There’s an 83 percent chance a potential 20-25 home run hitter is sitting on your league’s waiver wire, yet many of you will dismiss the Reds’ Adam Duvall as simply a player on a last-place team who’s in the best stretch of his brief career in the majors. For that, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong.
Duvall can hit, and since manager Bryan Price recently realized that putting Duvall’s name in the starting lineup regularly may offer a temporary stay of execution of his job, Fantasy owners would be wise to follow along. Armed with only 114 at-bats entering Thursday’s play, Duvall had seven homers and an .873 OPS, which would rank among the Top 40 players in that category had he qualified. Of his 31 hits, 19 have been of the extra base variety (Duvall also has 12 doubles), and while the .311 OBP presents a moment of cringe, cut my man some slack. After all, it’s not as if he’s Billy (All This Speed and I Still Can’t Steal First Base) Hamilton and his quasi-tragic .275 OBP clip.
In the midst of a season that should see the Reds battle the Braves and Twins for the first pick of the 2017 amateur draft, Duvall is emerging as a bright spot who has made the most of a clean break from his past. The former Giants farmhand spent much of his time doing a fairly solid Richie Sexson impersonation in the way he made balls fly out of the park while his bat also offered a nice, warm breeze to fans behind home plate each time he flailed away in vain. In need of an experienced arm, the Giants moved the Louisville, KY native (almost) back home last summer when Duvall was the parting gift in exchange for Mike Leake.
The power numbers have always been there, as Duvall’s isolated power hovered between good and “If He Could Only Walk More Often….Sigh.” His ISO popped at .266 in Triple-A last summer, when Duvall hit .281-26-80 in 100 games before being traded to Cincy. He’s entering the weekend with a .289 ISO, which would translate to about 28-30 homers if he remains in the lineup.
Staying prosperous (.327-5-11 this month entering Thursday) is entirely on the eye of Duvall, for as much as we can get excited about his discovery, there’s still the issue of his plate discipline, which…well….um…isn’t too good once you look at his track record. Sluggers gonna slug, yet his 4.9 percent walk rate is nearly less than half of the 8.3 percent rate he had in 72 plate appearances with the Reds last summer. While I’ll give him credit for cutting down his strikeout rate from 36.1 percent (putting him the in high-rent district of whiffing with Kennys Vargas) to 30.1 percent this season, the eventual tailspin is bound to happen if Duvall continues to see just 3.5 pitchers per at-bat.
I like Duvall, strikeouts and all. He’s a classic masher, who comes complete with a strong tendency to pull (52.6 percent of his contact is aimed to left, which would tie him for fifth place with Twins rookie Byung-ho Park if he qualified) and has a strong fly ball rate (43.6 percent). He will continue to play, which means there’s a strong chance that Duvall is another homer or two away from someone else in your league taking a flier on him, leaving you flummoxed over the indecision to do so.
Duvall also comes with 1B eligibility in most leagues, a nifty fact of life if in the event your production at the position has been displeasing. He also shows a hint of speed, yet isn’t the most proficient base stealer available, as he’s been caught twice in his three attempts. Needless to say, he thrives at home, where Duvall has hit six of his homers while putting up a .262-.323-.628 line with a .951 OPS. Outside of the city that made Andy Travis, Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap (kids, WKRP was a show that…oh, hell, it was better than 90 percent of what’s on now) famous, Duvall has hit .282, but yeesh, that .291 OBP is a bugger.
Good power gets harder to find, folks. At this point of the season, players like Duvall don’t pop up too often and there’s little reason to hold out hope if you’re an owner who still thinks Astros 1B A.J. Reed or the Twins combo of Byron Buxton or Max Kepler will arrive in the nick of time to improve your home run numbers, please send me your name and email address and I’ll promptly add you to my prayer list.
Even if you need power, I’ll gladly anoint the following players in waiver wire holy water…
Tyler Duffey, P, Twins: Look, ma! A Twins starting pitcher with an ERA south of 4.50. And he strikes out batters! Oh, please, please, please can we keep him? Well, yes, since Duffey and his 1.85 ERA is available in 80 percent of polled leagues. Granted, Duffey isn’t mowing hitters down in a Clayton Kershaw-like fashion, yet on a team ranked 20th in the majors in strikeouts, his 8.51 K/9 makes him look like Johan Santana in his prime. His whiff skills aren’t a fluke, as Duffey averaged 8.22 K/9 in ten starts for the Twinkies last season. Those of you who got burned with Jose Berrios’ forgettable stint can receive redemption with Duffey.
Matt Wisler, P, Braves: Don’t be deceived by his 1-3 record. Wisler has pitched solidly for the cellar-dwelling Bravos, as he sports a 3.14 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, numbers that only 14 percent of polled mixed league owners are benefiting from. Don’t hold your breath for a stream of Ws from Wisler, and while he’s not much of a strikeout pitcher (ooh, shut your eyes…5.9 K/9), the fact he gets hitters out is worth the peek. DFSers should keep in mind that Wisler has a 2.01 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP while limiting hitters to a .165 batting average against in four games on the road.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Tigers: Back for his yearly contribution to this column, Maybin, who missed the first month and change, made a sizzling return from the DL, recording five hits and three steals in his first nine at-bats. Owned in just 17 percent of polled leagues, Maybin will continue to swipe bags and while he’ll obviously return to being Maybin, it also means a reasonable amount of power and league-average on-base skills. The return of Maybin should also benefit a struggling Justin Upton, who had been forced to play out of position at center and will head back to his familiar grounds in left.
Steven Moya, who was called up earlier this month, is likely to head back down to the minors despite recording seven hits in his first 19 at-bats. The Tigers would prefer him to play daily rather than having him fight veteran Mike Aviles for table scraps.
Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, Rays: He’s been a strategically-used weapon for the offensive-starved Rays, as Pearce has looked a lot like the player who finally found a niche with the Orioles in 2013-14 rather than the .218 hacker he was last season. Pearce, owned in 20 percent of polled leagues, entered Thursday hitting .301-6-17 with a .946 OPS in 83 at-bats. A lefty-masher, Pearce has worn out southpaws with a .429/.487/.914 slash line and a 1.401 OPS and will continue to find his name in the lineup when Tampa faces left-handers. As for righties? Pearce’s .208/.328/.292 is all you need to know.
Tommy Joseph, C/1B, Phillies: We started with an ex-Giants minor leaguer, so why not close out with one? Joseph was hitting .347/.370/.611 in Triple-A before getting the call. He swatted his first big league homer on Tuesday night and is expected to start thieving at-bats from Ryan Howard. The catcher eligibility alone makes Joseph, owned in just one percent of polled leagues, an intriguing proposition, especially if he becomes the de facto starter for the surprising Phils. While we’re talking about Philly, SS J.P. Crawford, the club’s top prospect and third overall according to MLB.com, is perhaps 2-3 weeks away from his debut. Crawford has a .398 OBP and is more than ready to push Freddy Galvis aside and take the mantle from Jimmy Rollins as the franchise’s next great SS.