Adam Duvall has started in left field for the Reds in 17 of their 25 games. It’s safe to refer to him as their every day left fielder. To win that job, Duvall had to beat out Scott Schebler and maybe Yorman Rodriguez, Tyler Holt and Jake Cave.

How should the Reds front office and Reds fans look at Duvall? It would be easy for our perception to be clouded by the thick fog of low expectations.The Reds as a team are off to a poor start on offense. The Reds have neglected left field for most of the past decade. Assumptions about the performance of a left fielder have hit rock bottom. We’re a bit like people crawling through the desert toward a mirage. When we find out there’s no water, we drink the sand because we don’t know the difference.

The truth is it’s way too early to develop a reliable opinion about Adam Duvall’s long-term promise. Data is still scarce. Duvall played a couple dozen games for the Giants in 2014 and about the same for the Reds in 2015. Compounding our ignorance is that Adam Duvall has been in the Reds organization for less than a year. Those of us who aren’t from Louisville don’t know a lot about him other than his name is similar to a former Reds left fielder.

Duvall’s Baseball Background

The San Francisco Giants selected Duvall in the 11th round of the 2010 amateur draft after his senior year playing for his hometown University of Louisville. He spent 2010 in low A, 2011 in A, 2012 in high A, 2013 in AA and 2014 in AAA. He also played in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues in 2013 and 2014.

Despite the big league cups of coffee in 2014 and 2015, Duvall is technically still in his first year as a major league player. The Reds control him for five more seasons. The earliest Duvall would be eligible for arbitration is 2019 and his free agency year would be 2022, his age-33 season.

Duvall’s Offense

In Duvall’s six minor league seasons, he hit .268 with an on-base percentage of .338 and isolated power of .235.

Duvall debuted for the Giants on June 26, 2014 at age 25. His power made an appearance that day. Duvall hit a home run of Mike Leake. Over the course of 2014, Duvall played in 28 games for the Giants. In 77 plate appearances, he hit .192/.234 (AVG/OBP) with isolated power of .150.

Duvall began the 2015 season rated in the range of the #20 prospect in the Giants system. He spent the first half of 2015 on the Giants AAA club in Sacramento. On July 30, the Giants traded Duvall, along with Keury Mella, one of the club’s top rated prospects, to the Reds for Mike Leake.

The Reds assigned Duvall to their AAA affiliate Louisville Bats, then promoted Duvall to the major league club last fall. He played in 27 games for the Reds and over 72 plate appearances Duvall hit .219/.306 with isolated power of .265. He struck out in 36 percent of his PA.

Duvall’s Defense

Adam Duvall was an infielder before his time with the Reds organization. He played third base for the University of Louisville. The Giants used him as a third baseman through his AA season. When Duvall got to AAA in 2014, the Giants had him begin to split time between 1B and 3B. When Duvall debuted with the Giants in 2014, he played first base. In 2015, then back in AAA, Duvall saw the field pretty evenly at 1B and 3B. He did play left field for 10 games in 2015 for Sacramento.

When the Reds sent Duvall to Louisville, he played 8 games at first base and 16 games in left field. After his promotion to Cincinnati, Duvall played 15 games in left. This season, he has played all but two games in LF. When Carter Bruce’s father was on paternity leave, Duvall played RF, apparently for the first time in his career.

Needless to say, the scouting reports on Duvall’s defense before joining the Reds don’t matter since he’s playing a different position. Early defensive metrics from this year, while positive, are meaningless as Duvall has only had a few dozen opportunities to make plays in the outfield.

(Side note: One of the troubling aspects of the Reds rebuilding plan for position players is that it contemplates Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez playing long-term roles in positions they have never played before. That seems unsound.)

Asking the Right Question

What should we make of Adam Duvall?

Let’s be clear what we’re asking.

The issue is NOT whether Adam Duvall is the best left fielder on the 2016 Cincinnati Reds. As the roster is currently configured, he is. But being better than a bunch of other players who aren’t good enough to be major league players doesn’t make you one. Since this is the rebuild-reboot year, Duvall’s fit on the 2016 team isn’t important.

Rather, what we need to determine is whether the Reds can pencil Duvall into left field for 2017 and beyond. Will Adam Duvall be the Reds LF when their window of competitiveness opens up again?

