Adam Duvall came to the Reds as the second piece of the Mike Leake trade at the 2015 mid-season deadline. Duvall had played 3B and 1B in the San Francisco Giants organization with a one-tool reputation of hitting with power. The Giants had given Duvall only 77 major league plate appearances by the middle of his age-26 season.

Upon his arrival to the Reds organization, the front office assigned Duvall to play left field for his hometown Louisville Bats. That’s also the position he manned during a September call-up with the Reds.

Gertrude Stein said that coffee gives you time to be yourself, and have a second cup. Duvall’s cup of coffee at Great American Ball Park qualified. In his 72 plate appearances, he hit .219 with a walk-rate of 8.3 percent while striking out a whopping 36 percent of the time. But Duvall’s power revealed itself. He hit for isolated power of .265 (the major league average was .150). Of course, it was too short of a try-out to learn much, but there were positive signs in the mix.

In 2016, the Reds gave Adam Duvall the left field job out of spring training and he played enough to receive 608 plate appearances. That’s a larger sample size, but the erratic nature of his production makes it difficult to characterize his 2016 as a whole. In general, Duvall hit well above average for power. His isolated power (.257) was comparable to what he had shown with the Reds in 2015 (.265) and the numbers he’d produced for the Giants AAA club (.266) earlier in 2015.

Duvall’s 2016 walk-rate (6.7) was a little low and strikeout rate (27.0) a little high, but within the mainstream of the league. Overall, Adam Duvall produced runs slightly (4 percent) better than a league average hitter.

But if you break Duvall’s season into segments, evaluation becomes … complicated. He started off ice cold, went nuts for 6 weeks, then returned for the rest of the year to the level of his early season woes.

Obviously, we need a chart to help figure this out. Here’s one that shows his production before, during and after a crazy-hot six-week period in May and June.

[Caveat: Arbitrary endpoints are the devil’s workshop.]


Duvall struggled in April. Even his anemic batting average of .226 was kept afloat by an out-of-whack .357 BABIP, 80 points above his career number. He struck out nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances. Duvall hit 2 home runs and drove in 5 runs – in a month. That’s on pace for 12 homers and 30 RBI. In April, Duvall produced runs at a rate 13 percent below league average. Did writing this about him on May 2 cause what happened the next day?

For six weeks, Adam Duvall mashed like nobody’s business. From May 3 to June 18, Duvall hit 18 home runs with a .278 average (.258 BABIP); he produced a stratospheric isolated power of .411. Yes, Duvall walked only 3 percent of the time but he also slashed his strikeout rate to 23.7%. He was swinging early, often and connecting. For six glorious weeks, Duvall’s wRC+ was MVP-class 152. (Perspective: Joey Votto produced a wRC+ of 158 for the 2016 season.)

Bruce Springsteen wrote about growin’ up. Those month-long vacations in the stratosphere, it’s really hard to hold your breath. Facing the kind of competition in the major leagues that makes you grow up real fast, Adam Duvall fell back to earth. From June 19 to October 2 – fully 60 percent of the season – Duvall was back to hitting below average. He batted .227, which is in line with April 2016 and September 2015. On the plus side, Duvall’s ISO was .196. That’s the level of power he had shown in April and above the norm. But overall, Duvall produced runs 12 percent below league average.

Adam Duvall’s inconsistency may evoke memories of Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. But Bruce produced at 20 percent above league average from 2010-13. Frazier did likewise in 2012, 2014-15. Duvall was just 4 percent above average in 2016 adding the good to the bad.

It’s tempting to think of Adam Duvall as a young player, with a nice little place in the stars waiting ahead of him. But Duvall is too far along the MLB aging curve to expect improvement. It’s possible, but against the odds. Jay Bruce was age 23-26 during those seasons, Todd Frazier 26-29. When the Reds look to contend in 2018, Adam Duvall will be 29.

Which narrative makes the most sense?

