Boston Red Sox

On Wednesday, the Red Sox signed outfielder Adam Duvall to a 1-year deal worth $7 MM, which included $3 MM in incentives based off plate appearances. After Trevor Story went down with interior brace surgery on his UCL, the Red Sox were lacking right-handed power and dependable options up the middle. Duvall has the ability to check off both of those boxes if he’s capable of repeating his 2021 season.

The Red Sox are betting on a big bounce back from Duvall in 2023 after the right-handed slugger struggled offensively last season and eventually required season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. It resembles a similar bet this front office took with Hunter Renfroe heading into 2021, with the hopes Fenway Park would be the perfect remedy.

Across 86 games in 2022, Duvall put together a weak slash line of .213/.276/.401/.677 with 12 HR and the second-worst K% of his career at 32.1%. It was a complete 180 for him after being one of the key cogs in the Braves championship run in 2021 following a mid-season trade by the Marlins.

In 2021, Duvall wasn’t an MVP-caliber slugger or anything close to that, but he did two things very well at the plate. Mash for power and be an RBI machine. In 146 games during that magical season, he hit .228/.281/.491/.772 with 38 home runs and an NL-leading 113 RBI for a slightly above-average 102 OPS+.

It’s hard not to draw immediate comparisons to Renfroe, who before a disaster performance in 2020, had a 33 homer season with the Padres in 2019 that included a batting line of .216/.289/.489/.788 and a 103 OPS+. Both offered dependable defense in the corners with similar offense, but unlike Renfroe, Duvall has shown the ability to handle center field quite well.

As Chad Jennings mentioned in his most recent piece for The Athletic, even Red Sox officials are hoping for Hunter Renfroe 2.0 in 2023. As you dig deeper into the numbers and the batted ball profiles, it’s hard not to think that hope isn’t justified.

  • Hunter Renfroe

    Spray chart from 2021-2022. (MLB)

  • Adam Duvall

    Adam Duvall’s spray chart from 2021-2022. (MLB)

  • Adam Duvall vs. Hunter Renfroe - Spray Charts 2021-2022

    When the Red Sox initially signed Renfroe, it was because they believed his power would excel at Fenway Park. That’s the same logic following the Adam Duvall signing. Just taking a quick look at both spray charts, you see how many of their homers would not only clear the Green Monster by a mile, but also the number of outs that could potentially turn into homers or doubles.

    Duvall’s calling-card throughout his career has been power, where he owns a .465 slugging percentage and has hit the 30 homer benchmark in 3 different seasons. That doesn’t include the shortened 2020 COVID season, when he launched 16 long balls in 57 games, highlighted by a 3-homer performance against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

    Coming off a down season, the Red Sox put Hunter Renfroe in a perfect position to succeed. It’s Adam Duvall’s turn to do the same now. Doesn’t mean it will automatically work, but these are the types of profiles that have a chance to pay dividends in Boston.

  • Adam Duvall vs. Hunter Renfroe - Flyball Rate, Home Run to Flyball Ratio, Pull%

    Looking back at Renfroe’s one-year stint with the Red Sox, it’s highlighted by some rockets that were on the brink of landing on the Mass Pike. He had heavy tendencies to lift the ball in the air and constantly pull it. That was highlighted by his 43.3% FB%, 18% FB/HR, and 46.1% Pull% in 2021, which were even a bit lower than his career norms of 45.2%, 19.7%, and 48.4%.

    Diving into Duvall’s numbers, he’s like an even more extreme version of Renfroe. Looking at the same exact season, Duvall posted a 52.9% FB%, 21% FB/HR, and 47.4% Pull%. His career marks are also in the same ballpark as Renfroe’s, at 49.9%, 16.9%, and 47.4%.

    Over the past 3 seasons, Duvall ranks first in flyball percentage and 29th in home runs per flyball among hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances.

    It may sound crazy, but Duvall might end up loving Fenway Park even more than Renfroe did.

  • Adam Duvall vs. Hunter Renfroe - Outs Above Average, Arm Strength

    Renfroe had a very up and down season defensively in 2021, as he was named a Gold Glove finalist in the outfield, despite landing in the 20th percentile for Outs Above Average. He did shine with 100th percentile arm strength at times, but it was also part of his undoing, as he overthrew cutoff men and created some unneeded havoc for pitchers.

    Duvall has posted much stronger marks in recent years, bringing home a Gold Glove in 2021, but that was mostly while holding down the corner outfield spots. He registered in the 90th percentile for Outs Above Average that season, before taking over in center field for the stretch run, with this robbery of Gavin Lux being one of the highlights of the postseason.

    Starting in 2022, Duvall played center field a majority of the time (382 innings), which he had never done in his career. Despite not looking like your prototypical anchor out there, he finished in the 88th percentile for Outs Above Average, thanks to his 74th percentile Outfield Jumps and 78th percentile Arm Strength. He wasn’t a slouch in terms of speed either, finishing with 67th percentile Sprint Speed.

    So, despite being 5 years younger than Renfroe when joining the Red Sox, Duvall clearly grades out as a better defender and will be playing a more premier defensive position.

    Fingers-crossed he doesn’t lose a step after missing half of last season, but the Red Sox seem confident in him holding down center field. Which says a lot, considering there were avenues still left on the free agent market and through trade, that could’ve kept Kiké Hernandez in the outfield.

  • Can Chaim Bloom Strike Again?

    Does all this information simply mean Duvall will be as good as Renfroe was with the Red Sox a few years back? No. 

    But there’s a real chance for similar production and considering how much a lot of Red Sox fans yearned for Renfroe last season, this is a step in the right direction.

    Some might say 2022 was a sign of things to come for Duvall, but I’m not buying that. 

    Before suffering his wrist injury, Duvall was on an absolute tear and looking like the lethal power bat from 2021. From June 1st until his final game of the season, he slashed .244/.302/.588/.890 with 10 homers, 9 doubles, and 143 wRC+ in 37 games.

    While that ridiculous pace isn’t sustainable, I do think another version of his 2021 season is. Especially in a ballpark that’s built for him.

    Just like Chaim Bloom struck gold with Hunter Renfroe, it’s time to see if he can do it again with Adam Duvall.