Scouting Yankee Prospect #2: Eric Duncan

Duncan's Offensive Potential Is Special

Drafted in the first round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, Eric Duncan has been widely considered the top power hitting prospect in the Yankee farm system over the last two plus seasons. Ranked #2 among the Top 50 Yankee Prospects, 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

Selected 37th overall back in 2003, Duncan bypassed an opportunity to play collegiately with perennial power LSU in favor of signing with his favorite team, the New York Yankees.

Fast-tracked by the organization, Duncan drew national attention in 2004 after hitting a combined 43 doubles and 16 home runs in two stops between low-A Battle Creek and high-A Tampa in his first full year of professional baseball at the tender age of 19-years old.

A potential victim of his own immediate success, Duncan almost hit his way of the organization that very same year.

"It feels great," Duncan told us of not being included in the trade to Arizona for Randy Johnson. "I mean, I've always wanted to be a Yankee. I would like to stay here with the Yankees for the rest of my career if I can."

"But when the rumors were circulating about me being part of the Randy Johnson trade, there was a positive and negative," Duncan continued. "While I would have liked to stay with the Yanks, I still would have been playing baseball for a living if I was traded, and it can't be any better than that."

As mentally positive as they come and prone to living all the baseball cliches, Duncan hit .235 with 19 home runs and drew 59 walks with the AA-Trenton Thunder as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League in 2005.

Despite the seemingly pedestrian numbers - again, taking his young age and the level he competed into consideration - the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League to play against the game's elite prospects and work on a new position.

"I'm down here to play first, that's what the coaches told me," Duncan told us in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason.

Duncan rose to the challenge, hitting .362 with nine doubles and eight home runs in just 23 games for the Grand Canyon Rafters while embracing his new position.

"I think it's always a plus to be able to play more than one spot, and obviously, third base is pretty solid right now for the club," referring to Alex Rodriguez blocking his path to the Major Leagues at third base.

A combination of defensive struggles at third base and an established star anchored at Duncan's position for the foreseeable future forced the Yankees' hand, moving him to first base in Spring Training.

Dealing with defensive struggles and position switches, rushed through the farm system at an unprecedented pace for a high school selection, all while playing against much older competition over the last couple of seasons, have combined to take their toll on his comfort level at the plate.

So despite the .258 career batting average, many inside and outside the organization believe the best has yet to come from Eric Duncan offensively, and his tireless work ethic for such a young player is a huge reason why.

"My work ethic," Duncan listed as the one quality that separates him from most. "I've seen a whole bunch of guys with tons of potential. Once you get to the higher levels, the competition levels off. I believe the ones that want it more will be the ones that make it. If you do your best, you'll get your shot."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

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. Forget the .235 average Duncan had in Trenton last season. An adept hitter at going to the opposite field, the Yankees had Duncan attempting to pull the ball more to take advantage of his power potential, an experiment that failed miserably. One of the elite power hitters going the other way, conjuring up comparisons to Chipper Jones for that very reason, Duncan collects a huge amount of his hits from center to left field. He's an extremely patient hitter too and he's not afraid to wait for his pitch. Duncan is a legit power hitting prospect that could develop into a high average hitter once he's able to establish a comfort level in the batter's box.

Base Running and Speed. Duncan is not fleet of foot by any means. But what he lacks in natural speed, he more than makes up in natural baseball instincts. He'll never be a double-digit stolen base threat, but he'll swipe a few here and there when pitchers aren't paying attention to him. He has decent speed for a corner infielder, especially at first base.

Defense. A below average defensive third baseman who didn't project to be suited for the hot corner at the Major League level, Duncan has begun his transition over to first base. He has shown an ability to pick balls out of the dirt and he's athletic enough to make plays around the bag. Probably better suited as a designated hitter, many believe Duncan can play a serviceable defensive first base.

Projection. There are few prospects with the offensive potential of Eric Duncan. Some critics have been down on his ability to make contact, but a multitude of factors have limited his ability to get in a groove. He is a much better hitter than his numbers indicate and he's primed to surprise people in the near future. Duncan projects to hit somewhere in the third, fourth, or fifth spots in a Major League batting order with 25+ home run potential. The Yankees are attempting to find a spot for Duncan in their lineup by playing him at first base. Comparing favorably to Jason Giambi, Duncan also projects to be more of a lethal designated hitter.

ETA. 2007. Ever since he was drafted, we've been punching his arrival for 2007. Beginning the 2006 season in AAA-Columbus as one of the youngest players in the International League, that prediction is looking more concrete with every passing day. It is prudent to remember however that he just turned 21-years old, and with a few corner guys at the big league level, it would probably benefit Duncan's development to have another full year of minor league seasoning to allow him to gain more confidence - so don't be surprised if the Yankees eventually feel the same way.

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