Wednesday, January 2, 2013

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #15: Adam Duvall

Adam Duvall, 3B.  DOB:  9/4/1988.  6'1", 205 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

High A:  .257/.325/.485, 30 HR, 8 SB, 7.9 BB%, 19.4 K%.

When a player hits 30 HR's in the minor leagues, people take notice, and with good reason.  Power, particularly from RH batters, is becoming a scarce commodity in MLB.  Duvall tore up the low A SAL in 2011 enough to arouse curiosity but he was a bit old for the league and it was reasonable to wonder if it would translate to higher levels.  He moved up a rung on the ladder and even though he was a year older himself, he was closer to age appropriate for the league in 2012.

The Cal League his a hitter's league though, and his BA was definitely low enough to again arouse suspicion.  In addition, he once again committed errors by the bushels from the 3B position leading to questions of whether he will have to move to 1B or even DH.  I'm not a fan of looking at BABIP in minor league players, but we now have 3 years of data no Duvall.  Over the last 3 years his BABIP's have been .299, .320, .272.  I'm just going to take a wild guess and say that his true talent BABIP is probably somewhere between .290 and .300.  That would have raised his slash line numbers across the board to truly impressive levels even if the extra hits were all singles!

As for his defensive challenges, the vast majority of his errors occurred as the result of throws sailing high from 3B.  The Giants are working on mechanical adjustments that they hope will fix the problem and he did seem to do better as the season progressed.   AA should be the next stop.  As with all Giants hitters, it will be THE big challenge.  Once again, his job will be to keep his head above water and live to fight another day in Fresno. Gotta be excited about the bat, though.


  1. Big test coming. I thought he was overrated last year in Giants prospect land, but he did a nice job last year. Especially with his recovery from Type I Diabetes at the end of spring training. Great point about his BABIP. Like practically every farm hand this year, he started slow. Like most power hitters he hit his HRs in bunches, but also interesting is he had two months with very bad K%, and the other months were sub 20%. He also has a nice bump against lefties, which isn't unexpected, but holds his own against righties. If they can correct this throwing problem, might just be in business!

  2. As BABIP is fairly new, I think we are still learning to interpret it.

    For example, tracking just any one hitter, and generally speaking, would his BABIP against mostly fastball pitchers higher, the same, or lower than that against mostly off-speed pitchers?

    Do you expect his BABIP to remain the same, or change, for a minor leaguer in his late teens or early twenties, as he advances to higher leagues?

    What about a major leaguer? Does his BABIP increase, in his early years, as he learns, reach a peak and then decline as he ages?

    1. I have seen no rule of thumb on MiLB BABIP, other than performing MLE calculations and then taking the resulting BABIP as the level of performance and talent, but not necessarily what he will do in the majors.

      However, Shandler's Baseball Forecaster's rule of thumb is using the last three years BABIP as a good guide as to a hitter's level of future BABIP performance.

      I have not seen any guide on age/career on BABIP. Presumably, BABIP should go down with age, as the hitter's speed fades. However, as his body matures, he presumably could hit with more bat speed and put more balls into hits. So that fits the curve you describe. But with random luck providing a lot of noise on that, it would be hard to separate out the noise and see only the talent level.

      Plus, each year is a different year, one year he's just in the moment hitting everything, next year he's in the spotlight and gripping the bat to death or injured in some way or in a new league and adjusting, etc.

    2. The big problem with BABIP is establishing a baseline for any individual hitter, which may be different from league averages for good reasons(flyball hitter vs groundball hitter, slow runner, exceptional eye-hand coordination, etc). The added problem in the minors is they move from level to level from year to year so it's almost impossible to establish a baseline with a large enough sample size. For most leagues and most players, you would expect the baseline BAPIP to be between .290 and .310. If you eyeball Duvall's numbers for the last 3 seasons, it would seem reasonable that his true talent BAPIP would fall in that range, but it's just a guesstimate.

