SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Duffy wasn’t supposed to be on the Opening Day roster, but he was too good last spring to send back to the minors. Duffy wasn’t supposed to be a starter for the Giants, but by the middle of May it became clear that he was too good to keep on the bench.
The breakthrough season was full of surprises, but Tuesday’s announcement wasn't one of them. As expected, Duffy is a finalist for the National League Rookie of the Year award, along with Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang.
Bryant, who hit 26 homers and drove in 99 runs, is the heavy favorite, but Duffy’s inclusion as a finalist in a loaded field shows just how far he has come in the past year.
After a three-month cameo as a bench contributor in 2014, Duffy headed to Scottsdale in February needing a tremendous spring to win a job. He hit .361 in his first big league camp and made the club as a utility infielder. As Casey McGehee struggled, Duffy impressed coaches with quality at-bats, heads-up plays and improving defense at third base -- a new position. Duffy took over for McGehee in May and never looked back.
The 24-year-old hit .295 with 12 homers and 77 RBI and played the most games (149) by a Giants rookie since Robby Thompson in 1986. Duffy played an NL-best 118 straight games to close out the season. Manager Bruce Bochy called Duffy “a savior.”
“I just pencil his name in every day,” Bochy said in September.
Duffy led National League rookies in hits (169) and multi-hit games (42) and finished second in runs (77), RBI (77) and total bases (245). He was third in triples (6) and fourth in doubles (28) and stolen bases (12). The production eventually earned Duffy a permanent home in the No. 3 spot in the order, just in front of Buster Posey.
Posey was the last Giant to have this kind of debut, and Duffy even edged Posey in several categories. He became the fourth Giants rookie since 1958 to drive in 70 runs, joining Orlando Cepeda, Jim Ray Hart and Chili Davis. Duffy’s 46 extra-base hits were the most by a Giants rookie since Davis had 52 in 1982.
Duffy came up as a shortstop and was supposed to play short, second, third, first and even left field this season, but he became a fixture at third base, and proved to be a strong defender there. In addition to being a Rookie of the Year finalist, Duffy is a Gold Glove Award finalist.
The Rookie of the Year winner will be announced Nov. 16 on MLB Network.