A again, I'm ready for it,\" he confidently told us from the Yankees' minor league complex. \"Last year I had all the confidence in the world going up there. With the things that happened, it wasn't nearly what I wanted. It wasn't what I was expecting out of myself and what the Yankees expected out of me.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm looking forward to going up there. I don't think I'm looking to redeem myself or prove anything. I'm pretty confident in my abilities that I don't think I need to prove anything. I just want to go up there and do my best. I know if I do my best and stick to my plan that everything will work out.\"
\r\n
\r\nOnce primarily focused on driving the ball to the opposite field earlier in his career, it seems his offensive plans have changed over the past couple of seasons by trying to pull the ball more.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel I'm going my best, I feel the most confident when I'm able to go the opposite way and drive the ball to the opposite field,\" said the left-handed slugger. \"As I've found out as I've moved up the levels, the pitchers get a lot smarter and the coaches get a lot smarter and the book on you is out before the season starts and especially during the season when you're facing teams two and three times.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"They start finding your weaknesses fast and they start pounding that. In my case they started pounding me inside and I might have started over-compensating and looking too much in there. That will get you off-balance and throw your timing off with all the pitches, whether they're inside or outside.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"You have to be able to trust yourself and realize when they do come inside you're able to get them out of there and go outside and that is my strength,\" he continued. \"You've got to stick to your plan.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs publicly stated by Brian Cashman this winter, part of the defensive plan for Eric Duncan in 2007 is to have him play primarily at first base and mix in a few games over at third, a situation that Duncan says he is very comfortable with.
\r\n
\r\n\"I did that last year when I went over there every once in a while,\" he said of playing first and third. \"I liked it. I've taken a liking to first base. I take pride in it. I can help out my infielders a great deal. I found that as a third baseman you appreciate your first baseman. Now I take a lot of pride in that.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Being able to help my team out and be that valuable where we're facing a righty that day and they want to give somebody a break and keep a left-handed bat in there and throw me out there to third base, that's great to have that versatility. I'm looking forward to the challenge and like I've always said, whatever they [the Yankees] want me to do, whether it's centerfield, pitcher, catcher, I'm more than willing to do it.\"
\r\n
\r\nA third baseman in high school and in his first three season in the organization, there had been talk about moving Duncan to first base as early as Spring Training in 2005 but the move wasn't official until he played there for the Columbus Clippers on Opening Day last season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'd say mentally preparing myself,\" he listed as the area of his defensive game at first base he needs to work on the most. \"Because of the lack of reps that I've had and the level I've been playing at, the game is quick. There are certain things you need to be able to do at each position, especially at first base. Because of my lack of reps I find myself not fully aware of what's going on.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I need to be fully locked in and prepared at all times and be ready for 'what do I do when the ball is hit to me in this situation'. Because it's a totally different position, I need to keep myself aware of what's going on at all times.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I've never zoned out or spaced out, but there's times because it's a different position and the ball is hit to you with runners on first and second with one out, that's never happened to you in your entire life and maybe you freeze a little bit. I have to make sure I'm ready for that play.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs if dealing with an ailing back for a majority of the season and playing a brand new position weren't enough to affect him in 2006, the fact that he has been pushed through the farm system at an unprecedented pace and began the year as a 21-year old in Triple-A could have added to his offensive woes.
\r\n
\r\nComing off his most disappointing season and failing to live up the expectations of a first round pick, Duncan's critics have lined up in record numbers, with many people already beginning to write him off.
\r\n
\r\n\"If somebody has written me off I don't know what I'd say to them,\" Duncan said in his defense. \"I don't know if I can say anything to them because it's kind of ludicrous. I don't think if you speak to anybody rational that they're going to write off a 21-year old that started the year off in Triple-A. It's kind of irrational if you think about it in some respects.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm always going to have my bumps in the road,\" he continued. \"Obviously I'm looking to have a huge breakout season. What I can say to the fans is that I know I'm working hard everyday to continually get better and hopefully someday contribute to the big league team. That's pretty much all I can do and I'm trying my best at it.\"
\r\n
\r\nStill very confident in his abilities, Duncan believes he is primed for a breakout season and just needs to stay healthy in order to tap his true potential.
\r\n
\r\n\"Obviously it would be great to stay healthy for 142 [games] or however many games long the season will be,\" he said of his goals for 2007. \"Last year it was the back. The season before I was able to stay injury free. I've also learned we're playing a certain amount of time, the big thing with me is you're going to have your ups and downs in close to 600 at-bats over the course of the season.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Everybody is going to go through their rough spots but you need to stick to your plan. All the players at that level are good and they're there for a reason. Don't hit the panic button and starting changing things too soon. You've got to trust yourself and trust your abilities and you'll come out of it.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile he is normally the type of player to spit out all the cliches and 'take things one game at a time', deep down Duncan knows he is getting closer to the big leagues, especially on the heels of a return trip to Triple-A.
\r\n
\r\n\"To tell you the truth, that's everybody's deep down goal,\" he said of making it to the big league this coming season. \"You see these cases where guys from lower levels will make it all the way up there. Especially with the situation I was put in last year and I'll be put in there again, anybody that starts the year in Triple-A, you're just one phone call away.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"With all the work you've done in your entire life, it's a pretty special time whenever you start the year in Triple-A. Obviously I'm going to be looking at that as a goal because it's so close. If I go out there and do well in that one at-bat or that one ground ball, the future will take care of itself.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n AVG