    3. I think BABIP will always be a kind of iffy stat.

      It doesn't seem to be more 'fundamental' than BA. Do we know if the standard deviation of a player's yearly BABIP is less than that of his yearly BA?

    4. I agree that BABIP is poorly understood and overused by those who poorly understand it. It does have it's uses, though. I do believe there is a lower SD for BABIP than for BA, but there are individual players who can maintain a BABIP well above or below the mean for the better part of a career.

      It always drives me crazy when some genius over at Fangraphs writes and article to the effect that Player A, who has a career BA of .280 suddenly hits .325 and, what do you know? It's because he had an unstainable BABIP therefore he is unlikely to hit .320 again. Really? I don't think I need to know that to know that if a players suddenly has a season where his BA is 0.040 points higher than his career average, he's not likely to repeat it again the following year.

      On the other hand, if Tony Gwynn hits .325 after averaging .320 for the last 5 seasons, I don't care what his BABIP is compared to league average, he's very likely to hit close to .325 again with an off-the-charts BABIP.

    5. Exactly about the Fangraph 'genius.'

  3. He did start off slow like some prospects, though I would note that he had two bad months sandwiched around a very good one: So he could have just been bouncing around, up and down, hard to tell, his K% was all over the place too, along with his BABIP. But yeah, he did really well against LHP and held his own against RHP: .285/.365/.556/.921 vs. LHP, .251/.314/.464/.778 vs. RHP, and great power against both, 271 ISO LHP, 213 ISO RHP.

    One good thing to point out was his much poorer home vs. road: .256/.336/.455/.791 at home, .264/.323/.521/.844 on road. So his stats were hurt relative to the league by his extreme home park.

    At 23 YO, he was around (though slightly over) the average age for the league (22.5 for hitters, 23.2 for pitchers), but slightly above average batting line, average is .273/.342/.427/.770, so it was mostly his ISO that is above average.

    Like most non-top prospects, he will need to prove it every season. Assuming he's promoted to AA, he will get his first real challenge, as he's been on the older side for each league, which could explain how well he has done. But AA is where the wheat is starting to get separated from the chaff, the first big hurdle for potential major leaguers (besides turning pro), so it will be important for him to do well again, particularly in the Eastern League, where power goes to die, unless you have real power.

    1. OGC - Your emphasis on non-top prospect is a very good thing to remind about from time to time. This is what drives expectations on Brown/Panik, and its easy to lose track at times. I feel that prospects have to do something really exceptional to earn that top-prospect status outside of the bonus-baby expectation, like Belt did. I think the conservative approach of evaluate, move to the next level and then prove out is what should be happening with 99% of these guys. What matters the most is the managers call in to HQ after talking the days events over with his coaches. The stats, they aren't unimportant, but I think they really pale to what the scouting profiles are saying.

    2. Not just reminder: I don't think many people understand the magnitude of failure that happens with prospects, particularly ones who do not make the Top 100 overall prospect lists.

      I learned this from getting deep into Fantasy Baseball a number of years ago, particularly once I got into keeper leagues. Searching around for help mid-season, you really need to be aware of the prospects who are Top 100 guys getting promoted, and being ready to pounce on them once they get promoted. I picked up Jason Heyward his first season because pre-draft, no team selected him as he was not officially on the pre-season list, then he made the team on the last day, so I jumped in, made a waiver claim and snagged him (guy ahead of me picked up Martin Prado, from what I recalled).

      Doing this, I realized how even Top 40 (that was the list Baseball Forecaster provided back then) prospects were really huge question marks as to what they might do in the majors. So then the logical follow-up thought on that is: so how good, really, are a team's Top 10 prospects who don't even make the Top 40-100 lists? Not really that good, from what I could tell.

      So I view the general understanding of how good prospects are to be on par with general understanding of how good draft picks are: in other words, not so well understood.

      Not to say that this condemns the non-top-prospects to never make it, just that it borders on a miracle (and hence why I usually use a lottery ticket as a metaphor for the draft) when such prospects make it.

