Collette Calls: Duvall Deep Dive

Collette Calls: Duvall Deep Dive

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

As play begins Sept. 25, Adam Duvall leads the National League with 111 runs driven in. Re-read that sentence again while reflecting on the improbability of that statement and soak it all in. Heck, three current Atlanta hitters are in the top five in RBIs in the National League, which is rather amazing considering the losses of both Ronald Acuna Jr and Marcell Ozuna from that lineup this season. Duvall rediscovered himself in Atlanta in a parti-time role in 2019 before flourishing in the shortened 2020 season, but Atlanta's roster got crowded and the club decided to let Duvall take his talents to South Beach. The aforementioned injuries led to Atlanta needing to reacquire Duvall's skills at the trade deadline, and his run production has helped fuel Atlanta's summer resurgence into a probable NL East divisional crown.

Entering 2021, Duvall was just one of 35 players with multiple 30 homer seasons from 2016-2019, having done so twice with Cincinnati. Below is the complete list of the multiple 30-homer hitters in that time and their pre-season ADP at NFBC sorted by their ADP:

Player

30 HR Seasons

ADP

Mookie Betts

2

4

Mike Trout

3

7

Christian Yelich

2

11

Trevor Story

2

13

Freddie Freeman

2

14

Bryce Harper

2

18

Cody Bellinger

2

18

Francisco Lindor

3

19

Manny Machado

4

22

Jose Abreu

2

42

Nolan Arenado

4

45

Alex Bregman

2

48

George Springer

2

53

Eugenio Suarez

2

67

Nelson Cruz

4

92

J.D. Martinez

3

As play begins Sept. 25, Adam Duvall leads the National League with 111 runs driven in. Re-read that sentence again while reflecting on the improbability of that statement and soak it all in. Heck, three current Atlanta hitters are in the top five in RBIs in the National League, which is rather amazing considering the losses of both Ronald Acuna Jr and Marcell Ozuna from that lineup this season. Duvall rediscovered himself in Atlanta in a parti-time role in 2019 before flourishing in the shortened 2020 season, but Atlanta's roster got crowded and the club decided to let Duvall take his talents to South Beach. The aforementioned injuries led to Atlanta needing to reacquire Duvall's skills at the trade deadline, and his run production has helped fuel Atlanta's summer resurgence into a probable NL East divisional crown.

Entering 2021, Duvall was just one of 35 players with multiple 30 homer seasons from 2016-2019, having done so twice with Cincinnati. Below is the complete list of the multiple 30-homer hitters in that time and their pre-season ADP at NFBC sorted by their ADP:

Player

30 HR Seasons

ADP

Mookie Betts

2

4

Mike Trout

3

7

Christian Yelich

2

11

Trevor Story

2

13

Freddie Freeman

2

14

Bryce Harper

2

18

Cody Bellinger

2

18

Francisco Lindor

3

19

Manny Machado

4

22

Jose Abreu

2

42

Nolan Arenado

4

45

Alex Bregman

2

48

George Springer

2

53

Eugenio Suarez

2

67

Nelson Cruz

4

92

J.D. Martinez

3

92

Charlie Blackmon

2

92

Paul Goldschmidt

3

93

Max Muncy

2

106

Anthony Rizzo

2

111

Giancarlo Stanton

2

112

Mike Moustakas

2

125

Kris Bryant

2

128

Joey Gallo

2

151

Gary Sanchez

2

158

Josh Donaldson

3

193

Kyle Schwarber

2

203

Carlos Santana

2

294

Justin Upton

3

328

Adam Duvall

2

331

Rougned Odor

3

359

Jay Bruce

2

359

Khris Davis

3

361

Travis Shaw

2

361

Edwin Encarnacion

4

NA

Brian Dozier

2

NA

Duvall went late in drafts as a cheap power source where Upton was seemingly the line of demarcation for most before folks took late-round darts on Duvall, Odor or Bruce. The allure of Bruce was the short porch in Yankee Stadium, but it didn't take long for him to realize his days were over. Odor was cut by Texas before the season began, and had some early value with the Yankees before the reality settled in and he fell back to reality. Duvall, meanwhile, has had a very productive year despite a low average, a low on-base percentage and a career-high strikeout rate. How does one do so much around so little success in traditional measures? Simply put, he has made the most of his opportunities as we have rarely seen in this sport:

Duvall has been a beast with runners on base, which while not a skill with any year-over-year stickiness, was something he did with Cincinnati in 2016 and 2017 before losing his ways the past few seasons:

Season

Tm

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

2016

CIN

271

17

87

.289

2017

CIN

333

17

85

.264

2018

2 Tms

231

6

52

.198

2019

ATL

68

2

11

.242

2020

ATL

97

7

24

.202

2021

2 Tms

245

25

97

.302

True story: Duvall drove in what should have been his 96, 97th and 98th runs of the season with men on base as I was working on this section of the story as this craziness happened. Thanks to the umpires not immediately ruling the ball a homer, the runners stopped while Duvall kept running and he was ruled out for passing a runner on the bases even though the ball was clearly gone. Dumb rule cost him, and likely some fantasy owner, a homer, run and RBI:

Duvall is still striking out quite a bit (28 percent) this season with runners on base, but his .302/.350/.680 triple-slash line with men on base is easily a career high and is quite the contrast from his .167/.227/.350 line in 277 plate appearances when there have been no runners on base. Duvall's tendencies between the two situations do not differ that much either. His swing rate is identical, but he makes a bit more contact as he chases fewer pitches with runners on base:

Split

PA

Swing%

Contact%

O-Swing%

SwStr%

Empty

277

50%

70%

35%

15%

Men On

246

50%

72%

31%

14%

The other thought that comes to mind is that perhaps Duvall has had an unusual amount of baserunners on base in his time with Miami and Atlanta, but he ranks 51st in the league with 343 runners on base. Yet, only former teammate Jesus Aguilar has driven in a higher percentage of runners this year as Aguilar has plated 21.6 percent of his baserunners while Duvall is at 20.4 percent.

Duvall was one of my bold predictions to be a top-60 outfielder this season despite being the 98th outfielder off the board, and he has certainly done that. He has not done it with any new skill, but has rather made the most of the opportunities presented to him by hitting in the middle of talented lineups. It would be shocking if Atlanta or Duvall did not decide to exercise the mutual option in his contract next season because the two seem well fit for one another. There has been no new skill acquisition by Duvall to fuel this surprising likely RBI crown this year as much as him seeing good pitches to hit with traffic on the bases in front of him. 

Duvall is just one of three players in baseball history to drive in at least 100 runs and hit below .230, the other two being Carlos Pena in 2009 and Tony Armas in 1983. Pena was able to pull it off by leading the AL in homers but saw his average fall below .200 the following season and never again drove in as many as 85 runs. Armas went the other way and had an even stronger season the next year leading the AL in homers, RBIs and total bases while raising his batting average 50 points. The difference is Armas had shown a previous ability to hit for average, something Duvall has never done over a full season. As you look at where to rank Duvall for 2021, lean more to a Pena path forward than an Armas one. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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