Duane Below was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th-round of the 2006 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The 6′ 3″ southpaw is a starting pitcher in the Tigers farm system. He is 25 years-old this season and was born in Britton, Mi.
His arsenal isn’t very deep or overpowering but has proven to be effective thus far. Below features a fastball that sits between 88mph and 92mph. His secondary pitches consist of a curveball and change-up. The curveball sits at 76-78mph and the change-up hovers around 82mph.
Below was absolutely outstanding In his first full season of professional baseball in 2007. He racked up 160 strikeouts in 145 2/3 innings with the West Michigan Whitecaps. Below also record an impressive 13 wins with a 2.97 ERA.
I first had the opportunity to watch Below pitch in the Florida State League back in 2008. While the 4.46 ERA and 8-7 might not scream top tier prospect, his performance was very impressive in Advanced-A Lakeland. He continued to strikeout nearly a batter an inning and featured solid stuff in a difficult league.
Unfortunately Below was limited to just 40 innings in 2009 due to season ending Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2010 and logged 126 innings for the AA-Erie SeaWolves. Below posted a 7-12 record with a 4.93 ERA but allowed 17 homeruns. The results were impressive considering that he was just a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
This season Below is 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 10 starts for the AAA-Toledo Mud Hens. In 63 innings of work Below has recorded 48 strikeouts and held opposing batters to a .233 average. He continues to dominate left-handed batters–they are hitting just .154 against him this season. It’s also worth noting that all nine of the homeruns he’s surrendered were hit by right handed-batters. Last month Below was named the International League pitcher of the week. In that span he allowed just two runs and nine hits in 14 innings while leading all pitchers with 16 strikeouts.
While Below does posses the ability to go deep into games I believe his real value is in a long relief role. He holds lefties well enough to also draw potential interest as a LOOGy. With Jacob Turner, Andrew Oliver and Casey Crosby clawing there way to the show I don’t see realistically see Below cracking the rotation. For what its worth, I’d also put Charlie Furbush and Adam Wilk above him on the depth chart. His ability to miss bats and dominate left-handed batters will keep him in the discussion for a bullpen spot though. His production this season has definitely justified the decision to add him to the Tigers 40-man roster.
Keep an eye on Duane Below as he continues to earn his stripes down on the farm.