2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Adam Duvall

Who is he?

Adam Duvall came to the Braves at the 2018 trade deadline from the Reds in exchange for  Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler and Preston Tucker. Most of us gave the trade a big thumbs up at the time as we were unlikely to ever need any of the guys we gave up (they put up a combined -0.1 WAR this season, although Sims has a shot as a bullpen guy who gives up too many walks and homers) and Duvall had had a decent, if unexciting year in Cincinnati (he was a 2016 All-Star). Duvall promised to bring excellent corner outfield defense combined with good power even if his on-base skills were sub-optimal. The plan was to effectively platoon him with Ender with Acuna moving back and forth between left and center.

It didn’t work out, of course. Ender got into one of his second half tears while Duvall endured the worst 57 plate appearances of his career while putting up -0.5 WAR in the equivalent of 12 games. Given that he was arbitration eligible for the first time coming into 2019 most observers expected his release.

What about 2019?

Somewhat surprisingly, the team did offer arbitration and then settled on a $2.875M contract for 2019. The decision was made in Spring Training that Duvall was a player who would benefit from everyday at bats and so he began the year in Gwinnett with the expectation that when Matt Joyce had worn out his welcome, Adam would get the call. We all know what happened: a rejuvenated Joyce had a great year off the bench while Duvall toiled in obscurity 40 miles away. He put up a pretty good line — .266/.364/.602 with 32 homers — but EVERYBODY was hitting gobs of homers at AAA early in the season and without them Adam just doesn’t stand out — that’s a .184 batting average without the taters.

The big team suffered injuries and still Duvall stayed down as first Riley and then Rafael #!?#%^ Ortega got the nod. When he finally did get the call, Adam put in an incredible 1st week with 6 homers before cooling off and finishing the year with an 882 OPS. He managed a couple big knocks in the playoff series as well.

What about the future?

Adam is now 30 and controlled by the Braves in arbitration for 3 more years. This year’s bill will likely come in around $4M which is reasonable for a part timer/platoon guy. ZIPS projects a slow decay of ability going forward and does not expect him to be a viable major league player after 2021. Personally, I think 2020 is likely his final season in the ATL… but…

But WHAT, Karl?

Duvall is one of the few MLB players to be type 1 diabetics. One of the trickier considerations for sufferers of this disease (and I should know!) is that it can make extreme physical effort problematical: too high sugar and your muscles are already full of lactic acid while too low and they won’t get enough energy to function properly. Apparently exposure to strong sunlight can also play a role with this (and Adam has very fair skin). Duvall’s career has always been a pattern of production while getting regular playing time — and an utterly predictable schedule — and spotty performance when he does not. This pattern may well be related to his condition. If so it suggests that some extra value might still be waiting to be unlocked in Adam’s game with better control of his sugars. I certainly hope so.

15 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Adam Duvall”

  1. Thank you, Sir Snowshine. It’s easy to root for folks that overcome obstacles. I root for Duvall and hope he has a big year.

  2. Karl, great point about the medical condition. There are a few guys who have been constrained by some sort of medical condition that seem to go off the rails when they are not properly treated. Adam Laroche and Chris Davis both have ADD and I’m sure it affected Davis more than Laroche. I’m sure there are many others and odd dips in performance may often be related.

  3. That being said, going back to the prior thread about trading for Lindor. In putting together a proper trade to attract the Indians’ interest, you’d have to look at what they need too. Their top prospects are loaded in the low minors – very few ready to go. And they are also heavily loaded for middle IF. I think some sort of ML ready OF will be a necessary part of the trade. And Duvall would fit perfectly. A trade of Dansby, Wright, and Duvall for Lindor and a well-ranked low minors prospect should be the kind of trade the Braves look for. Dansby replaces Lindor, Wright gives them flexibility to trade a pitcher, and Duvall gives them a power OF they have been searching for.

  4. Am I wrong to not assign a significant amount of value to having the opportunity to negotiate an extension with a player in his last year before free agency? If you trade for Lindor, how much of an opportunity are you really getting to lock him up longterm. And if you do, is there any discount whatsoever? Therefore, how much value does that really have?