  1. Adam Duvall is a guy who produces in spurts. His numbers over an entire season will add up to being a bit above average. Or,
  1. Adam Duvall is the guy he was for more than 70 percent of 2016. The six weeks in May-June were an anomaly. The Giants didn’t have Duvall on the fast track. Duvall was something between a throw-in and headliner in the Leake trade. Or,
  1. Adam Duvall will learn from his first full major league season and the productive periods will become more frequent. Maybe he’ll hit like Todd Frazier at roughly the same age. Or,
  1. Pitchers adjusted to Duvall after his hot six weeks and head-turning appearance in the Home Run Derby. Duvall’s dreary second-half production is his current stasis point. Can’t blame his slump on the Derby it started a full month before his first back … back … ack.

Projecting Adam Duvall’s 2017 season is fraught with uncertainty. The good news is the Reds don’t really need to unless Duvall’s name finds its way into trade discussions. ‘Tis the season of sorting not contending, and Duvall is Exhibit A. However, by the end of 2017, Duvall’s meaningful track record will have just about doubled. Same with the data on his promising defense in LF.

Will Adam Duvall be a valuable contributor in 2018 and beyond? Ask me in a year.

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! 37 Comments

  1. Duvall is one of the stranger cases to come along in awhile. The good is too good to write off without further data. And while arbitrary end points are so… arbitrary, six weeks is not trivial. But the bad is thoroughly unremarkable and 400+ plate appearances is even less trivial. I see three options, offered here in order of (my personal) descending preference. 1) Get him 400+ more at bats in a platoon or rotating outfield setup with Schebler, Hamilton and Winker and evaluate again after more info is available. I’d really like to know how much of the second half decline was related to the fatigue of his first full, long, MLB season. 2) Trade high. 3) Give him another full year in left and reevaluate after 2017. I don’t like the last option much because of the opportunity cost on assessing Schebler and/or Winker. All that said, what a nice change to have players to evaluate with upside as high as the four Reds outfielders now! That has been a long time coming.

    • I want to know how much of his second half fall off was related to his health.

      I am not close to diabetics and cannot imagine what it would be like trying to hit or recognize exploding breaking stuff when you are physically fuzzy.

      I know the Mickey Mantle Yankees could do it. Let’s hope Duvall can learn to play through his hangover like scenario

      • This is a good point. It further complicates projecting Duvall. Was his health a factor? Will it always be a factor?

        • On Reds Radio earlier in season Duvall wears a monitor under his uniform for his diabetes…so must be pretty serious…

        • The fact that he wears a glucose monitor doesn’t tell us anything about the severity. In fact the word severity is misleading when it comes to type 1 diabetes. There is no such thing as a “mild case” of type 1. It’s either well controlled or its not. And considering that Duvall has access to excellent doctors, nutritionists, and the fact that he is a pro athletes with millions of reasons to take care of his body, I would say there is a 99 percent chance that it is well controlled at this point.

          That doesn’t mean he doesn’t face challenges. Exercise and heat can both change how the body burns glucose and it can change the insulin needs. Not enough insulin and the glucose gets high and you feel bad. Too much insulin , the glucose gets low and you feel really bad. But having a continuous monitor makes it a lot easier for Duvall and his doctor to watch these things.

          What’s interesting about Duvall is that he was diagnosed with type 1 pretty late in life. You have to wonder how much it affected his minor league numbers before he was diagnosed.

        • something (thankfully) I have no experience with…just knew it kinda shocked me to hear it.Makes me appreciate the guy even more…I always like rooting for underdogs…

  2. IMHO the difference between good players and great players is consistency…..also makes Bryan Price’s job a lot easier if he knows what to expect from Adam when he’s penciled into batting order.I have my doubts….I’m guessing door number 4,that opposing pitchers have adjusted to Duvall and found his Kryptonite.But I think you about have to start 2017 season with Duvall full time in LF and see if he’s able to adjust.And also because I’m not 100% sold on Winker….I go to a few Louisville Bats games every season and not sure Jesse is the answer either…

    • Jesse may not be the answer, but he certainly should be given an extended shot to show what he can do. When a 22 year old puts up a .390 OBP in AAA, that’s enough to earn a season in the bigs showing what you can do. Even if he regresses the normal 15-20ish % most players do when transitioning (good players regress less), he’ll have the 2nd best OBP on the team behind Votto.

