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Adam Duvall Could Be One Of The Best Pickups Of The Entire Offseason . . . Or He Could Be A Total Disaster

How concerned should we be about Adam Duvall’s wrist injury?

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

If you spent any time scrolling through Red Sox Twitter on the day that the Adam Duvall signing was announced, you may have seen an image that looked like something like this:

That’s a chart of all 342 balls Adam Duvall put into play in 2021 (his last full season) overlayed onto the dimensions of Fenway Park. I won’t make you count how many balls there are on that chart that would’ve apparently cleared the walls on Jersey Street, I’ll just tell you: it was 50. 50 god damn taters.

Now, to clarify, this chart does not mean that Adam Duvall is going to hit 50 home runs next year, if for no other reason than the fact that the Red Sox only play half their games at home. But it does show that his swing may be tailor-made for Fenway.

Moreover, as we discussed when he signed, Duvall is a very good defensive outfielder. And based on the Outs Above Average he recorded in his limited time as a center fielder last year, he’s not only good enough to play center, but good enough to be at least above average, if not one of the better defensive center fielders in the league.

So the best case scenario for Adam Duvall in 2023 appears to be a plus defensive center fielder who hits 30-35 home runs. That is an incredibly valuable player to have on your team. If he were to reach those heights, his signing would go down as one of the single best pickups of the 2022-23 offseason.

Ah, but there’s something else to consider, something you didn’t see much of on Red Sox Twitter the day he signed:

That’s a video of Adam Duvall jamming his left wrist into the wall at Truist Park in Atlanta last July. It doesn’t look that bad, does it! It’s damn near routine. But on that play, Adam Duvall tore a tendon sheath on his left wrist, an injury that required him to undergo season-ending surgery.

As Red Sox fans unfortunately know, wrist injuries can be devastating for hitters. So how much should we be concerned about Adam Duvall’s?

As it happens, another recent Red Sox slugger suffered a torn tendon sheath in the wrist: David Ortiz, who missed almost two months with the same injury in 2008. Ortiz’s injury was not quite as severe as Duvall’s and did not require surgery. Still, his bat took a long time to recover. In fact, the next season was arguably the worst of Ortiz’s career. He hit just .238/.332/.462 with 28 homers in 2009; it was the only season between 2004 and 2013 that he wasn’t named to the All-Star team.

Other sluggers who suffered the same injury and, like Duvall, went under the knife for it, also saw notable declines the first year they returned. Nick Johnson tore his tendon sheath early in 2008 and underwent season-ending surgery. He returned to play a full season in 2009, but his slugging percentage dropped to just .405, after he’d slugged .520 in 2007. Jose Bautista underwent the surgery in 2012. He returned to All-Star form in 2013, but he also lost power, seeing his slugging percentage drop from .527 to .498. Mark Teixeira had the surgery early in 2013. As was the case with Ortiz, 2014 was one of the worst years of Teixeira’s career; he slashed just .216/.313/.398 that year, down from .251/.332/.475 in 2012.

The potential decline in power is particularly concerning in Adam Duvall’s case, because power is all Adam Duvall has. He does not make contact. He does not walk. He does not steal bases. And while, as I said above, he’s a very good defensive outfielder, he’s no Jackie Bradley Jr. out there. A version of Adam Duvall who lacks power is not someone worthy of a Major League roster spot. If this is the scenario that plays out, then the signing will be seen as a disaster.

So, what version of Adam Duvall are we going to see next year?

That’s what Bryan Joiner and I got into on the latest episode of the Over The Monster Podcast. We also discussed:

  • Whether Jorge Alfaro is actually the best catcher on the Red Sox;
  • Triston Casas’ potential to be a massive fan favorite; and
  • The 2023 Red Sox lineup’s potential to be elite.

Then, for no reason whatsoever, we dove into rock climbing, European soccer, and insane college scavenger hunts. We even touched on prestige TV and movies, daring to encroach upon the turf of at least 7-8 podcasts on The Ringer Podcast Network. It was fun.

As always, thanks for listening.