Adam Duvall is a hitter. He’s in the majors because he can smack the more-than-occasional home run. He can play first base, but the Atlanta Braves have Freddie Freeman there. General manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters late Monday that Duvall’s job description here will be to play left field against left-handed pitching, with Ronald Acuna moving from left to center and Ender Inciarte, who has had a difficult year, taking a seat.
On days he doesn’t start, Duvall will fill another role – big bat off the bench. In a pennant race, that’s no small thing.
Duvall’s best year was in 2016, his first full season after being shipped from San Francisco to Cincinnati in the Mike Leake deal. He hit 33 homers with 103 RBIs that year, making the All-Star team. That was considered a surprise. It took him five years to work his way through the minors -- he turns 30 in September -- and the Giants didn’t see him as a keeper. But he landed with the Reds, who play in a bandbox, and he made the most of it. He kept hitting the ball over the wall.
He’s not going to hit a bunch of singles; his career average is .233, and he has 105 more strikeouts than big-league hits. The Braves, however, have use for his skill set. Entering Monday’s game, they ranked 22nd in the majors in homers. (They did manage two – by Freeman and Acuna – in the 5-3 victory over the Marlins.)
This isn’t a minor move: Duvall’s better than that. Neither is it a rental: He’s under team control through 2021 and hasn’t yet become arbitration-eligible. Even if we throw in the caveat about Great American Ball Park playing much smaller than SunTrust Park, Duvall has enough power to clear fences anywhere.
Best of all, he’s a useful piece at an exceedingly reasonable price. The Braves got him for pitchers Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler -- both of whom had seen promising careers stall, both having been lapped in the organization by younger and better arms – and outfielder Preston Tucker, who’s just a guy.
This was Anthopoulos’ first real dip into the farm system he inherited, and the belief here is that he chose wisely. He shed two prospects who weren’t really prospects anymore. He disposed of two guys who’d never have made the big-league rotation ahead of Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Soroka, Allard or Wright. A trade like this is why you hoard pitching, even if it’s not quite top-shelf pitching. Because a lot of teams can’t even fill out a rotation.
I don’t know that this deal makes the Braves five games better, but it might help them win a game or two more than they would have otherwise. If we check the standings, we note that they’re a half-game behind the Phillies in the National League East. A game or two might be all that’s needed.