      Not saying he’ll be the king or anything… just that he needs a shot…and soon. Like, April 18th. 😉 (I think that’s when the Reds can squeeze the extra year or service time.)

      • A .390 OBP is a lot less impressive when you have a .370 slugging percentage and have no defensive or base running value. The correlation between OBP and power seems a lot stronger in the majors than in the minors. There are always a few exceptions, but in general if you don’t hit for power in the bigs then you don’t get on base much either. Jesse needs to find his power again before he gets to Cincinnati because, honestly, a Jesse Winker with no power is not really any better than Duvall or Schebler.

        As for Duvall, he is a nice player to have either way. Maybe he turns out to be more of a 4th outfielder/ power bench bat. Something like 2011 Chris Heisey without the ability to play center field. Still valuable, cheap, and controllable through his prime years.

        • Couldn’t have said it better myself….when I think of a quality OF I always think of Eric Davis,when he was healthy he could do it all.And I’m not a huge believer in OBP myth,there’s so much more to the game than one number so I really don’t rely on it much.My other rub with Jesse though is he just seems to be going thru the motions,don’t see any hustle in the guy….maybe Delino DeShields needs to light a fire under Winker too…..

        • Sure. I’d rather have a SLG that was 50% above average than an OBP that was 50% above average. After all, SLG has a slightly higher correlation to runs scored than OBP (and has since the end of the dead ball era).

          And sure, a Winker with no power isn’t any better than Duvall or Schebler, but he’s several years younger, and thus, more likely to make strides. The objective is not the field the best team you can in 2017. The objective is to prepare a team for 2018/19, and Winker might be a cog in that team.

          But really…every time someone brings up the power argument, I always ask “How much power does he need to show?”

          Do you think he needs to prove he can slug .430? .470? .510? Does he get called up the day after he “proves” that? How many PA does he need to prove it over? If he bats .305/.410/.395 do you keep him rotting in AAA because “HE CAN’T EVEN SLUG .400!!!” Eventually, you have to come to the conclusion that you have a talented hitter that might be able to help the ballclub and you have to bring him up. And power peaks in the 26-28 range anyways, so if he is simply an average-path hitter, he should show more power in the future than he did last year.

        • Bob… what do you mean “OBP” myth? Yes, there is more to the game than one number. I completely agree. Just because that is the case doesn’t mean you can’t look at a .390 OBP for a 22 year old at AAA and appreciate what that single number means.

          The funny thing is, if Winker were slugging .530, but with a .250 OBP, people would be clamoring for him to up because he’d be “young” and have “pop”, even though .530 SLG and .390 OBP are about the same in terms of value, holding all else equal.

          If you folks are wanting Jesse to hit 30 HR (or some other arbitrary power metric) to “prove” he’s good enough to play in MLB, then you are the ones who aren’t looking at the whole picture

        • Well I think that’s pretty obvious,fans (make that fans younger than me 🙂 always seem to fall back on OBP being the beat-all end-all stat….that one number you just have to have to be a quality player.And I don’t see it like that….especially in this day of Saber and that endless chase to describe how a player does on the field with a number.And I’ll go back again to Eric Davis….didn’t have to hide his defensive play at 1st base,he had great value as a center fielder….had excellent base running skills….had power…could hit for average….had what I call baseball savvy,he didn’t make many mistakes on the field…when he was healthy he had no weakness’s.And I’m not saying you shouldn’t give Winker his chance,that is really the only way to find what you have in him.But what I am saying….is Jesse Winker the kind of player you ride to post season??To me that should be goal of this rebuild…if Cincy goes thru this and comes out in 2020 with a mediocre team,I’m gonna be real disappointed and now is the time to plan and avoid that.

