Who Is Adam Duvall, and Why Is He Suddenly a Big Deal?
The trade deadline swap between the Reds and Giants last summer featured Mike Leake as the centerpiece, but it’s another player involved in the trade that ended up making it significant. Adam Duvall is tied for second in the Majors with 20 home runs and has been one of the lone bright spots on the last place Cincinnati Reds. Duvall has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, especially considering he doesn’t have a true position and wasn’t even a lock to be on the Reds roster before the start of the season. So…where did Adam Duvall come from?
Duvall was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Louisville. He showed off some serious pop in the Minor Leagues, blasting 130 home runs (via Baseball-Reference.com). His power wasn’t projected to translate to the show, however, and he was used mainly as a platoon at first base after making his MLB debut with the Giants in June 2014. With the Reds last season, Duvall hit .219/.306/.484 with five homers in 72 plate appearances, hardly an auspicious indication of what his 2016 production could be. He was one of six Reds fighting for the starting left field job in Spring Training, eventually winning the starting job against left handed pitching while Scott Schebler took the at bats against righties.
After an incredible month of May that saw him hit .289 with 11 long balls and a massive .691 slugging percentage, Duvall won the left field job outright and hasn’t stopped his power display since. He paces the Majors with a rate of a homer in every 11.7 at bats and has a .333 isolated power score, second only to the great David Ortiz. Although he began the year taking his at bats against only lefties, he has actually performed better against righties, smashing 18 of his 20 home runs and sporting a .617 slugging percentage against RHP (stats via ESPN.com).
He also provides versatility. Most of his big league starts have come in left field, but he also has starts in right, at first, and at third so far this season. He’s a good defender, especially in left field. He has the second best Ultimate Zone Rating among left fielders, trailing only Gold Glover Starling Marte. His Defensive Runs Above Average score, which measures a player’s value relative to positional average and positional value relative to other positions, has him ranked fifth among left fielders, ahead of guys like Gerardo Parra, Christian Yelich, and Melvin Upton, Jr. His arm is also a weapon as he has saved 2.4 runs above average with his arm by preventing runners from advancing, second among left fielders only to Marte (defensive stats via FanGraphs).
His approach at the plate still needs some work as he has struck out 68 times so far this season with only nine walks, placing him in the bottom 10 in the Majors in BB/K. His questionable plate discipline coupled with a tendency to get pull happy means he might not ever hit for a high average, but his legit power and ability to play multiple positions well make him a huge asset for the rebuilding Reds. Highlights have been few and far between for Reds fans so far this summer, but the emergence of Adam Duvall should give them a reason to be optimistic moving forward.