Royals left-hander Danny Duffy didn’t just witness the organization’s last run of dominance in the minor leagues, he was firmly in the middle of it.
If nothing else comes from the four minor league championships that Royals affiliates won this season — in the Dominican Summer League, Pioneer League (Advanced Rookie), South Atlantic League (Low-A) and Carolina League (High-A) — Duffy hopes the experience sticks with the players the way it sticks with him nine years into his big league career.
Duffy was part of championship teams at Low-A, Double-A and multiple title-winning squads at Triple-A. He was part of the Royals’ wave of homegrown players who progressed through the farm system together and eventually became the core of back-to-back World Series teams and the 2015 championship-winning club.
“One of my fondest memories in the minor leagues was after I quit and I came back, we won the Double-A title when I was in the Texas League,” Duffy said. “I didn’t think that I was ever going to come back. Then all of a sudden I felt this big old bear paw in the center of my back, it was slapping my back and I turn around. It was (Eric Hosmer) and he was like, ‘Hey man, first of many.’ And he gave me a hug. He was right.”
Duffy still remembers the moment vividly even after playing with Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others on one of sports’ biggest stages, the MLB playoffs and World Series.
While Duffy acknowledged the major leagues are a “way different animal,” he also stressed the importance of soaking in the triumphs along the way to the majors. In his estimation, being the best team at any level shouldn’t be downplayed.
“It’s really important to enjoy and take in everything you accomplish as a unit,” Duffy said. “It’s really cool. Those kids are going to remember that for the rest of their lives. If everything works out correctly, they’ll be able to do some really cool things at the major-league level too.”
Duffy, a third-round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, played in a farm system that Baseball America dubbed the top organization in baseball in 2011. Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Duffy, Wil Myers and right-hander Jake Odorizzi were individually ranked among the top 100 prospects in the sport.
“We talk about putting the organization back in a good spot,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Everyday, we’re getting closer and closer. Not only are we looking at the Doziers, Solers, Mondesis up here, but they’re having success at the minor-league level. We had four affiliates win championships. That’s great news for the future. That’s all part of the — I guess you’d say recovery process — of the organization.”
Yost called that type of success in the minors vitally important, and he pointed to winning clubs during his time with the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and the Royals as examples.
“Now, you gotta have at Double-A and Triple-A too, but it’s coming,” Yost said. “Those teams are all bunched up right there. They’ve got it. They’ll mix in down the road with the Kowars and the Singers and the Lynchs, it’s going to be fun to watch the next three and four and five years.”