        • To Patrick:

          No, I don’t think there is a certain slugging percentage he needs to reach or a certain number of homers before he gets called up. My point was that a high minor league OBP doesn’t seem very predictive if it isn’t accompanied by power.

          See Tyler Holt. A lot of folks were excited because of the nice OBP numbers he put up in the minors. But guys with that skillset, low power, average hit tool, lots of minor league walks, don’t seem to do well in the majors unless they grow into some power. What guys in the majors are putting up .270/.380/.350 lines? Ryan Hannigan did something like that for a year or two, but his walk rate was likely inflated by hitting in front of the pitcher. Who else?

          And guys like Rose and Boggs who could hit .300 and draw a ton of walks without hitting more than 10 homers don’t seem to exist these days either. And you have to remember that both of those guys drove a ton of balls into the gap even if they didn’t get many over the fence. Winker wasn’t even getting many doubles last year.

          To make it clear though: I still like Winker. Have seen him several times in person and love his approach and hit tool. Its just that those walks are gonna dry up if he doesn’t start driving the ball. And I think he will. Just don’t see the point in rushing him before he shows he can do it in AAA.

        • C’mon, Bob. Don’t be so disingenuous. A “quality” player by which we will compare other prospects is Eric Davis? You know as well as I do that ED was more than just a “quality” player. When healthy, he was a HOF caliber player. We’d all love to have a roster full of those guys. But failing that, there are plenty of “quality” players, albeit with less talent than ED, that can positively contribute to a winning team.

          I feel like you’re trying to bait Patrick and others with your false argument over the significance of OBP. Nobody is arguing that it’s the “end all, be all” statistic though, I don’t think the focus on the merits of that one stat is your goal here. But why be so defensive and insecure? Even old guys have room to grow and appreciate new ways of looking at things. The ones that don’t are relegated to irrelevance.

        • Mr Red….sorry if I came across like that because I’m not trying to bait anybody but that is how I see it.And I use Eric the Red as an example because those are the type of players Reds need to make post season…guys that can contribute at the plate,on the base path and in the field.Obviously…can’t find (or afford) a team of ED’s but IMHO that’s the kind of player I want Reds to pursue….players who are talented in all aspects of the game.The original topic was Jesse Winker and it was mentioned (and I agree) Jesse is weak in RF and and on base path.Having a great OBP doesn’t compensate for that….

  3. (Not written directly to you, Steve, since I know you know this.)

    Something very important to most hot streaks, especially ones fueled by power, is HR/FB%. Like BABIP, this is a stat that can get out of whack for awhile, but normalizes given enough ABs.

    A common-sense way to think about it is this… What’s better, a 340ft fly ball or a 400ft fly ball? If that’s the only information you are given, every single person will pick the 400ft fly ball. But, in small sample sizes (like Duvall’s 6wk hot streak), you can get 340ft homers down the line, and/or 400ft fly outs to deep center. If things break your way, people will think you’re a star. If they don’t break your way, you’re a bum! It’s all in the variation.

    So, Duvall’s HR/FB% during that hot period was 31.6%. Nearly 1 in 3 balls he put in the air left the yard.

    For the season, Ryan Braun led the majors at 28.8%. Joey Votto led the Reds at 22.0%. Adam Duvall was at 17.8%.

    Put me down for #2 on the list.

    • Echo a #2 for me … most of the reasons listed for that sound about right.

      The reason I replied here was to as you (Patrick) how Lil’ Jeter is getting on? +5000 in his stocking from me!!

  4. In my opinion, the Reds should have traded him last year after the All-Star game appearance when his trade value was at its greatest height. He’s too old. Granted, that’s cold-hearted, but winning baseball championships should be this team’s business.