  5. I think it depends on the player. There was every reason to believe that Tim Hudson was amenable to a team-friendly deal and none whatsoever that JD Drew would do such a thing. Without knowing Lindor better it’s hard to say whether an possible extension is a boon or not.

  6. @5
    I think I get what you’re saying and I think you know this, but just to make sure we’re on the same page, Lindor has 2 years of arb left, and he’s going to make ~17MM in 2020, which likely takes his 2021 salary to 22-24MM depending on production. It would be cool to negotiate a deal with him that buys out those 2 years then extend him for 5. The problem with that thinking is that Lindor is going to be a free agent at 28 years old and he could grab a deal north of 300MM.

    If he came to ATL and wanted to stay, he’d have to be willing to accept something like 7/200MM and I just cannot imagine he’d do it.

  7. @4 Roger, I think one point to consider though is if you’re Cleveland, you’re trading the face of your franchise. For them I imagine that’s going to come with an additional price tag. After all, they’re still competing, and you’ve got to be able to sell this to your fanbase. Imagine what we’d want for Acuna if the Braves are in a similar position 2 years from his FA.

    I think it takes Pache and Swanson, to be honest. I don’t think Lindor is dealt unless the Indians are blown away. Duvall doesn’t do that, I don’t think. They could acquire Mark Trumbo, get the same basic thing, and keep their SS.

  8. For argument’s sake, let’s say Lindor makes 40MM these next 2 years (probably a fair assessment). From there, Fangraphs projects his WAR to be 5.8 these next 2 years, a value of 93MM, which is an excess of 53MM.

    While I don’t think the Braves will have to trade Pache, it’s likely going to cost one of Waters, Anderson, or Wright, plus another top-10 player.

    Or…Waters and Swanson, which is about as mathematically sound of a deal out there.

  9. @8 I know what you’re trying to say but Trumbo is about the worst comparison/example you could find. Not only is he retiring or being player/coach but his production at the plate exceeded Duvall’s only once, he’s older, and he doesn’t know how to spell “glove”. But, yes, CLE could pick up a different OF of equivalent value as Duvall. But you have to consider that Dansby has a lot of control left whereas Lindor doesn’t and, performance or not, Lindor’s trade value goes down a lot after next year.

    @5 He certainly has considerably more value with two years of control than one. Both he and the Braves get the opportunity to see how they like each other and then you really have a good bargaining position with the opportunity to offer a QO after two years, too.

  10. @8 That face of the franchise argument didn’t work out so well with Machado, Harper, Bumgarner, Strasburg, Rendon, and I’m sure others. That argument does not usually work out well for the franchise who refuses to trade, especially if the player means more to the franchise than the franchise means to the player.

  11. @11 I’d argue it worked out superbly for Washington. Even if Stras and Rendon both leave, they won a WS. Give me a WS title and I’ll watch two guys leave in FA every time. They may even comeback.

    Also I have no issues with how SF played it with MadBum. They tried to win, and I applaud it.

    Baltimore probably should’ve traded Machado sooner. Hey, they went for it though.

  12. SF is also going to get a pretty solid pick out of losing Bumgarner, so adding that onto the reward of continuing to try to win is a pretty good deal. I wonder how much money teams lose by trading off their pieces at the deadline and sending a huge message to fans that the season is over by July 31st. I wonder if it’s more than the salary savings by trading said players. Put that all together and not trading someone like Bumgarner sometimes is a good call.

  13. @13
    I think that a lot of teams have to take this into consideration when choosing to keep/trade what is considered their franchise player when beginning a rebuild. One can justify keeping Bumgarner if the return isn’t significantly larger than what would come back via trade. However, I’m not even sure that trading him was even attempted…at least, not in the sense that should have been attempted… on the surface.

    Still…there’s integrity in letting the player ride it out with the team, but it’s not likely the best long-term decision for the franchise from rebuild’s perspective.

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