What Will Adam Duvall Do in 2017?
As a 27 year old rookie (he may not technically have qualified as a rookie in 2016 because he had 149 plate appearances going into the season, but he was a rookie in all other respects), Adam Duvall was one of the feel-good stories of 2016. His 103 RBIs were fifth best in the Senior Circuit, his 33 HRs were tied for 6th, and he made the All-Star team.
Given that 27 year old rookies tend not to have particularly impressive careers, the jury is definitely out on whether 2016 was a peak year fluke or Duvall can continue to make adjustments and have a more memorable MLB career. Lew Ford is kind of the recent poster boy for the classic 27 year old rookie who had one great season and then quickly faded off into the sunset.
I recently wrote a couple of posts about the string of players the Oakland A’s developed beginning with their age 28 seasons. However, most of the A’s diamonds-in-the-rough had high on-base percentages to go with their plus MLB power. Duvall swings away and swings away some more, to the tune of a 4/1 K/BB ratio last year.
Guys who walk as little as Duvall does often have problems adjusting when opposing pitchers stop throwing them strikes, pitch to their weaknesses and get better at setting them up to pitch to their weaknesses.
On the other hand, Duvall runs pretty well (six triples and six stolen bases in 11 attempts), and his left field defense was rated by fangraphs as more valuable than his offensive contributions in 2016 in spite of the fact that he made eight errors, which is a lot for a corner outfielder. The upshot is that if Duvall can maintain the same level of offensive performance in 2017 and beyond as he had in 2016, he’ll still be a valuable major league player for some time to come.
The question is probably can Duvall continue to hit well enough in 2017, so that the Reds don’t lose confidence in him and conclude he was one-year wonder. That can happen faster than you think if he starts off this season in a bad slump.
As a former San Francisco Giants’ prospect, I’ve been following Duvall with interest since he hit 22 HRs for Class A Augusta, a very tough place to hit, in his age 22 season. He hit 30 home runs in the Class A+ San Jose the next year (in the hitter friendly California League), and continued to hit home runs the next three seasons in the upper minors.
In short, Duvall’s 2016 power is no fluke, and the question is whether he can hit for enough of an average, given his adversity to taking a walk , to keep put himself in a position to continue hitting the long balls. Whether he will or won’t is definitely an open question as we approach the 2017 season.