Adam Duvall Is the Newest Piece in Boston’s Offseason Puzzle

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports activities

Chaim Bloom’s plan to exchange Trevor Story started to take form Wednesday morning, because the Boston Purple Sox signed outfielder Adam Duvall to a one-year, $7 million deal. Duvall can earn a further $3 million in enjoying time incentives; he missed the second half of the 2022 season with an injured wrist, and the Purple Sox are hedging their bets in opposition to one other IL stint.

A few weeks in the past, this signing wouldn’t have made a lot sense. Boston’s outfield appeared all set with Masataka Yoshida in left discipline, Enrique Hernández in middle, and Alex Verdugo in proper, plus Rob Refsnyder on the bench and Jarren Duran at Triple-A. However then their second baseman/potential shortstop underwent main surgical procedure on his throwing arm, and the Purple Sox had been thrown for a loop. The versatile Hernández, who’s performed each place save for catcher, turned the shortstop by default, and Boston wanted a brand new middle fielder. Enter Duvall.

Duvall took up middle discipline late in life, making his first look there just a few weeks earlier than his thirty second birthday. He began his first sport there the next April and didn’t turn out to be a main middle fielder till final yr, his age-33 season. In 2023, he’ll try to play his first full season as a middle fielder at an age when most gamers are already transferring down the defensive spectrum.

But regardless of his late begin, Duvall has taken to his new place like a pure. In 75 video games, he’s been value a powerful 5 OAA and 4 DRS. He has good instincts within the outfield, as demonstrated by his fast response time, which ranked seventeenth out of 105 certified fielders final season and ninth out of 98 the yr earlier than. His arm is powerful too, and he averaged 90.4 mph on his quickest throws from middle, barely higher than league common. Lastly, whereas Duvall doesn’t run significantly nicely for a middle fielder, he nonetheless strikes nicely for his age – his dash pace ranked within the 67th percentile final season and was fourth-fastest in his age group:

Quickest Gamers Age-33

Minimal 10 aggressive runs

Duvall is lucky to have discovered new life as a middle fielder, since his offensive efficiency has declined over the previous two seasons. He posted an 87 wRC+ in 315 PA final yr and struck out almost a 3rd of the time. Had he certified, he would have completed with the second-worst walk-to-strikeout ratio within the Nationwide League, a feat he additionally completed in 2021. To make issues worse, his energy numbers, which had been fairly spectacular two years in the past, plummeted final season. His remoted energy fell from .263 to .188, whereas his HR/PA tempo sunk by 45%. The Statcast metrics weren’t any kinder; his xISO dropped from .272 to .186. None of these numbers are dangerous, per se – the league-average hitter had a .152 ISO final season – however Duvall wants energy to compensate for his substandard plate self-discipline.

It’s an excellent factor, then, that Duvall started to warmth up in the summertime. After getting off to a dismal begin in April and Might, his energy returned in June. From June 1 to July 23, he put up a 143 wRC+ in 32 video games earlier than a torn tendon ended his season. That’s clearly a tiny pattern, however underlying his success was a flatter swing and a wealth of onerous contact. It can make an incredible distinction if he can keep such a swing all through the upcoming season.

Duvall flew out a ton over the primary two months of the yr. He’s at all times been liable to flying out, however this was one thing else: in 186 PA, he flew out 30% of the time. League common was 20%, whereas his profession common is 23.5%. The reason was easy – he was hitting extra fly balls than ordinary and swinging beneath the ball extra usually. His onerous contact fee was down, his pull fee was down, and thus, his energy disappeared:

Duvall’s Fly Balls

Timeframe FB% Beneath% on FB HardHit% on FB Pull% on FB PA/HR
2021 52.9% 54.0% 59.8% 34.3% 14.6
April-Might 58.2% 63.8% 42.5% 28.1% 93

Beneath% and HardHit% by way of Baseball Savant

Nevertheless, the veteran outfielder turned issues round when the calendar turned to June. He flattened his swing and began hitting extra balls on the bottom. His groundball fee rose from 25.5% to 34.6% and his common launch angle fell by greater than eight levels. What’s extra, the fly balls he did hit had been of significantly larger high quality. His common launch angle on fly balls dropped from 40.5 to 36.7 levels – a lot nearer to the optimum launch angle for a house run. The distinction in his median launch angle on fly balls was much more vital, going from 41 levels to 33.5. To place that in perspective, the main league common launch angle on a fly out in 2022 was 39.5 levels. On a house run, it was 29.5. Armed with a flatter swing, Duvall flew out solely 19 instances in 129 PA (15%) from June onwards. In the meantime, his dwelling run fee skyrocketed. He hit simply two dingers in April and Might however exploded for 10 in June and July.

Decreasing his launch angle wasn’t the one approach Duvall improved. By making higher swings, he made higher contact on fly balls in nearly each approach. He hit the ball tougher, he hit the ball farther, and he pulled the ball extra usually:

Duvall’s Fly Balls Half 2

Timeframe Avg. EV on FB HardHit% on FB Avg. Distance on FB Pull% on FB
April-Might 90.4 mph 42.5% 294 ft 28.1%
June-July 96.4 mph 69.2% 340 ft 35.3%

EV, HardHit%, and Distance by way of Baseball Savant

A pair months of scorching hitting can’t present sufficient knowledge to show Duvall is really a modified man. Nevertheless, his midseason turnaround demonstrates why his full-season numbers solely inform a part of the story. He might not be an elite energy hitter going ahead, however his bat isn’t as useless as his 87 wRC+ makes it look. The Purple Sox are relying on that, since they really want Duvall to be their on a regular basis middle fielder and supply some right-handed energy to a lefty-heavy lineup. Dropping each Story and Xander Bogaerts on the similar time left a large gap up the center and a lineup desperately in want of one other righty bat.

Out of context, it sounds unusual to say the Purple Sox are changing Bogaerts and Story with Duvall, but it surely makes extra sense than it appears to at first. They let their celebrity shortstop stroll in free company and deliberate to exchange him with their second baseman, who was once a celebrity shortstop himself. Then Story wanted surgical procedure, so the Purple Sox changed him with their middle fielder, Hernández. The man they signed to exchange their middle fielder is a 34-year-old veteran who performed shortstop in highschool, second base in faculty, third base within the minors, first base in his rookie season, and the nook outfield spots till 2021. He’s by no means performed a full season in middle discipline. Okay, I assume it sounds fairly unusual with context, too. The Purple Sox are having an uncommon offseason, and that is simply the newest flip in a saga few may have predicted.

Strangeness apart, Duvall must be a effective middle fielder in 2023. He performs stable protection, runs nicely, and hits with some pop. And if he retains swinging like he was earlier than his harm, the Purple Sox may need simply lucked into the most effective right-handed hitter of their lineup.