Braves: Adam Duvall Should be Called Up or Traded

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At the 2018 Trade Deadline, Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired Adam Duvall from the Reds in exchange for Matt Wisler, Lucas Sims, and Preston Tucker; three players who had no future in the Braves organization.

Anthopoulos hoped that Duvall would provide a much-needed power source for the bench, or even work his way into a platoon with centerfielder Ender Inciarte.

A combination of abysmal performance by Duvall and an improved second-half by Inciarte led to the Braves demoting Duvall to Gwinnett before the 2019 season – after another suspect spring training. But Duvall has not let that affect his play, slashing .304/.402/.652/1.053 through 31 games with the Stripers. Compare that to his 2018 season where he slashed .195/.274/.365/.639. Which begs the question: how does Adam Duvall fit into the Braves plan going forward?

People forget that Duvall was an all-star in 2016, as he hammered 33 HRs. He followed his successful 2016 campaign by hitting 31 HRs in 2017. The former Cincinnati Red is never going to be a high-average hitter, as he batted .241 and .249 in 2016 and 2017 respectively. But that’s okay. The Braves do not need Duvall to hit for average. They need him to hit dingers.

Sending Duvall down to the minors to give him everyday at-bats without being a detriment to the major league club was the correct decision. But there is only so much he can benefit from AAA. We have reached the point where the Braves have to make another crucial judgment. Either trade Duvall or bring him back up to Atlanta.

The case for calling Duvall back up is pretty straight forward: the 29-year-old has proven his worth in the majors and will probably not benefit much longer from facing Minor League competition. As I previously stated, the purpose of Duvall being sent to the minors was to give him consistent at-bats and work through his issues, not because he can’t handle major league pitching. He has broken out of his 2018 slump and could serve in a variety of roles in Atlanta

Most importantly, the slugging outfielder could do as was intended upon his trade to the Braves: provide power off the bench. Yes, Atlanta’s bench is much deeper this year after the acquisitions of Josh Donaldson and Matt Joyce; however, one thing that I learned from the NLDS is that having too much depth doesn’t exist. Hoarding a bat like Duvall, who can change a game with one swing, helps the team tremendously.

He could also become the platoon outfielder with Ender Inciarte the Braves wanted when they acquired Duvall. We have begun to see something similar with Johan Camargo, but it would make more sense with a natural outfielder like Adam Duvall. And if Duvall continues to hit the way he is in Gwinnett, the Braves could look to replace Ender all-together.

After another slow start by the Braves’ starting centerfielder, the grumblings among the fanbase are at an all-time high. I know I am less than impressed with Inciarte’s plethora of groundballs to second base.

At this point of the article you might be saying “Josh, Ender is too valuable on defense. His defense alone should keep him in the everyday lineup.” That is a fair point, but I would point at what Duvall has done defensively throughout his career.

In 2018, Duvall had a Defensive Runs Saved of 16. Ender Inciarte’s Defensive Runs Saved in 2018? 17.

Of course, that is just one metric for measuring the quality of a defender and most would agree that Ender is better defensively, but it does show Duvall is no slouch with the glove. If his bat is significantly better, then it is worth a shot to consider making the switch. Ender could potentially be pieced together with a couple of prospects to trade for quality MLB relief help.

If the Braves think that keeping Inciarte in centerfield is better for the team longterm, they should look to trade Duvall. There is always a need across the MLB for outfield depth. Atlanta might be able to get a decent sized return by trading Duvall in a similar manner I proposed with Ender.

Before long, there is no sense in leaving Duvall in the minors. The Braves should look to either trade him soon while his stock is high, or call him back up to the active roster to see if he can contribute like the club thought he would when they traded for him last summer.

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