It’s too soon to know for sure. Again, too soon to know for sure.

But to establish the context for answering the question as we acquire more data consider this: The average major league left fielder bats .254 with an on-base percentage of .320 and isolated power of .150. He also has a wRC+ (weighted, adjusted runs created) of 101. Those numbers are based on the production of all major league LF over the past four season.

Let’s look at each of those numbers in isolation.

Can Adam Duvall hit .254? He hit .268 in the minor leagues. His batting average was .192 for the Giants and .219 for the Reds last year. He’s currently hitting .224 for the Reds. And even that number is inflated by a BABIP of. .333, nearly 60 points above his career number. The highest BABIP Duvall sustained in a minor league season was .320. So when Duvall’s hit-rate returns to normal, his batting average will land in the neighborhood of his 2014 and 2015 numbers.

Can Adam Duvall get on base at an average rate? We just looked at the hit component. The average walk-rate for a major league left fielder from 2013-2016 is 8.1 percent. In his 900+ plate appearances in AAA, Duvall’s walk-rate was 6.5 percent. It’s 5.6% this year. Duvall’s walk-rate for his 2014-15 time in the major leagues was 6.1 percent. Based on what he’s done throughout his professional career, it seems unlikely Adam Duvall will produce a walk-rate of 8.1 percent.

Can Adam Duvall hit for power at an average rate? Here the early signs are more encouraging. Duvall’s isolated power in the minor leagues was .235. In his short time with the Giants, it was .150. With the Reds, his isolated power has been .236. So it’s reasonable to expect Duvall to put up above average power numbers for a major league LF.

Here’s a way-too-early, shouldn’t-even-try-it projection for Adam Duvall’s offense: .210/.250/.430.

For many prospects, this would be the time to point out a level of youth and assert the player still has the chance to become better. But Adam Duvall turns 28 in September. That’s a heavy, wet blanket smothering the hope that Duvall will sustain significant improvement. With his defense in the outfield entirely unproven, it takes a Grand Canyon-sized leap of faith to conclude that the Reds have found their post-rebuild everyday left fielder.

How about a right-handed power bat off the bench with the ability to spot start in LF and 1B? There’s nothing wrong with that future for Duvall.

The fact that Jesse Winker is still playing LF every night in Louisville is a good indication where this is headed.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 29 Comments

  1. Duvall isn’t going to beat out Winker for LF but those were a couple of good Metz pitchers (Thor/ Harvey) that turned him every which way but loose this past week and made a serious dent in his small sample data. It was disappointing he didn’t do anything versus Liriano; but, there are also other indications that he could be a reverse platoon split guy.

    He could turn out to be a lot like Hiesey. Spotted into situations where he is going to see fastballs, if the fastball is not top drawer, he will do damage.

    • I agree with you that Duvall is keeping the seat warm for Winker. Hiesey is a good comparison. The versatility that Duvall displays just isn’t what the Reds need in a LF. They need a stud LF.
      Duvall can play LF, 1B, 3B, and RF. It makes for a nice bench player, but also as a nice complimentary piece in a trade when the Reds start trading some pitching. Personally, I like him for the bench. He has already displayed some PH power off the bench.

  2. Duvall……..placeholder for Jesse. However, there’s still the elephant in the room—what to do about Bruce and Cozart? If you think the pitching will come fast and your competitive window opens up in 2017, maybe you hold onto them. If you don’t, then a second sell-off begins with those two as the centerpieces. Likewise, moving someone like Disco or Homer also can’t be ruled out.

    I have a feeling things will get a little bit worse before they get better. And yet, I could also see things turning sooner than expected if Stephenson/Reed/Lamb/Winker/Peraza/Lorenzen all come up in a few weeks.

    • I agree (sadly) that Cozart is a good trade chip. I bet the Reds decision on that depends in part on if they think the idea of trading Phillips is hopeless. If that’s the case, Peraza would become the shortstop. If the Reds thought they could move Phillips, then Peraza could play second and Cozart could be held as a reasonably valuable piece for the 2017 Reds.

      • I opine that the idea of trading Brandon Phillips is as hopeless as hopeless can be. They could release him, bench him, or put him on the 60-day DL with “old man- itis”, but he’s not going to be traded.

    • Lorenzen might be July at best?

