Atlanta Braves: Is It Time To Extend Adam Duvall?

Sep 9, 2020; Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall (23) hits a grand slam in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2020; Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall (23) hits a grand slam in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Adam Duvall has been a steady force since the Atlanta Braves acquired him at the deadline

Adam Duvall has a specific set of skills that become useful helping to keep the Atlanta Braves. He has his pros, and his cons. If you look at more traditional statistics to evaluate players, it may seem odd that a player with 35 home runs, and leading the league in RBI is batting further back than 4th in the lineup.

The reason you most likely will not see a guy of Duvall’s profile batting in the top half of the lineup is due to his lack of on base ability. Duvall has a career OBP of .292 and has never had an OBP over .306 (2015). He also does not get many hits with a career batting average of .232 and never having one over .249 (2017).

What Duvall lacks in OBP and batting average, he more than makes up for in other areas. In fact, Duvall has a 3.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is tied for 3rd with Ozzie Albies on the Atlanta Braves active position players, and tied for 5th overall.

Duvall obviously has power as evidence of having 3 season with 30+ home runs. He also sports a career .475 slugging percentage in his career. In 2021 he has a .503 slugging percentage and .508 in 4 years with the Atlanta Braves. For reference, the league average slugging percentage since Duvall has joined the league is .412 and is currently .410 in 2021.

Even with Duvall’s subpar OBP, he still sports an OPS+ of 104 (4% above league average) in his 4 years with the Atlanta Braves, and a 99 OPS+ for his career.

Duvall also seems to have the composure to not be affected in a negative way in high leverage situations as a hitter. Duvall has a career 114 OPS+ with runners in scoring position.

There are a lot of variables in play when it comes to RBI, which is why it is typically not a good statistic to use to evaluate a player’s ability. However, with 660 at bats, and still being 14% better than league average, it is safe to say Duvall does not fold under pressure.

On a side note, Duvall has a 247 OPS+ with 2 outs and a runner and 2nd and 3rd in 27 at bats.

How does Atlanta Braves’ Duvall, a player with an OPS+ of 7% above league average, have an accumulated 3.1 WAR?

The question has to be asked on how a player with such a boom or bust approach have such a high WAR accumulation. Well, there are a few things in play here, and they are all valuable. First, as most of us know, WAR is an accumulation stat, much like hits, and it factors in offense, defense, and base running.

First, Duvall has played in 91% of possible games this year, being extremely durable. Second, Duvall has been extremely valuable defensively with 0.3 dWAR, and tied for 4th in all of MLB with 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) according the Fielding Bible, or 3rd overall according to Fangraphs. He also has an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 7.2 which is good for 4th in MLB.

Defensive metrics are not a perfect stat, but Duvall is also in the top 81% in MLB in Outs Above Average (OAA) according to Baseball Savant. The point is, all of the major sources, love his defense.

Should the Atlanta Braves think about extending Adam Duvall?

Adam Duvall has done well while with the Atlanta Braves. In fact, his OPS+ is 5% higher than his career average, and his slugging percentage is .33 points higher.

There have been stretches in his career where he seemed like strictly a platoon player having some extreme splits. For example, in 2021 Duvall has an OPS+ of 131 versus RHP and a 64 OPS+ against LHP (which are reverse splits, for what it’s worth). However, for his career, his splits are as even as can be, with a 99 OPS+ versus RHP, and 100 versus LHP.

If you factor in his well above average defense, it is apparent now that Duvall is more valuable as an everyday player, and will want to be paid like one.

What would an extension for Adam Duvall look like?

Currently, Duvall and the Atlanta Braves will at a minimum need to decide on his 7 million dollar mutual option for 2022. With the way Duvall is playing, he may decide to decline this option before Atlanta even has the chance to accept on their end.

It should also be noted that Duvall is still in the arbitration phase of his career. It is his final year, so it would be his most expensive. The Atlanta Braves non-tendered Duvall last year when the contract was even cheaper, but it can be assumed that it was due to financial circumstances like COVID-19 shortened season hindering revenue, and the Atlanta Braves having their eyes on Marcell Ozuna being their everyday left fielder.

At this point, we do not know exactly how the Marcell Ozuna saga will play out, which will have an impact on what the front office will decide to do. However, it would still be a good idea to see if they can lure Adam Duvall in for a few year if the price is right.

Typically, players tend to lean more on overall guaranteed money than higher average annual value (AAV) on their contracts. Because of this, the Atlanta front office may be able to lure Duvall in on a lower AAV over a few years if they are able to extend him.

Duvall is well outperforming what his contract would cost next year. Because of this, odds are he is going to decline his mutual option. But, with a final year of arbitration keeping him from being an unrestricted free agent for another year, it could also work in the Braves’ favor if they want to extend him this offseason.

If the Atlanta Braves could give Duvall a raise over his mutual option in 2022, skip the final year of arbitration, and guarantee him money over the next few years, it may be enough to get him to extend.

If the Atlanta Braves used these circumstances to their advantage, and could lure Duvall in with something close to 3 years at 10 million dollars per year that is back loaded, it would be a no brainer. It would be relatively low risk deal, considering the cost.

Next. Reviewing the Richard Rodríguez Trade. dark

The big question is how happy Duvall is in Atlanta, and if he is willing to cut a few prime years out of his earning potential as a free agent.