      So your approach is good. Be conservative about who will make it: most likely most will never make it, err on the side of caution because you never know what will derail that prospect. Do something exceptional. That is why I liked Brown, he had one of the highest OPS, SLG, OBP in the Big West Conference (a good and well known college baseball conference) over the 7-8 years of stats that I could find on-line, up there with Longoria and Suzuki (as well as a guy who never did much, I think he only reached AA before leaving the minors). That is what distinguished Sandoval, when he broke out in AA, very few hitters his age ever hit that well in AA, looking over the past decade or so.

    3. I mostly agree about what you say about scouting. Humans are great dealing with imperfect and limited information, coming up with a great gut reaction and decisions. That said, we're only human. :^) That's where stats can help augment the scouting knowledge. But anyone who thinks that stats should be #1 in player evaluations clearly don't understand the limitations of stats nor understand the glory of being human. I think many sabers do not remember or know that saying that true knowledge is knowing the extent of what you do not know.

      The key thing I would add to your statement is that you need to have your #1 operational guy, your GM, be really good at player evaluation. That will drive the hiring down the line, guide the philosophy across the organization, result in good decisions being made in evaluating and developing players. If your GM is bad or mediocre with player evaluation, needless to say, your organization will be bad or mediocre.

      The unfortunate thing about most franchises is that while they are bought by massively wealthy and successful people, that don't mean that the owners understand baseball or baseball skills, that don't mean that they will be successful in baseball. So somebody can sell themselves as being really sharp baseball people to the owners and get a GM job, but their actual quality in assessing baseball skills is probably a huge question mark, i.e. an owner generally lucks into a good GM, as they are generally unable to distinguish who is a really good judge and who isn't.

      Notice, for example, John Barr. I think most Giants fans will agree that the quality of our drafts went up after he took over. That speaks well of his ability to evaluate talent. Older timers will recall that the Dodgers farm system of the 2000's were generally very well regarded and that Logan White got all the credit for that. Since we got Barr away from LAD, I don't really see as much hype for LA's farm system.

      That also brings up Colletti. Sheriff Ned's background is that of an administrator, he handled contracts for Sabean and somehow he let the Giants sign Barr away from them. And the owner hired Colletti. Not that he couldn't learn how to evaluate talent, and he did well in stealing Ethier away from the A's (another team who don't appear to understand how to evaluate talent, they let Ethier and CarGon go for nothing much in return, while moving heaven and earth to get Durazo) but then he let Carlos Santana go to the Indians for basically nothing (Blake). I think he just trades to make trades, like any good fantasy baseball GM does, but he has not proven to me yet that he understands baseball talent. His trades and player personnel calls are iffy at best, from what I can recall.

      Unlike Sabean, who has not really lost much in trades but has gained a lot more. And with his recent successes in the draft, that clarifies another area of player evaluation that was in question.

    4. I think many Sabean Naysayers don't understand that just because Sabean made a trade and the player failed does not mean that Sabean failed. They don't realize that in trade (or free agency) you often have to do the move because you need to get somebody, not necessarily someone he would ideally want. Those are compromises GMs have to make in order to run a team, because you sometimes need, say, a 1B and you are stuck with the one available for the money you have available.

      Like the Hillenbrand trade. He was probably the best he could get in trade for what Sabean was willing to trade. If he were willing to give up Cain, he would have gotten a lot more, but I think we can agree he made the right move there. Hillenbrand was certainly an upgrade over what we had (Niekro) and particularly what we were getting at the time of the trade (Niekro was striking out way too much by the end), but he didn't even hit close to his career numbers or his recent numbers, which would have been a huge upgrade over Niekro. I would rather Sabean made the trade to try to improve - a fact many people forget, that there were other options - than sit around and do nothing because the best he could get was Hillenbrand for what Sabean was willing to trade away.

      Then there are those who say that if Sabean would have handled that either during off-season or farm system, then he wouldn't need to trade for Hillenbrand, therefore it is his fault. To that I say, find me one team that has every position and every contingency covered. Every season. Even the Yankees are not there and they spend so much more than the Giants have. So is every GM that stupid and not doing their job?

