(2006) Eric Duncan: Yankees Star of the Future

Elvis Elvis

The best news out of the NY Yankees camp this spring is the major-league potential seen of Eric Duncan and so many of the club’s other prospects.The farm system seems to have been replenished. Funny how refraining from trading away top prospects over the past year makes the whole organization so much stronger in terms of back-up strength and replacement talent.

Eric Duncan is the Yankees highest-rated hitting prospect. Duncan, until this past weekend, was in his first big-league camp, and he was very impressive to say the least. When he was sent down to the Yanks’ minor-league camp on Sunday, he was hitting .414 (12 for 29) with 6 extra-base hits, including 2 home runs, and 8 RBI’s. No need to rush him. He is only 21. But Joe Torre noted that Duncan’s powerful left-handed stroke is “a legitimate swing.”

How the Yankees Discovered Eric Duncan

The Yankees discovered Duncan in their own backyard. Starring for Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, NJ, Duncan in his senior year hit .535 with 10 homers and 52 RBI’s, and the Yankees signed him after selecting him in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Duncan was a third baseman and was compared in several ways (body frame, swing, etc.) to Chipper Jones. Although Duncan started a bit slowly in the Yankees farm system, in his first full professional season in 2004, which Duncan split between two Class-A teams, Duncan’s combined stats included 63 extra-base hits (16 homers), 83 RBI’s and a .258 batting average in 129 games. Not bad at all for a 19-year-old.

(2006) Eric Duncan: Yankees Star of the Future

However, Duncan’s progress slowed down in 2005 playing at Double-A Trenton. He was not a very good third baseman and made 27 errors to lead Eastern League third basemen in that dubious category, and after slumping in July (.182) and suffering a concussion when he was beaned in August, he finished the year with rather pedestrian stats for such a highly touted prospect: 19 HR’s, 61 RBI’s, .235 BA. Worse, he appeared to be hopelessly blocked at third base with Alex Rodriguez playing the hot corner for the Yankees, now and into the foreseeable future.

Eric Duncan Groomed to Be Yankees’ First Baseman of the Future

In the Fall of 2005, Duncan went to the Arizona Fall League (AFL) to learn to play first base. There Duncan also regained his hitting stroke. In only 23 games, he hit .362, with 8 HR’s, and 27 RBI’s, .and he was named the AFL’s MVP.

Now in 2006, following an eye-popping spring camp with the Yankees, it appears that Duncan will play at Columbus and continue to be groomed as the Yankees’ first baseman of the future. Yes, he is still young and somewhat raw, but don’t be surprised if he plays an important role on the Yankees in 2007, possibly splitting first base and DH with Jason Giambi. It would not even be a stretch to see Duncan with the Yankees later this season taking aim at the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.

He is almost ready.