(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Ian D’Andrea)
Adam Duvall was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of the University of Louisville to the Giants. Even in the Giants’ relatively weak farm system, Duvall was never named a top-10 prospect in the organization by Baseball America.
In June of 2015, the Cincinnati Reds shipped off starting pitcher Mike Leake to the San Francisco Giants and in return they received outfielder Adam Duvall, who has gone on to hit at least 30 home runs in both full seasons with the Big Red Machine.
Oddly enough, his Major League debut came on June 26, 2014 in a home game for the Giants against the Reds, and his first career hit in that game was a home run off of none other than Leake.
The breakout party for his career came in his age-27 season in 2016, when he smacked 33 home runs for Cincinnati and knocked in 103 RBI. His terrific performance at the dish was recognized, as he was named to his first All-Star Game where he drew a walk against southpaw Andrew Miller.
He was also named as a participant in the 2016 Home Run Derby, which he made it to the semi-finals and smacked 15 home runs before former Reds teammate Todd Frazier eliminated him with 16 home runs.
Although he wasn’t named an All-Star in 2017, his numbers remained extremely similar as he hit 31 home runs and had 99 RBI. Duvall is one of just three National League hitters – joined by Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo – to have hit 30-plus home runs in each of the past two seasons.
Duvall has his mind set on reaching the 100-RBI mark next season and has a game plan on how to go about achieving that feat for the second time in his career.
Although Duvall was drafted out of Louisville, he didn’t spend all of his collegiate years with the Cardinals. He began his college ball at the University of Western Kentucky, but only received 20 at-bats and had a .200 batting average over the course of his freshman season, so he decided to transfer to Chipola College in Florida. He joins Jose Bautista, Patrick Corbin, Russell Martin and Buck Showalter as alumni who have served in the MLB.
In his lone season at Chipola, Duvall tore the cover off of the ball to the tune of a .318 batting average, nine home runs and 37 RBI in his 51 games. His performance was enough to gain the attention from Louisville, where he would finish out his playing time in college over the next two seasons.
With the Cardinals, Duvall played some of his best baseball in his life. Over the course of 128 games between his junior and senior seasons, he hit 23 home runs, knocked in 98 RBI, while carrying slash lines of .328/.421/.545 and .327/.402/.574 in each respective season. He also swiped 12 bases his junior year and 10 bases his senior year, but he has not reached double-digit steals in a season since then.
Snap back to reality, and Duvall is a key fixture in the Reds lineup. Yes, the power is there for the right-handed slugger, but with that power comes an atrocious strikeout rate.
In his 33 home run season in 2016, Duvall struck out in 27 percent of his at-bats (11th worst in the MLB). He followed this with his 31 home run season with a 26.3 percent strikeout rate (17th worst in the MLB). Of the 26 players with a worse strikeout rate in each of those seasons, Duvall has only had a better walk rate than two of them.
Additionally, he finished fifth in the MLB in fly ball rate in 2017 with a 48.6 percent rate.
Up-and-coming prospect Jesse Winker will look to make an impact at the Major League level after playing in 47 games for Cincinnati last season. The outfield is then cluttered with speedster Billy Hamilton, who has swiped 56-plus bags in each of the past four seasons, while Scott Schebler is coming off of his first 30 home run season.
Duvall should still receive a healthy dose of plate appearances, but if his power dips and the strikeout rates maintain their current course then manager Bryan Price could distribute plate appearances elsewhere.
All-in-all, Duvall has come a long way from a bad freshman year of college, never being a top-10 prospect and now is one of the better power hitters in all of the Major Leagues. It’ll be interesting to see if he can put together his third consecutive 30-home run season with the Reds this year.