      • Lorenzen, yeah, July, at best I think. He was discussed on Reds radio last week. i can’t recall whether it was in the beat reporters sound byte or Marty doing his pregame with Price. However, the outlook was not optimistic for any sort of quick or even early return. A guy with virtually zero body fat to start with lost 20Lbs during mono. They got to get that back on him. Then he is has to start his throwing program from scratch (I believe the term was used “like January”). At that point, I think he had just started long tossing off flat ground.

  3. From the small sample I’ve seen of Duvall….he seems to press with risp. Career wise so far….he’s 6-42 (.143) with 20K’s! That’s obv not going to cut it but the ball jumps off the guys bat and he’s the kind of guy that could do major damage at GABP when he’s right. He’s better than expected defensively so maybe he could alternate platooning w/Winker and Bruce at some point? This is a lost year anyway so I would call BP in and tell him “We know what you can do but we have to see what Duvall can do so he’s batting cleanup and you’re batting 6th, 7th, etc.” I think he might surprise us or K his way back to Lville but what do the Reds have to lose? They need to test these guys as often as possible. Some guys are late developers….back to this Logan Forsythe guy from the Rays:
    2013 age 26 .214 6 HRs
    2014 age 27 .223 6 HRs
    2015 age 28 .281 17 HRs
    2016 age 29 .337 4 HRs

    Some guys just get it later in their careers or PEDs? Doubt Duvall falls in that category but bat him cleanup for a few months and find out?

  4. I like Duvall, but I agree with your conclusion that he is best served as a backup LF/1B in the future. He also played 417 games in the minors at 3B, so I’d assume he’d be a capable backup there. I’d love a guy with power and position flexibility to have on the Reds bench.

    The eye test for me is that he is an above average defensive LF. The defensive metrics (while a very small sample size) agree. He has 3 Defensive Runs Saved and 13.8 UZR/150 in 171 innings at 1B, and 3 Defensive Runs Saved and a 28.3 UZR/150 in 255 innings at LF. The average UZR/150 is 0 and the average Defensive Runs Saved is 0. Very small sample size, but encouraging nonetheless.

    • Agreed.

      Duvall as an OF/3B/1B bench bat is probably the exact kind of bench guy you want. Wish he didn’t K so much, but if he didn’t, he’d probably be a starter somewhere.

  5. I’ll just toss this out there…

    Given Duvall’s batted ball profile, average to below-average speed, and hard hit rates, his expected BABIP right now is .325. (This particular model has an adjusted r-squared of .456 between BABIP and xBABIP).

    If he continues to hit line drives at a good rate and hit the ball hard a very good rate, we should expect his BABIP to remain above average. Line drive rate doesn’t begin to stabilize for a long time, but hard-hit rates stabilize rather quickly.

    Without minor league batted ball data, though, this is all just speculation!

  6. Here is a question.
    What team currently sports a #4 hitter with 1 HR, 7 RBI, an ISO of .130 and a line of .273/.313/.403 in 21 games and 83 PA’s??
    Cincinnati and BP.
    This should be the Reds #7 hitter behind Duval at #6. I’ rather give Barnhart AB’s at #4 than give them to BP.

    • Yep. BP as a clean-up hitter is one of life’s great mysteries.

      Have a column forthcoming about BP’s performance in different lineup slots over his career.

      • That will be interesting. I hope you don’t prove that dropping him in the order would be a bad thing. I look forward to it.

      • Seems like his skill set and the team’s lack thereof, BP should be the leadoff, Cozart bats 3, Bruce hits clean-up

    • Considering his defense, I’m thrilled with BP’s overall play. I’m even happy that he’s managing to hit fairly well. The 4-hole though? Seriously? Yeah, I agree that it needs to stop.

    • Love the BarNHART talk. But how about trying Tucker in the leadoff spot? He seems to get on a lot. What are is stats for getting on base? Are they better than everybody elses?

  7. The answer to your question is obvious.

    Duvall is our LFer until we get someone better.

    That someone is liekly Winker. Or it may be someone from outside the organization, if such a move would ever come to pass. But until such a time, Duvall is our LFer.

    • I will start chomping at the bit around june 1 for winker if he is still playing well at louisville. duvall would be in my rear view mirror as a backup.

