What's happened to J.D. Durbin?
I'm the Real Deal yes I'm the Real Deal all you other Real Deals are just kids meals now won't the Real Deal please stand up, please stand up, please stand up...because, seriously, dude, you've fallen off the radar, and I have no idea what's happened to you. Honestly, J.D., I'm a fan, because you've got some talent and I love talent in my Twins' system...but, dude, wtf?
As I began researching this post this morning, one of the first things I came across was this, which is mostly funny but maybe a little symbolic. It just sort of ends, like his appearance at the top of the Twins Prospects list. At the least you get a glimpse of the Durbin personna. Strangely enough I didn't really get into what he had to say. Whether that's because there wasn't much to get into or because what he had to say bored me, I'm not really sure.
The Real History
Durbin was drafted in June, 2000, in the second round of the amateur entry draft. He played only two games that year due to a sore right elbow, but in 2001 he jumped onto the fast track as one of the shooting stars in the Minnesota farm system. In 2002 the trend continued at age 20, winning Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Month in June. He won all 5 of his starts, pitching 36 innings, ringing up 34 and posting a 2.00 ERA. J.D. led his club in wins, ERA, GS and innings, and he led the league in strikeouts. He was named the 2002 winning of the Jim Rantz Award: Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
2003 brought more success, as he led the Twins' farm system in wins, GS, IP and strikeouts. Durbin played in the Futures Game, was named sixth best prospect in Florida State and Eastern Leagues by Baseball America, won Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May, and finally, Baseball America labeled him as the number four prospect in the Twins' system for 2004.
In what many thought would be his breakout season, Durbin had a mixed bag in 2004, and there were flashes of health issues to go with the highlight reels. In the winter preceeding the season he pitched for the USA baseball team that was unable to qualify for the Olympics. Back in the minors he went 4-1 with the Rock Cats, posting a 2.52 ERA. In May he went under the knife, getting arthroscopic surgery done on his right shoulder, and was out until July before he was called up to AAA in August. In his debut with the Red Wings he went seven shutout innings, allowing a meager four hits and fanning 13. He struck out 25 more over his remaining 29 innings to finish the year in Rochester, and then he was called up to The Show.
The Real Call Up
There was a lot of hype about the Real Deal by the time he was called up following the Mientkiewicz trade. Things didn't go as famously as you'd like, to say the least. Check out what Seth has to say as he breaks down Durbin's first start, it's a fantastic analysis as only Seth can do. Certainly, there were hints of what made Durbin such an exciting player, but in the autumn of 2004 it just wasn't there for J.D. Durbin.
In between all the solid numbers and the physical issues, there came up the issue of the Real Deal. Durbin coined this nickname for himself, and he appeared to take it very seriously. He was rumored to come charging off the mound after getting a third out on a strikeout yelling "That's how you do it! That's the Real Deal!" This is only a rumor.
During his first spring training with the Twins in the months preceeding the 2005 season, the confidence-turned-cockiness turned off some teammates, one of which was Brad Radke who implored Durbin to keep his mouth in check. While he had a fine start to the spring, the cockiness and the performance eventually caught up with him and he didn't smell the majors in 2005. Some of this was again due to ailments and health problems, and it had become clear that Durbin had all the talent in the world along with very little appropriate mental makeup.
Last season in Rochester had a few highlights, but mostly it was the worst statistical season in pro ball for Durbin. His WHIP continued to be a little high in spite of his VORP, as was his BABIP. These things will eventually catch up with you. Here are Durbin's stat lines over his span with the Twins.
Year Lvl Age W L ERA IP K/9 WHIP BABIP VORP
2002 A 20 13 4 3.19 161.0 9.11 1.21 --- ---
2003 A 21 9 2 3.09 87.1 7.11 1.09 .266 -0.7
2003 AA 21 6 3 3.14 94.2 6.65 1.38 .301 9.2
2004 AA 22 4 1 2.52 64.1 7.41 1.31 .302 12.2
2004 AAA 22 3 2 4.54 35.2 9.59 1.82 .421 -4.0
2004 MLB 22 0 1 7.36 7.1 7.36 2.45 --- ---
2005 AAA 23 5 5 4.33 104.0 7.79 1.42 .309 10.3
The Real Future
You read about the rumor of the loud Durbin, now there's a rumor that Durbin has learned to tone it down, even if just a little. He came into February with the mindset that he had to impress coaches, management and players alike with not just his incredible arm but his attitude as well. He voiced his desire to throw to Joe Mauer, with whom he feels he has a comfort level. In spring training he came out and did his job, but it wasn't anything nearly good enough to keep him around for further review as he was one of the first cuts this spring. For at least a few more weeks he's going to have to wait for another shot at The Show, if that shot comes. Reports are mixed so far, some saying he'll start in Rochester, while others speculate he'll be in the rotation after a career of starter-hype.
Durbin possesses a big-league fastball, clocked between 95-97 when he's fresh, and he's been known to dial it up to 98. He mixes this with a curveball-come-slurve-come-slider, which he can throw effectively or not on any given day. His changeup leaves a little to be desired, as it's velocity has been known to jump into the upper-80's. He still has things to learn.
If Durbin can find some accuracy, if he can throw his change or breaking ball(s) more consistently, he may earn himself at least one more shot. But for now his future has lost much of it's luster in spite of the fact that he's only 24. In a system so full of talented arms it's only going to get easier for the Real Deal to get lost in the shuffle, and the discussion on whether or not he should be traded has already begun.
What do you see in Durbin's crystal ball? Does he stay with the Twins, is he traded and if so for what, can he be traded? How do you deal with a player of Durbin's caliber--so much talent, so much unproven, so many coming up behind him? From me to you, J.D., get it together. I hate to see wasted talent.