Swifty Jeff Duncan Looking For a Chance

Publisher
Posted Jun 22, 2006


Despite all their success over the past few seasons, Dodger farm teams haven't exactly been overstocked with exciting baserunners. So, they've had to reach out to other systems to fill the need. Came up with some pretty good ones, too.

In 2004 it was Alex Requena. Swiped 50 bags for Vero Beach. Trouble was he couldn't hit so it was "bye, bye". Last season, they acquired Todd Donovan, who mostly played for Jacksonville. Was he good? Absolutely for his 65 stolen bases led all the minors. Still, he was older (28), not a true prospect so, he hit the road as well.

So, it was try, try again time and they seem to have come up with better than ordinary replacement. He's Jeff Duncan, a 27-year-old acquired via free agency in January and currently playing center field for Las Vegas. And, of course, running the bases.

Duncan, who played college ball at Arizona State, was once regarded highly by the Mets who felt he could become their center fielder. But after 69 games with them, spread over 2003-04 that resulted in a .182 average, they decided he wasn't the answer. Last year, he drifted over to the Padres after the Mets released him, got into 22 games for Mobile, hit .300 but San Diego let him go to free agency, anyway.

So, he knows what it means to be rejected. Part of the problem has been that his bat isn't exactly juiced for one or two home runs a season is about his norm. Oddly, he has a quick stroke that looks like it should supply power but the ball doesn't go sailing off to the great beyond, despite that.

But he surely can motor once he gets on. In six minor league seasons, he's swiped 144 bases while being caught only 32 times. Clearly, this guy knows where he's going and how to get there.

That's what he's been doing lately for Vegas, having collected eight steals in 10 attempts. He hits at the top of the order, naturally and he's been doing that, too. At the beginning of the year, he had troubles at the plate so was sharing time in center. Now, though, he's pushed his average up to a very respectable .284 so has been in there most every day.

Oh, he's quite adept in the field, too for, as you might suspect, his speed allows him to cover ground in sometimes spectacular fashion.

If you can hit and are among the swift, why you're a Kenny Lofton. Well, the Dodgers have him now. But they are looking for a possible backup in center with Jason Repko currently hobbling about on crutches. They're busy talking deals with other clubs for an impact player but are reluctant to hand over a treasured prospect.

So, if they settle for a guy who can cover ground, make the plays and help your offense, why, Duncan may be the man. He may have come third in line behind Requena and Donovan but he looks like they have a keeper at last.


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