Preface: What follows has nothing to do with Jesse Winker and Jay Bruce. I assume that Jay Bruce will be traded soonish and Jesse Winker will take his spot, effectively. This is about the other place in the outfield the Reds need to fill.
Adam Duvall has been one of the highlights in a season that barely shines at all. I’m sure that is something we can all agree on. He hits big, pretty homers and he hit them hard and all that.
And the Reds need to trade him.
And call up Jermaine Curtis to take his spot.
And here’s why:
Adam Duvall has been a force this year. There is not doubt about that. However, he is striking out more or less 30 percent of the time. And he is walking less than 4 percent of the time. And that tells you that his performance cannot last.
How do I know? It’s simple, I looked. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to be pessimistic. He’d been doing well and I went and looked at his numbers and I happened to remember some article somewhere that talked about how hard it was to strike out 30 percent of the time and still be a good hitter and then I saw that really, really low walk rate and I thought, “uh oh.”
So I went to FanGraphs and sorted every individual batter season since 1900 by K% (I excluded pitcher batting for obvious reasons). 244 batters have a had a season in which they struck out at least 25 percent of the time. The only one of those players to have a walk rate within shouting distance of Duvall’s AND an above-average WAR total was Dave Kingman for the 1976 Mets, when he walked 5.5 percent of the time and struck out 26.5 percent of the time and posted 2.6 fWAR.
Let that sink in for a minute. One out of 244. And both his walk and strikeout percentages were better than Duvall’s.
He is 28 years old and having the year of his life and it cannot possibly continue (yes, his numbers were better in the minors, but not better enough to hope for real improvement). Good players don’t have seasons like he is having. Not unless they are at the tail end of their careers. Eventually, he will stop ever seeing a strike and it will all come crashing down. I know we’re all excited by him right now, but he is not going to be a longterm contributor to the Reds, which makes him a great candidate to be trade when he is hot.
In his place, I put forth that the Reds should call up Jermaine Curtis. Curtis is one year older than Duvall and also his opposite. Curtis has never had much power and never will, but he does get on base. A lot. In the minors he has gotten on base at a .381 clip that is much better than Duvall’s .338 clip down there. Curtis has only a 5 PA cup of coffee to his name, but that doesn’t mean the Reds shouldn’t see what he is. If he can get on base 35 percent of the time, he would be very helpful to the team and strikezone control (which is necessary for a high OBP) correlates with success in the majors better than any of the conventional tools.
So, while Duvall’s power seems nice and shiny, it’s not nearly as likely to make him a valuable player as Jermaine Curtis’ OBP.
Those of you who have been around long enough know that I trust logic when looking at which players are likely to be good. I suppose it’s possible that Duvall is a once-in-baseball-history talent. But I’m not betting on it, and if I were the Reds, I’d be seeing what I can get for him before he turns into a metaphorical pumpkin.
I don’t know, of course, that Curtis would work out. But I know there’s a chance he’s a decent option. And if he doesn’t work? Well, they were going to have to fill that hole when Duvall didn’t work out anyway.