  8. When spring training opened, the Reds had 4 prospects looking to make a mark and lay claim future playing time (Duvall, Schebler, Cave & Holt). If just one of those OF candidates provided a performance during the 2016 season to claim regular playing time for 2017 and going forward, the rebuild/reboot for 2016 would have a significant boost.

    Cave is gone…returned to the Yankees from a squandered rule 5 selection.

    Schebler has floundered with a sub .600 OPS and that’s after 2 gift doubles in the Reds extra inning win against the Bucos.

    Duvall looked good with a an unsustainable .927 OPS through his 1st 11 games, but the 36.7% SO% and the 5.7% BB% simply won’t fly and Duvall’s performance tanked over his last 8 games to the tune of a .429 OPS. His LF defense has been a pleasant development, but Duvall does look like nothing more than a utility (1B/3B/LF) option going forward.

    Now, may I redirect your attention from center stage toward the backstage curtain for the one remaining candidate for regular playing time after 2016?

    LF has and is a traditionally masher position reserved for the big bat and weak fielder who simply needs a place to play so his bat gets in the lineup. That’s what the ‘BOOK’ says in bold print. The Reds are locked in and committed to Hamilton in CF for better or worse, so we’ll just take that as a given and move forward. The Reds still need a leadoff hitter or top-of-the-order hitter to get on base and set the table. In addition to the black hole in LF for the past decade, the leadoff position has also been a black hole for the past decade.

    Tyler Holt is still on the roster and don’t look too hard or his performance might slap you across the face. Holt plays stellar OF defense. Holt also gets on base, a lot! While the focus has been dedicated to Duvall and Schebler for the 1st month of the 2016 season, Holt has rather dramatically produced a .772 OPS and that’s with a .048 ISO! Holt is once again demonstrating superior on-base skills with a .391 OBP.

    Let’s not ignore an opportunity staring the Reds directly across four seams. LF doesn’t HAVE to be dedicated to a masher. The have have a real need for someone to get on base and hit at the top-of-the-order and defensive runs saved are equally valuable as offensive runs produced. Holt can provide offensive runs produced with his on-base skills and speed. Holt will also provide defensive runs saved with his speed and OF defense. Everyone else has been provided an opportunity and stumbled, give Holt the same chance. With regular playing time, Holt may also fail miserably, but so has everyone else who has been handed the opportunity. Maybe Holt surprises and simply does what he has done his entire career: play stellar defense and provide superior on-base skills.

    • That makes way too much sense.

      I have long felt, and Starling Marte is proving it for the Pirates, that teams ought to put a guy with an excellent throwing arm in left field. The leftfielder actually throws more than the other two outfielders, and the throws are generally to home, or to second to get the hitter. The LF throw to the plate is exactly the same as the RF throw to the plate, and ditto with the throw to second. The throw to third base is the major difference.

      I don’t know if Holt can throw, but I generally agree that he is the most productive option. Or Mesoraco, which is its own topic.

      • You need cheap flyball hitting power in GABP though? The fences are too short and the outfield too small for 2 slap-happy pappy’s. I like Holt though!

    • that just makes way too much sense for the walt jockety, Bryan Price Reds.

      I look at the Phillies and Pete McKanin and think what could be with this roster.

      I have no idea why we never gave Pete a better chance. All that guy does is over-achieve.

      great analysis you old Cossack you. Right now, you need somebody else in LF. DeJesus had a hot had last year, shoot, I would even try him there.

      McKanin probably would have had Mesoraco there a long time ago in figuring out his bat value plays much better in LF than on the DL as a catcher

      Joey Votto came up as a catcher. Glad we moved him

      • You had me up until Mesoraco being moved. The Reds need to see if he can provide value behind the plate. They need to see if he can catch regularly. So far, it isn’t looking too good. Maybe the right way to go will be to move him to LF but they need to use this season to see if he can catch because a good hitting catcher is more valuable in general than a good hitting LF. The comparison to Votto is almost an apple to orange type comparison. Mr. Votto was a horrible defensive catcher and there were serious doubts he could stay there as a professional even even when he was drafted. That wasn’t true of Mesoraco.

    • God bless you Old Cossack.

  9. Mute point Duvall is the best we have for the right now. Nothing else matters until Winker is playing in Left every day. Maybe Duvall can get just hot enough to make him look like a good trade piece to make room for Jesse.

  10. Not a big leaguer just because he is in the majors.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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