Duvall's defensive wizardry on display in '21

April 17th, 2021

MIAMI -- When asked about the potential of the Marlins' veteran outfield during Spring Training, elected to discuss the defensive side of the ball. Through the season's first 13 games, perhaps he was onto something.

Entering Saturday, Duvall has accumulated three defensive runs saved across 64 2/3 innings in right field. His 0.3 defensive WAR ranks second among NL right fielders behind the Pirates' Phillip Evans, and his range factor per nine innings (2.37) is fourth among MLB right fielders.

Duvall, who signed as a free agent in February, had just 27 games (23 starts) and 185 1/3 innings at the position in his first seven seasons. Most of those reps came in 2020 with the Braves. Any doubts about his fielding have been squashed in the early going of this season.

"Duvy's got a cannon, you don't really realize it, but he throws really well, and he moves good out there," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "I know there were some worries about moving him to right, but this guy profiles out there. He does everything you want to do from that spot."

Just this week alone, Duvall has flashed the glove and showcased his arm in key situations. He recorded two outfield assists during the four-game series in Atlanta. With the bases loaded for the Braves and the Marlins trailing 2-1 in the opener, Duvall leapt for a fly ball at the wall and then threw to second for the double play to end the threat.

Two games later, when former teammate Freddie Freeman tried to stretch a single into a double, a perfect carom off the wall in foul territory allowed Duvall to fire a strike to Miguel Rojas, who applied the tag at second. Despite playing fewer games as part of a rotation with Garrett Cooper and Corey Dickerson, Duvall is tied for the Major League lead with two outfield assists.

Known more as a slugger, Duvall does have a track record for solid defense. In 2018, current teammate Dickerson beat him out for the NL Gold Glove Award in left field. That year, they ranked first and second, respectively, in outs above average. Duvall had the most defensive runs saved.

In Friday's series opener against the Giants, Duvall made two pivotal catches at spacious loanDepot park. With a runner at second in the fourth, he covered 95 feet in 5.1 seconds for a three-star play (55% catch probability). In the eighth, he dove to rob Donovan Solano of a hit.

"With the guys that we have out there, we're going to defend, we're going to run balls down, and we're going to try and keep guys from going to take an extra base, and that's what an aggressive outfield is," Duvall said. "We're trying to suck the life out of the other offense, and that's what we're going to try to do this year. We're going to try to be aggressive, just going to be out there making plays."