      And I'm not saying Sabean has been perfect, which I've been accused of. Far from it, I know he's not perfect. I'm saying that he's being held to a high fan standard that no GM could ever fulfill because that fan standard lacks understanding of how baseball works or how prospects/drafts work in reality. If a fan says that a hitter is no good unless he hits .400, we all know that fan does not understand the reality of baseball. I think the Naysayers are doing similarly with regards to Sabean.

      I'm also saying that, given the limitations that the draft imposes on teams, Sabean has been doing a good job of putting together a team. That seems obvious now, after he won two championships in three seasons, though there are those (cough - Grant - cough) who still has no respect for the good job that Sabean has done (more on Grant :^). But what I'm saying here is no different from what I've been saying about Sabean since at least 2008, if not 2007 (except that examples get updated), when I got a massive chorus of boos from the peanut gallery at MCC when I commented on how happy I was that Sabean got a two year extension.

    5. Although there were differences of opinion about Hillenbrand and Garko at the time of the trades, I don't think anyone could have predicted how totally both of those players would tank. The crazy thing is, they never recovered to do better somewhere else, they were just done, all of a sudden. Makes you wonder whattheheck was going on with them anyway.

      What I think the Sabean Naysayers(have to say their numbers are dwindling), don't get is that every GM is going to make a bad trade or bad draft pick here and there. What counts is if he makes more good ones than bad. For some reason, the Naysayer crowd seems to be only able to remember the bad ones when in reality, Sabes has made many more good ones than bad.

    6. I totally agree.

      And not only that he has made more good ones than bad, but I would also note that their emphasis of weighting is totally off. They treat each deal as if it is a hit or miss, when there are doubles, triples, homeruns, and grand slams!

      Kent and Schmidt were two huge pluses, grand slams if you will, and if Melky wasn't stupid, he could have made it three. I would also throw in Nen, Livan, and Snow as good deals (and Rueter reportedly was done by Sabean before he became officially GM). Other nice deals include Winn, all the relievers picked up off waivers or small deals over the years, from F-Rod to Mijares. And others I'm sure, Scutaro, El Gato, Franchez, Omar, Marquis, I'm sure I've missed others.

      Instead, they focus on deals like Hillenbrand and Garko, or picking up fliers like Rivera, 25th man type of decisions which they blow up over when, really, the consequence to the Giants is minimal. They worry about the speck of dust on the feather, when the goose laying the golden egg is what they should be focusing on.

      It would almost seem like they are more OCD than I am!

    7. I'm working on a post about Sabean trades, and how good his record is. I will not be posting that up on MCC, don't want the grief. I'll put it on Lefty's guest post area. One of these days I'll get my own blog. But I just enjoy posting on ya'lls instead. What I want to do is go pound for pound, good trade for bad trade. I'll run out of bad trades pretty quickly to counterpoint though. But I'm trying to incorporate some of the "at the time" feeling on the trades, "first lever" along with the obvious "third lever" of backend evaluation. Its slow going, maybe that's too much work, and I should just evaluate the back end.

      Great discussion. I never had any complaints about Sabean's trades 97-02. And very few from the next period. His third period is looking like his first period, where he was a stone cold thief. I would add Ellis Burks, one of my favorites. There isn't any question about it, his record is not only superior, it has few blemishes. And the AJ trade gets dragged out again... and again... and again... That nitpicking part would drive me absolutely nuts.

      The other thing, even with the Giants making a small public statement, in the case of the 2011 trade of Cabrera, that it was a mistake not keeping Crawford because the pitchers loved to have him behind. There it is, they admitted it was a mistake. Let it go. (It really doesn't get let go)

      The standard of perfection in the game of baseball is a very unreasonable one. The Giants, and Sabean, have a contrarian streak that appeals to me. He has consistently taken undervalued parts and made them work. Sure, old vets got a little, well, old, back in 2005-6. But for a long time they were undervalued and worked out well. Now it seems like the reclamation projects in their late 20s is the place to set up shop. That's interesting as well.