    • Concerning his trade value, I don’t assume that other organizations don’t have access to the information Steve (and Patrick) have presented, so I don’t assume that he would bring much back in a trade. And he’s not too old. Yes, I know, there are large-scale statistical models which support the idea that, on average, players will begin to decline at a given age, but those do not apply directly to individual players. Exceptions are legion, so decisions about particular players need to based on that player, in addition to macro-trends. Duvall’s health may have been a factor in his end of season slump, since he played a good deal more than he usually has. But platooning could possibly address that, as could his adjustment to his changed circumstances. Don’t write off his excellent defense, and don’t write off his evidently increased selectivity at the plate toward the end of the season. Should he get the left field job by acclamation? No, but somebody should have to unseat him. There’s right field, too, and Schebler’s improvement, while a hopeful sign, needs to be demonstrated as real. If–when–Winker makes the Reds, they’d still need four outfielders, so it wouldn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

      • The Reds could not have gotten anything of value for Duvall. I never heard a single rumor on him (and that is unusual). Maybe they could get a A ball pitcher with no control or a nonhitting utility infield prospect. They are better off keeping him, as he is cheap.

  5. Duvall played 1B and 3B in the Giants organization. How was his defense at those positions? Even if his play going forward more closely represents his June-October, his power could be useful off the bench and backing up the corner infield and outfield.

    • His defense at 3B was reported as “abysmal”. I am sure he is better than Joey at 1B but so what.

      Actually, his defense may be like Ryan Braun (or Alex Gordon). Braun was a terrible 3B but good LF, Gordon a mediocre 3B and terrific LF.

  6. Put me down for #2 on the list. I like Duvall. I like the way he plays and hustles up the baseline. I don’t know how many infield hits he had this year but for a guy that many deemed slow, I think he did fairly well, as well as staying out of double plays, I think that is important. But the bottom line is he is still a place holder for left field. It would not upset me if he starts 2017 in LF. It would upset me if he blocks Winker after the Reds get the extra year of service for him. I think both Duvall and/or Schebler could be could be good bench players but if they both start all year that will be a waste of 2017.

  7. No matter what happens next, Duvall has outperformed the value he represented in the SF trade. That is to say: the Reds won that very isolated portion of the trade by a long shot (so kudos to them). His current league wide status is partially due to the flawed way in which we establish All-Stars / HR derby participants, as noted above by his very nicely timed streak.

    I’m really on the fence about trading him. Maybe he’s another Edwin Encarnacion, but with a glove – a guy who blooms and maintains late. Now, EE was a highly regarded prospect who put it together for Toronto late, there are other differences I understand, but we’d need to get trade value equivalent to “this guy is the next EE” and not “this guy is Brady Anderson and will be out of the league in 3 years.”

    As far as learning about big league pitching, sadly I think it’s usually the other way around. Maybe he can enroll at JoeyMVP University and learn a thing or two (Bham is a sophomore at JMVP U I hear).

  8. Duvall’s last year of arbitration will be for the 2021 season. He provides power, for a team that was 23rd in home runs in 2016.

    Buying power isn’t cheap. Matt Holliday is getting $13 million in 2017, despite him turning 37 next month, being a defensive liability and not producing 1.0 fWar in either of the last 2 seasons.

    The Reds may eventually have to get creative with his position(s) to get him enough at-bats, but I can’t see why they would not keep him and figure out his potential.

  9. I wonder how many pitches he saw per AB during his streaks. Based on those numbers; when he swung the bat he was far better than resting it on his shoulders. As his walk% went up his hitting went down, based on those numbers.

    • Remeber that pitchers changed how they pitched him also. I personally doubt he hits 30HR next year because 1) they know him now 2) who else other than Votto in this lineup scares anyone.

      Success for me would be 500PA .245/.310/.470 which would mean he takes some walks but hits lots of doubles and 24-27 HR. More over, is not depended on as the cleanup hitter 7 days a week.

    • Several weeks ago, I looked at Duvall’s season in just two segments, before and after the ASB.

