Adam Duvall came out of nowhere to post a career season for the Reds in 2016. Can fantasy owners trust him to repeat his success next season?
Each and every season there are always those out of nowhere breakout stars that burst onto the scene. Adam Duvall was one of those stars, and he came out of the shadows to post a .241/33 HR/103/ RBI/85 R/.795 OPS line. He became a force in the middle of the Reds’ lineup. But, can he get anywhere close to this in 2017?
The 28-year-old will enter his second full year in the majors, after spending six years in the minors. He found success in the minors, posting career totals of .268/130 HR, but he could never put it all together and stick at the big league level. Once shipped to the Reds in 2015 though, it appeared that he would finally have his best chance to get consistent playing time.
The Reds are going through a full rebuilding effort, offering Duvall the prime opportunity to secure a job in the outfield. After getting off to a slow start in April, he would turn things around after becoming the full-time starter in left field. His best month of the season came in May as he posted a .289/11 HR/24 RBI/1.004 OPS, entrenching himself as a fantasy must add.
He then followed that with a .229/9 HR/26 RBI June, earning him the right to be named to the HR Derby and being named an N.L. All-Star. Duvall was simply one of the best power hitters in all of baseball. All things considered, it was a career season, 30+ HR/100+ RBI players are hard to find nowadays, and fantasy was more than pleased his production.
From an optimistic standpoint, he does have some areas of encouragement. Other than the continual power he showed throughout the minors, he did post a respectable 45% Med, and 39% Hard contact rates. Add those to a 47% FB rate at Great American Ballpark, and it is easy to see why the power and XBH production could be maintainable.
Based on ESPN Home Run Tracker, he averaged 399 ft. per HR over his 33 homers. This points to his raw power and the fact that he is not getting cheated on most of his bombs.
But, while Duvall squared plenty of balls up last season, there are some big red flags. The clearest one is the strikeouts. He struck out 164 times last season, while only drawing 41 BB. His swing has always been long throughout his career, but a 27% K rate is tough to believe will get better based on his track record.
While that is a healthy total of K, owners are more than willing to eat the AVG in favor of the HR. But, will the HR be there next season? Looking at Duvall’s stats, one will see that 20 of his HR came in a two-month span. Over the rest of the other months in the season, he did not have more than 4 HR in any one month. He also had only one month with an AVG over .255, so if the power and AVG dry up, his value vanishes.
There was also his weird struggles against LHP. A player like Duvall profiles as a lefty masher, but he only posted a .238 AVG/7 HR/.795 OPS line versus them in 2016. That should correct itself some, but it is a worry based on his weaknesses at the plate.
A major part of continued success in MLB is the ability to adjust. Duvall became one of the best power hitters nearly overnight, and pitchers struggled to adjust to that quickly. But, as the season progressed, pitchers targeted him differently. Looking at Duvall’s Whiff rate, early in the season, he was swinging at missing at offspeed pitches a little over 30% of the time. But, after his hot stretch in May and June, his offspeed Whiff jumped to over 40%.
This is not a coincidence. His numbers went down and pitchers attacked him with more offspeed offerings. The question will now be: can Duvall adjust?
Fantasy owners will see his numbers and be enticed by their face value. He does have legit pop, play in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks and will still hit behind Joey Votto and Bill Hamilton. The AVG is never going to be there based on the K, so owners solely have to lean on his power production.
Should Adam Duvall eclipse the 20 HR make next season, yes. Can he reach the 80 R/80 RBI plateau again, possibly. But, there are a lot of red flags pointing to his floor being too low, making his mid-round price tag all the more worrisome. Let another take the risk on him this spring, and make Duvall prove that he can adjust in his second full season in the bigs.