What Can We Expect From Adam Duvall in Fantasy Baseball?
The 2016 season went as expected for the Cincinnati Reds, who finished 68-94 while in the midst of a rebuild. While the pitching staff was a complete mess -- especially the bullpen -- one pleasant surprise was the breakout performance of outfielder Adam Duvall.
Despite just 149 big-league plate appearances prior to last year, he was given an opportunity to play every day in Cincinnati, and he took off. The right-handed slugger earned his first All-Star selection because of his performance, and a two-month tear between May and June endeared him to any fantasy baseball owner who snatched him up before it was too late.
But given how he arrived at his overall numbers and the lack of prior big-league experience, what exactly can we expect from him in 2017?
In the counting stats that matter for fantasy, like home runs, RBI and runs scored, Duvall produced numbers that put him at the top of his position. Among qualified outfielders, his 33 home runs ranked 5th, while his 103 RBI were 4th and the 85 runs he scored were tied for 16th. One would imagine his average draft position (ADP) would be rather high, right?
According to NFBC data, Duvall is currently the 37th-ranked outfielder with an ADP of 154.63, meaning he'd be coming off the board in the 12th round of 12-team leagues. He's sandwiched between Carlos Gomez and Marcell Ozuna, who each experienced very different performances in 2016.
Not Much Outside of That Power
Those power numbers are gaudy -- especially when compared to the performances of other players at his position in 2016. However, one of the big knocks on Duvall is the fact that he didn't provide much else.
If you're looking for the reasoning behind this, look no further than his 6.7% walk rate, 27.0% strikeout rate and .297 on-base percentage (OBP). Those numbers are ugly, but it's worth drilling down to his monthly progression to find some good news.
|Month||Plate Appearances||Walk Rate||Strikeout Rate|
While he still racks up the strikeouts at a high clip, his progress from the first half to the second half is undeniable.
After posting a 4.9% walk rate, 29.0% strikeout rate and a .288 OBP prior to the All-Star game, he improved each of those stats to 8.8%, 24.6% and .306, respectively, over the second half despite a nearly 100-point drop in OPS.
In his limited time at the big-league level with Cincinnati in 2015 (72 plate appearances), Duvall posted an eye-popping 36.1% strikeout rate. It looked like more of the same after an alarming start in April, but he showed incredible progress. If you take out those first 66 plate appearances from last year, his strikeout rate drops to 25.5% -- still high but a little more manageable than a number north of 30%.
Plenty of work is still needed in these departments, but Duvall is at least trending in the right direction after his first chance at extended playing time.
And The Power Came in Bunches
As mentioned earlier, a lot of Duvall's production in the power department came between May and June, which was a big factor in him earning that All-Star selection.
Check out his month-by-month stats from last season (including his Isolated Slugging Percentage, referred to as ISO) to see the differences as the season progresses.
It's obvious we wouldn't be talking about this breakout campaign without that two-month tear -- 60% of his total homers, 48.5% of his RBI and 44.7% of his runs scored were produced during this time. He had 22 homers by the end of June, but Duvall managed only 11 more long balls before the final game was in the books.
His home-run production did evaporate after that torrid stretch -- maybe because MLB pitchers figured him out -- but the power overall was still there. That's evidenced in his monthly ISO, which never dipped below .190 at any point in the season. Combining this with his progression in walks and strikeouts, Duvall at least saw improvement in other areas on offense even though the homers went away.
If these improvements continue into 2017, he could be the beneficiary of being in a terrific spot for run production -- even if regression hits.
A Terrific Spot in the Lineup
While it takes a talented hitter to reach the 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau in any given season, we also know that racking up RBI is an area where players also need help from teammates. Judging from past track record and recent performance, Duvall could have plenty of chances to collect those rib-eye steaks given his projected position in the Reds' lineup.
According to Roster Resource, he's currently slotted in as Cincinnati's cleanup hitter behind Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart and Joey Votto. Votto has long been an on-base machine -- he's one of a select few to have a .300/.400/.500 career triple slash -- so Duvall will get plenty of plate appearances with at least one runner on base.
The real wild card is Hamilton.
Cincy's leadoff hitter entered 2016 with a career OBP of .287, and he followed that up with more of the same before the All-Star break (.283 OBP in 263 first-half plate appearances). However, it looked like a flip switched following the midsummer classic.
The speedster went on to produce a sparkling .369 OBP over his final 197 plate appearances, finishing with an OBP over .300 for the first time in his young career. If this improvement is not a mirage, Duvall will have an opportunity to reach the 100-RBI plateau for the second consecutive season without having to rely so heavily on homers.
A Game of Adjustments
Baseball is a game that's full of adjustments -- once Duvall went on his two-month homer binge, pitchers eventually figured out how to approach him. They were much more successful in keeping him in the ballpark, but the outfielder also made tangible adjustments in his plate approach (which Votto could've had a hand in doing).
Duvall's current ADP is justified because of the concerns about his play, and it makes sense to see him listed as a bust candidate. However, a lot of that can be fueled by his 33 homers in 2016. He may not repeat that, but his minor-league track record shows he's capable of getting to the 20-homer plateau, which is made easier because of the ballpark he calls home.
But does he also have the opportunity to be a late-round steal? Absolutely -- as long as expectations aren't unrealistic. He's entering just his second full big-league season, which will be his age-28 campaign. He shouldn't be going off the board any earlier than the 9th or 10th round, but there's potential for him being a more useful fantasy asset than originally anticipated if the above trends continue moving in a positive direction.
Don't overpay on draft day because of his homer total, but keep an eye on him as a mid- to late-round commodity.