      In the “2nd half” his OBP was better (.288/.306), his walk rate was better (~5%/~9%) and his strikeout rate was lower (29%/24%), yet his BA dropped from 249 to .231 despite drop of just .003 in his BABIP. Regardless of the perception that his power had dried up in the 2nd half, he still homered at a rate that would yield right 25HR for a full season; but his overall slugging was down almost .120 which created a similar fall off in his OPS.

  10. Duvall is a bit of an enigma. Sell high this winter, or give him another year of playing time to see if he can improve on his 2016 season??
    In 2016, Duvall played in 151 G’s and started 145 of those games. He had 608 PA’s that resulted in 552 AB’s.
    Duvall had 42 games with multiple K’s (2 or more). Sit him in about 20 or so of those multiple K games that he was an 0-for, and Duvall’s BA might shoot up to around .265-.270 instead of .240, and his OBP might go as high as .325-.330. He probably should get about 450-475 AB’s and 500-525 PA’s to maximize his tools.

  11. I believe Duvall wore down physically ahead of the All Star Break and again at the end of the season. Aside from his chronic issue with diabetes, 2016 was his first season of playing OF full time which doubtless did a number on his legs.

    As I commented above, I had previously runs splits for his season before and after the ASB. Even after the ASB, he hit homers at an annualized rate of 25 and posted a .306 OBP with a 9% walk rate and 25% K rate but only .231 BA and .434 slugging despite his BABIP being only .003 lower than than before the break.

    I’d see these points as his floor going forward. The question is whether he can move his slugging and BA to a midpoint of his 1st and 2nd half while maintaining the improved BB and K rates.

  12. But then again if somebody had told you in Fall of 2015 that in 2016 Reds would have a left fielder who played 150 games with .795 OPS… who drove in 103 runs,scored 85 runs, was in running for a Gold Glove and who Reds paid a paltry $510,000….that would have made you smile.I’d definitely take those numbers again in 2017….

  13. I think he will learn and get better

  14. Tony Renda DFA’d and 40-man roster down to 38. Something is brewing. The Reds cannot be serious about taking 2 in the Rule V draft. Maybe 1, but not 2. So something else is maybe afoot.
    Houston and other teams checking in on DeSclafani.

    • Just saw a thing on, apparently the Reds are being asked about Billy also. As much as I love this site, I’m not sure I want to be around Chad if that trade happens. Looks like Renda cleared waivers.

  15. My impression of watching Duvall was that his power was mostly left center to right center. He has a lot of doubles power into the alleys. Granted, he did not hit that many homers to right, but there were a few.
    He seems like a guy that wants to learn and adapt. He does not seem to have the same weakness that Todd Frazier had in reaching for pitches outside and away from him.
    He will strike out, but he is also a fairly big guy with a long swing. Power hitters do strike out more, even Ted Williams struck out a fair amount (and Adam is not Ted Williams).
    Power hitters also tend to be streaky. When the power stroke (timing) is going well, then the ball just jumps off the bat.
    I could see him getting spelled at least once a week in left by Winker (Winker then bats 2nd in the lineup), and Duvall also spotting Joey once every other week (one day) at first base to give Joey a day off. I could see five guys in the outfield
    Starters: Duvall (LF), Hamilton (CF) and Schebler (RF)
    Winker spells Duvall in LF once a week, Schebler spells Hamilton once a week in CF, and Selsky plays right when Schebler plays center, or Selsky plays left (against left handed pitching) if Duvall plays first base for Votto.
    Winker and Selsky are your top pinch hitters, and can be double switched into the line up.
    I think a big factor in getting the most out of Duvall is not over-tiring him due to his Diabetes.
    See what 2017 tells us about each of the five players. If one of the projected starters is hurt or slumps badly, the two other outfielders get a chance to play everyday for a while.

  16. Good God people. He is our left-fielder for 2017. He should be. Everyone takes “vacations”. Jay Bruce came up at 22. Todd was old at 28. Play your best every week.

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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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