Out of all their offseason moves, signing Matt Duffy might’ve been the best decision of all for the Chicago Cubs. The utility man is the definition of a contact hitter, which is a role that is becoming extinct in today’s game. The Cubs, like many teams, found themselves swinging for the fences far too often last season. They became reliant on home runs while striking out at an alarming rate. It’s a trend that many teams in MLB are trying to counter. That’s the 30-year old might be the Cubs’ secret weapon.
Long Before the Cubs Got Matt Duffy
The San Francisco Giants drafted Duffy in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. After making his debut in 2014, his official rookie season was the following season. In 149 games played, he boasted a slash line of .295/.334/.428 to go with 77 RBI and 169 hits. His impressive campaign was enough to earn runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, finishing behind his now-teammate Kris Bryant.
Duffy has been a utility player for most of his career. He has never exhibited great power at the plate, but it hasn’t kept him from a small role on multiple ball clubs. When Tampa Bay Rays traded for him in 2016, Duffy spent three years there until his initial contract expired, making him a free agent. There wasn’t much of a market for him because teams felt like he had already reached his maximum potential. Chicago took a chance on him, despite being unsure if he’d make the 26-man roster. Ultimately, his consistent batting approach and his versatility on defense were enough to convince manager David Ross. Duffy hasn’t looked back since.
Southsides Surprising MVP
In a long baseball season, there are bound to be unlikely heroes. Players that step up in big moments and deliver for their team. One of them is none other than the Cubs bench player. Duffy and teammate Eric Sogard are players who have provided some valuable at-bats. Both batters share one thing in common, high contact percentages at the plate. They put the ball in play while making pitchers work for their outs. Sometimes, batters can get obsessed with trying to hit the long ball. It’s an issue that can mess with their swing and plate discipline. Duffy doesn’t have that problem as he knows the role that he plays for the Cubs.
Duffy’s not in the lineup to hit the cover off the ball. It’s All-Stars like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant that can deliver when necessary. The under-the-radar addition should continue to keep the line moving, whether by taking a walk or getting a shallow single into the right field. So far this season, Duffy is batting .297/.395/.344. That has quickly shifted him from being a bench bat to an everyday player, especially with the early injury problems the Cubs have encountered. Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, and Jake Marisnick are all on the 10-day IL. It’s made the former catcher-turned-manager get creative when filling out the lineup card. Having someone like Duffy available certainly helps.
What’s Next For Duffy
It’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact Duffy will have on the Cubs’ overall success in 2021. His at-bats will probably decrease when everyone is back healthy, but it shouldn’t be anything drastic. Chicago is hovering around the .500 mark right now, but they seem to be becoming a more cohesive unit as the season goes on. These next two months are vital in determining the Cubs’ future. If they struggle, the team will possibly look different after the trade deadline in late July. Duffy is complementing his teammates very well right now, but none of that matters if he or other players become trade bait.