Who is he and where did he come from?
He’s Adam Duvall, Kentucky-born power hitter. The Red Sox signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal off the free agent scrap heap. Duvall has spent the bulk of his career with the Reds and the Braves, with short stints with the Giants and Marlins sprinkled in.
What position does he play?
What an interesting question! For almost his entire career, Duvall has been a corner outfielder, playing the majority of his innings in left. Given that he’s entering his age-34 season, it would seem unlikely that he would move up the defensive spectrum to centerfield at this point in his career, right?
And yet, it seems like that might be exactly what happens in 2023.
As the Red Sox roster currently stands, Kiké Hernandez will be forced to move from centerfield to shortstop, in order to cover for the ailing Trevor Story. Neither of the Red Sox two presumptive corner outfielder starters — Alex Verdugo and Masataka Yoshida — have the defensive chops to cover center field (and frankly, it’s not clear whether either one of them is good enough to play Fenway’s expansive right field, either.) Barring a trade, this would leave Duvall as the opening day center fielder.
Duvall has made 68 starts in centerfield over the course of his career, with the vast majority of those (43) coming just last year. He did grade out as a good center fielder, finishing the 2022 season with 4 outs above average at the position (for reference, Trent Grisham led all center fielders last season with 17 OAA, which he compiled over the course of 124 starts compared to Duvall’s 43). While defensive metrics should never be taken as gospel — especially over small sample sizes — these numbers track with Duvall’s career-long reputation as an above average outfielder, who has a strong arm and gets good jumps on the ball.
And for what it’s worth, Duvall is also on record as saying he loves playing center, though he admitted that it’s tougher on the legs, and there was some speculation that it may have hurt his offense last year (more on that below).
Is he any good?
Another interesting question! For most of his career, Duvall has been a big home run hitter, albeit one with a limited offensive profile due to low batting averages and on-base percentages (his career slash line is .230/.289/.465.) He’s topped 30 homers 3 times, was an All-Star in 2016, and led both the World Champion Braves and the entire National League in RBI as recently as 2021.
However, his power has been trending down for three years in a row leading to 2022, which was one of the worst years of his career. He had an absolutely brutal start to the season, hitting .186/.251/.266 with only 2 home runs over the first 53 games of 2022. But don’t worry! He turned things around in impressive fashion, hitting .255/.317/.618 with a whopping 10 homer over the subsequent 34 games, before suffering a season-ending wrist injury sustained while crashing into the outfield wall.
In light of the discussion about his outfield defense, though, what is particularly interesting about last season’s turn-around is that it happened shortly after he moved out of center field and back to the corners.
What’s he doing in his picture up there?
Awkwardly waiting for laughter after telling the press “My name is Adam Duvall, but after moving to center field for the Boston Red Sox, they’re going to call me . . . Adam Can-Do-It-All.”
Show me a cool highlight.
This dude once hit a grand slam in the first inning of a World Series game. I’m not going to say it doesn’t get cooler than that (next time, try waiting 8 more innings, Adam) but that’s pretty damn cool.
What’s his role on the 2023 Red Sox?
We’ll see! He’s going to start the season somewhere in the outfield. Whether that’s centerfield or one of the corners will be determined by additional personnel moves that may or may not come.