To the roar of boos, Adam Duvall stepped up to the plate, 1 on, 2 out, in the bottom of the 7th. No, the crowd wasn’t booing at Duvall, rather the decision by Brian Snitker to remove Mike Foltynewicz after only throwing 81 pitches and holding the Cardinals to 3 hits, 0 runs, while piling up 7 strikeouts. We all know how the at-bat ended, but would the booing have happened, if, let’s say, the mass of fans were aware of how great Adam Duvall had been in a Braves uniform for the 2019 season? Maybe, but most didn’t.
At the 2018 deadline, the Braves swapped 3 players that had likely seen their last days in a Braves MLB uniform for Duvall. While players like Preston Tucker, Matt Wisler, and Lucas Sims are high(ish) ceiling guys that are great high risk/reward type pickups for rebuilding teams, they quickly become 40-man roster headaches for teams needing more from their 40-man. With Ender Inciarte driving the struggle bus and Ronald Acuna Jr. showing he could handle CF defensively, platooning with Ender and removing 40-man dead weight were the reasons why the Braves made this swap.
Duvall’s floor at the time of the trade was an elite defensive corner outfielder with poor on base skills and a large tendency to hit the ball a long way, especially against LHP. Unfortunately for Duvall, he didn’t get a chance to prove himself for too long as he really struggled in his first month as a Brave going 4-38, all 4 hits singles, and 3 walks. From there, it was mop-up time and a few starts in late September to prove/disprove worth, and apparently the Braves chose the latter as Duvall was left off of 2018’s postseason roster.
A little into the woods here, but for those not in the know, Duvall is a type-1 Diabetic, and I have a theory that the adjustment to the Atlanta heat played a toll on his body in 2018. In speaking with many people who are type-1 diabetics, the heat and humidity is an awful combination and can take a toll on the sugars present in the body. His career monthly splits support this argument, but thankful those splits didn’t show up in 2019.
Now back to the lecture.
Fast-forward to 2019 Spring Training and it was more of the same for Duvall as he carried a .617 OPS in 41 PAs. However, instead of cutting Duvall and paying him a small portion of his 2.875MM non-guaranteed salary, the Braves decided to pay the man and sent him to AAA for a rainy day. Unfortunately for Duvall, it was a very dry year for injuries as he didn’t get the call back to the bigs until July 27, nearly 4 months into the season, even though he was swatting the ball over the fence in Gwinnett, at will. At the time of the call-up, Duvall had collected 19 doubles, 3 triples, 40 walks, and 29 HRs which added up to a .934 OPS all the while reducing his K% by 6%.
And what happened when Duvall got the call? The same damn thing he was doing at AAA. In his first 6 games with the MLB club, he hit 5 HRs in 26 PAs.
And then what happened? The same damn thing that happened in 2018. He went ice cold for a month, putting up a .443 OPS in 64 PAs, earning himself another stint at AAA. However, he was only down for 10 days, but those 10 days had a plus positive for the Braves, as it kept Duvall’s service time down, giving him an extra year of control through arbitration (controlled through 2022). From the end of August through the end of the season, Duvall was sensational: 1 double, 1 triple, 3 HRs, carrying a 1.026 OPS.
All in all, his season was streaky but his overall slashline was an impressive .267/.315/.567 which gave him an .882 OPS on the year. Between Gwinnett and Atlanta, Duvall had 42 HRs, 24 doubles, 5 triples, a .936 OPS, and lived up to his reputation of destroying LHP at the big league level with a 1.130 OPS. (1.184 at AAA).
To the casual fan, Duvall coming up to PH for Mike Foltynewicz was disheartening. They didn’t know that he had demolished the ball at AAA and had been really successful in his 2 stints with the MLB clubs. Often, first impressions are impressions that stick, ask Jose Constanza and Emilio Bonifacio. Fortunately for Folty, Snit, and Duvall, the Braves fanbase will remember Duvall the next time he comes to bat, and maybe he’ll be greeted with cheers instead of boos.
Thanks for reading.