\r\n

\r\n AB

\r\n

\r\n 2B

\r\n

\r\n HR

\r\n

\r\n RBI

\r\n

\r\n R

\r\n

\r\n SB

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

\r\n SO

\r\n

\r\n OBP

\r\n

\r\n SLG

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Columbus

\r\n

\r\n .209

\r\n

\r\n 110

\r\n

\r\n 3

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 6

\r\n

\r\n 7

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 9

\r\n

\r\n 24

\r\n

\r\n .279

\r\n

\r\n .255

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Trenton

\r\n

\r\n .248

\r\n

\r\n 206

\r\n

\r\n 15

\r\n

\r\n 10

\r\n

\r\n 29

\r\n

\r\n 32

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 32

\r\n

\r\n 38

\r\n

\r\n .355

\r\n

\r\n .485

\r\n

\r\n 2005

\r\n

\r\n Trenton

\r\n

\r\n .235

\r\n

\r\n 451

\r\n

\r\n 15

\r\n

\r\n 19

\r\n

\r\n 61

\r\n

\r\n 60

\r\n

\r\n 9

\r\n

\r\n 59

\r\n

\r\n 136

\r\n

\r\n .326

\r\n

\r\n .408

\r\n

\r\n 2004

\r\n

\r\n Tampa

\r\n

\r\n .254

\r\n

\r\n 173

\r\n

\r\n 20

\r\n

\r\n 4

\r\n

\r\n 26

\r\n

\r\n 23

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 31

\r\n

\r\n 47

\r\n

\r\n .366

\r\n

\r\n .462

\r\n

\r\n 2004

\r\n

\r\n Battle Creek

\r\n

\r\n .260

\r\n

\r\n 288

\r\n

\r\n 23

\r\n

\r\n 12

\r\n

\r\n 57

\r\n

\r\n 52

\r\n

\r\n 7

\r\n

\r\n 38

\r\n

\r\n 84

\r\n

\r\n .351

\r\n

\r\n .479

\r\n

\r\n 2003

\r\n

\r\n Staten Island

\r\n

\r\n .373

\r\n

\r\n 59

\r\n

\r\n 5

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 13

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n .413

\r\n

\r\n .695

\r\n

\r\n 2003

\r\n

\r\n Gulf Coast

\r\n

\r\n .278

\r\n

\r\n 180

\r\n

\r\n 12

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 28

\r\n

\r\n 24

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 18

\r\n

\r\n 33

\r\n

\r\n .348

\r\n

\r\n .400


\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power. Just a career .253 hitter with the Yankees, most scouts agree his is a much better hitter than he has shown thus far. Not only did he reach Triple-A quickly after just two full minor league seasons as a high schooler, but he had his approach at the plate changed in his career to try and take advantage of his power by pulling the ball more. As a result, he hasn't been able to find a comfort zone yet offensively. When he's going right, he is a patient hitter who will wait for his pitch and drives the ball to the opposite field with excellent power.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed. While he isn't the quickest player on the field, Duncan has good base running instincts and can be aggressive on the base paths. Averaging around eight stolen bases per year in his previous two seasons, the fact that he attempted just one steal in 2006 is clear evidence just how much his back was ailing. He has average to slightly above average speed for a first baseman.
\r\n
\r\nDefense. As Duncan mentioned above, he is still learning the nuances of positioning himself in the field and how to handle certain situations defensively. His defensive game at first base is still a work in progress but he has shown an ability to pick balls out of the dirt and he's athletic enough to display decent range around the bag. He's not a great defensive first baseman but scouts believe he has the chance to develop into a solid one.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. While he has yet to prove it on the field thus far, Duncan has the chance to be a very good offensive player. He possesses plus power potential, and while he may never be a .300 hitter at the big league level, he should hit for higher averages than he has been. His patient approach projects him to eventually bat third in a Major League lineup but lacks the consistent contact hitting ability to be effective there. Once he gets comfortable at the plate and starts tapping his true potential, Duncan projects to be a solid #5 hitter cut in the mold of a Jason Giambi type and, while he still has plenty of room to develop defensively, he could compare similarly as better suited for the designated hitter role if he can't further advance his game.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2007. All signs point towards Duncan beginning the year in Triple-A Scranton. If he can remain healthy, he should vastly improve his production at the plate from a year ago. While it might be better for his development to keep him in the minor leagues for the entire year, it seems quite likely that he will make his Major League debut at some point in 2007 and have a bigger impact with the Yankees in 2008.
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