Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Target: Outfielder Adam Duvall
By Noah Wright
If there is a 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be lacking any sort of bench outfield power bat. But they should show interest in this former All-Star.
The Pittsburgh Pirates really lack a decent fourth outfielder. Right now, they don’t have a traditional fourth outfielder. Guillermo Heredia is the closest thing, but is pretty much just a glove only corner outfielder. Then there’s the likes of JT Riddle, Jose Osuna, Kevin Kramer, and Adam Frazier who have outfield experience, but are more suited for infield roles.
But something the team is lacking even more of is power off the bench. The Pittsburgh Pirates already lost some power when they traded Starling Marte this off-season. FanGraphs’ steamer projections only project three batters to hit more than 15 home runs for the Bucs this season, and only two project to have a slugging percentage of at least .450.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could turn to one option to acquire some thump off the bench in trade, and one of the better options that could be available in trade is Atlanta Braves’ left fielder Adam Duvall.
Duvall’s best seasons were with the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 and 2017. In these two seasons, Duvall was a big time power hitter. He crushed 64 long balls with 68 doubles, and had a .489 slugging percentage. Overall, his isolated slugging was an outstanding .244. That ranked 15th among MLB players in these two seasons, and just ahead of sluggers like Anthony Rizzo, Justin Upton and Joey Votto.
Plus, it wasn’t like he was being helped by the hitter friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. He actually posted better numbers away in 2016 and 2017 than in Cincy. Duvall’s slugging percentage rose above .500 when he was the guest.
But there is one downside to this. Duvall’s extra base hit power was about the only redeeming quality of his hitting. Duvall posted below average walk rates in both seasons, having a 6.7% walk rate in 2016 and 6.0% walk rate in 2017. He also struck out 26.6% of the time as well. In total, he was roughly league average with a 103 OPS+ and 100 wRC+.
But average offense with above average power is something that you can give a pass on because his best tool might be his fielding prowess. Duvall had outstanding glove work in left field in both seasons. Across 2016 and 2017, Duvall racked up +28 DRS, a 13.1 UZR, 9.1 range runs, and 6.4 arm runs above average. This made him a top three defensive left fielder, and top 15 defensive outfielder among players from all three spots.
Although his offense took a downturn in 2019, as his OPS+ dropped to an unsightly 70, his defense still remained elite. Between the Braves and Reds, Duvall again posted double digits in DRS (+16), with good marks in UZR (6.6), range runs (3.9) and arm runs above average (1.9). Duvall also excelled in outs above average with +7.
Last year, Duvall only played 41 games at the MLB level. He spent most of the year at Triple-A as the Braves had plenty of outfield capable players such as Austin Riley, Nick Markakis, Johan Camargo, Matt Joyce, and Charlie Culberson at their disposal. Although I should mention he still crushed 10 long balls in only 130 plate appearances.
But at Triple-A, Duvall was crushing the ball. Across 429 plate appearances, Duvall posted an outstanding line of .266/.364/.602. He crushed 32 home runs and 20 doubles. Overall he had a 134 wRC+, which ranked 11th among all qualified batters at Triple-A. The biggest takeaway from this is his walk rate, which rose to 11.2%.
Now, on paper, Duvall isn’t that clutch of a batter. He only has a .243 batting average and .770 OPS with runners in scoring position, and a .251 batting average and .767 OPS with men on throughout his career. But in both instances, more than 40% of all his hits went for extra bases. In high leverage situations, 47% of all his hits went for extras.
One last thing is that Duvall is a pretty good base runner. Throughout his career, the outfielder has 6.2 base running runs above average, including 1.1 last season. Despite being mainly known for his power capabilities, Duvall is a fast runner. He sat in the 88th percentile of sprint speed in 2019. Overall, his 28.7 feet/second sprint speed ranked 80th in the MLB, and was faster than known speed threats like Dee Gordon (28.5), and Javer Baez (28.6) and Jose Altuve (28.6)
Duvall is controlled through the 2021 season through arbitration. Currently, the Braves don’t have room for him on their roster, and he is out of options as well. Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna are currently primed for regular playing time, at least to start the season.
The Braves have two of the best outfield prospects in all of baseball in Cristian Pahce (ranked 20th/100 per FanGraphs) and Drew Waters (ranked 43rd/100 per FanGraphs) who are knocking on the door of the Major Leagues. That’s also leaving out the aforementioned Riley, Camargo, Culberson, and Markakis. Duvall might have some positional flexibility being a backup first baseman, but MVP candidate Freddie Freeman isn’t exactly injury prone, and two of the four names I listed above have first base experience, along with catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Without any real way of making the Braves’ roster, the Pittsburgh Pirates should jump on this opportunity to acquire a top-tier defender with power on the cheap.