      Oh, and a quick note, I didn't mean to discount statistics for minor leaguers, I just meant that the first thing orgs look at is that phone call. The example I might make is maybe a month of stats a player might be off his norm. For me the first thought would be maybe they're tweeking a batting stance, for example. I don't feel like holding small samples against any player, especially early in his career. That is why I feel Brown and Panik are really getting nitpicked by prospect writers as well as the armchairs.

    8. To elaborate a bit, I always felt like Sabean deserved that second chance, to see what he could do without Bonds. Like I've said, the end of the Bonds era was a pretty miserable time. So Sabean, while he was on the ropes with ownership and fans calling for his head... Hit a home run. This is America, everybody deserves a comeback! I really feel like that should be acknowledged more.

      And the concept of single, double, triple, home run in trades is a good one. That is the part I'm not quite sure how to write about. You have these marginal trades where little was risked, and little was ultimately rewarded. That is what the Gardo, Shea Hey and O-Cabrera trades were about. Sabean is committed to keeping a core. He stood tall, and refused to give up his pitching.

      And that's the part that has me jazzed for the next few years. Back in 97, Sabean constructed a core around Bonds. You had Snow and Kent immediately, Billy Mueller and then Richie struggled through eventually. With that core, you go to battle and supplement as needed. That is what he is doing, which if you stop bitching about "why can't he construct an offense, he has no clue" long enough to notice what he's done... You'll find a very solid offensive core that can get filled in as needed. Posey, Pablo, Belt and Crawford are putting down the "why can't the Giants develop home grown position players" argument. We'll see about Brown/Panik, but I think they are on the Crawford path where they get nitpicked until they show up and demonstrate that they are complete ballplayers.

      That gets to my other qualm, that defense is hard to write about with any authority, and people are obsessed with offensive numbers. Looking at league averages, the Giants are above league average in most of our positions. Plus the defensive superiority. This is a good ballclub, a fun ballclub and its a great time to be a giants fan.

    9. One last note: the Freddy Sanchez-Alderson trade that was loudly boo'd. Giving up a shiny prospect, for what turned out to be an injured 2B. The fact Sabean publicly called him a batting champion was loudly mocked, because that must mean that Sabean doesn't understand the superior statistic of on base percentage. Initially, that trade was frustrating due to the injury. The Giants had a shot late, and he made the trade. I really love that part of it. Turns out the next year after he got healthy that trade turned to gold. But Sabean's willingness to compete as soon as possible, not stash nuts like a lucky squirrel, that part i really admire. So the bitching about Wheeler-Beltran looking back really drives me nuts. You have a chance to win, you go for it. That is what the game is about. Obviously 2009 and 2011 ended bad, but they were great seasons in my mind, exciting seasons and yet heartbreaking.

      One of the sweetest parts of 2010 was Sabean post-win. He said "we finally buried the bones of 62, 89 and 02." I immediately smiled, and was happy for him. I think there are Giants fans out there who are still not happy for him. The luck argument, the fact he didn't follow whatever established process they thought was best, the fact he is gruff in public. It just seems petty to me. He's an excellent GM. I'm glad he had his second chance to prove out.

    10. Well, Shankbone, good luck with that trade analysis. I look forward to reading it. Just have to remember the forest for the trees part and sometimes the best trades are ones that are not made. Gotta include Sabean's track record of hanging onto the homegrown players that formed the core which is nothing short of remarkable. Also, as I've said before, I think you have to consider his monumentally bad luck with AFW, which if it had turned out better might have made the immediate post-Bonds era not nearly as bad.

    11. Good point. Cain for Rios! I would actually put Noah Lowry in with them, he had proven out in the show. He is still among the WAR leaders in that draft.

    12. Ah I messed that up of course. Cain for Fielder! Timmy for Rios!