The early season surge the Cincinnati Reds saw from Adam Duvall in 2016 was admittedly unexpected. He’d come to the Reds in the trade that sent Mike Leake to San Francisco midway through 2015, though Duvall’s tree-trunk forearms were, at the time, seen as the secondary piece in the deal, as pitcher Keury Mella was one of the top rated prospects in the Giants system before being the key piece in that deal. Once a 3B by trade and almost never an OF of any kind, the concept of Duvall being an everyday LF on a half-decent team was rather farfetched, especially given that he was already 27 years old at the time.
The rebuilding Reds had two things that worked significantly in Duvall’s favor last year, though: playing time, and the patience that comes with low expectations.
With his only competition for LF playing time not hitting at all to start the year, Duvall got regular run, and with it came an offensive breakout that had most all who watch the Reds regularly taking notice. On May 31st of last year, The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans wrote that Duvall had more than won the Reds’ LF job, immediately after bashing a pair of homers in a win over the Colorado Rockies.
It was enough to have Rosecrans’ colleague at The Enquirer, Zach Buchanan, ask if Duvall was worth of a spot in the All Star Game, even.
A game after that 2 dinger outing in Denver in late May, Duvall had logged 169 PA for the season. He owned an .889 OPS, had belted 13 homers, driven in 29 runs, and looked consistently the part of an outfielder around whom the team could build.
Fast forward almost a full year, and the Reds again have an outfielder on an early season tear who’s looking to lock down a full-time spot. He’s a bit old for a prospect at 26, and he came to the Reds as an afterthought secondary piece in a major trade just like Duvall. As of writing this, he’s logged 170 PA in 2017, owns an .879 OPS, has hit 13 homers, driven in 27 runs, and has consistently looked the part of an outfielder around whom the team can build.
This time, though, his name is Scott Schebler, yet while the numbers he’s posted have been eerily similar to what Duvall produced in similar time a year ago, there doesn’t seem to be nearly the excitement surrounding Schebler this year. Perhaps it’s because other members of the lineup are producing this year, too, whereas last year saw Duvall at times carrying the offense with slumping peers around him. Perhaps it’s due to the team overall showing a bit more life than last year, with a bullpen now capable of dominating games instead of giving them away in back-breaking fashion.
Schebler’s mauling left-handed pitching this year, too, eschewing the previous label of a ‘platoon bat’ with every swing, as Rosecrans noted in yesterday’s BAR. Over at Beyond the Boxscore, they looked at the evolution of Schebler’s swing, noting that he’s part of the group that has changed the launch angle of their swings to produce more fly balls - and that’s from two days ago, in which time he’s honked another two dingers. It seems folks are beginning to take notice, and it’s certainly made the calls to bring up Jesse Winker again dissipate of late.
The Reds optioned Schebler back to AAA Louisville in early May of 2016, in part due to his early season struggles and in part due to Duvall’s stellar start. In the 97 games he’s played since being called back up in August of last year through today, he’s hit .275/.342/.503 in 383 PA, with 21 dingers and 59 runs driven in. Extrapolate that to a per-162 game basis, and that’s 35 homers and 98 RBI, which are numbers that would leave even Cincinnati’s former All Star RF satisfied.
In other words, it just might be about time to refer to the Todd Frazier trade not as the deal that landed Jose Peraza, but the deal that landed them Scott Schebler.