I had planned a huge post on the first half of the season, what the Red Sox did well and what they need to improve on to keep a hold on their position atop the standings. I had planned that, was writing it, was working and researching it, and then this news broke.
It’s Christmas in July!
Before you rightfully give me a playful smack, yes I did misspell his name. It’s J-A-R-R-E-N. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get that down as the season rolls on.
So Jarren Duran is coming up! Whoo hoo! That’s great news. Duran will bring speed to the outfield and power to the lineup. So who is this guy and where did he come from? Duran was Boston’s seventh round pick back in 2018 out of Long Beach State University. He always had crazy speed, but a swing change just before COVID hit helped him unlock his power potential, and the ball started jumping off his bat at the alternate site last year. This year brought more of the same at Triple-A Worcester. Duran has hit .270/.365/.561 with 15 homers in 46 games this season. That, plus his plus plus speed and we’re cooking with gas!
At his best, Duran is a hazy distant facsimile of Jacoby Ellsbury, a center fielder with an incredible speed and power combination. Ellsbury was more of a speed guy and, if we’re being honest, a much better outfielder (at least so far), and Duran has more pop. That might sound crazy to say about a guy who hasn’t hit a single major league homer when compared to a guy who has a 32 homer season on his resume, but I think it’s accurate. Of course, it’s a bit cheap and easy to compare Duran to Ellsbury, a first round pick who should’ve won the AL MVP back in 2011. The skill sets are roughly similar though, even if we shouldn’t expect Ellsbury’s career out of Duran.
Duran isn’t without questions though. Forgive me for throwing water on this fun fire, but there are a few to be asked, if not answered.
Defensively, Duran is a converted infielder. His speed absolutely plays in center field, but there are questions about his routes to balls, and his ability to read the ball off the bat. He’s been in the outfield for going on three seasons now so it’s possible that this is really what he is defensively in the outfield, i.e. a below average defender even with his plus plus speed. His speed will help make up for some of his mistakes and misjudgments in field, but it seems that he might be better off in an outfield corner rather than in center, where it had been hoped he could play full time. We’ll have to see how he develops but I know there are questions as to his ultimate home in the outfield.
Beyond his defense, I brought up his shiny Triple-A slash line and it’s a looker, but if you break it into home and road splits, it’s not quite so nice. Or, put better, it’s really nice and also not so nice.
You could dismiss his road numbers as a small sample, and you wouldn’t be wrong except for one concern. The new ballpark in Worcester, Polar Park, has played like a bandbox. There seems to be a jet stream that picks up fly balls and throws them with violence and anger over the outfield wall. I’m not saying Duran’s home numbers are entirely a product of a hitter friendly home ballpark, but I’m not not saying that either. It remains to be seen.
And look, if Duran is taking playing time from Danny Santana who has been putrid and/or Marwin Gonzalez, who has been… what’s a step up from putrid? Fetid? Rotten?Regardless, that’s fine. Both have been quite bad at hitting, and shouldn’t be allowed to go near a starting lineup. How bad? Both Marwin and Danny have on-base percentages and slugging percentages under .300. If you want to win you generally don’t give players like that a lot of playing time.
But here’s why so many including yours truly have been clamoring for Duran’s promotion for a month or more. If Duran can only replicate his Triple-A road numbers, with his speed, he’s still a step up from those guys. If he can hit somewhere in between his Triple-A splits then he’s a leap up from those guys. If he hits anywhere near his overall Triple-A slash line, he’s a jet plane flying over any and all bars set in his way.
It’s fair to have questions until they get answered on the field, but for what it’s worth (not much), scouts and the national media are very much in Duran’s camp. Duran is ranked 29th in baseball by Baseball America and 32nd in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. The prospect guru industry has been dig’n what Duran has been throwing down since reports of his escapades escaped the alternate site last year.
One more note on Duran. Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo figure to be fixtures in the outfield for the foreseeable future, at least until Renfroe turns back into a pumpkin (if that happens), so that leaves one spot open in the outfield. Duran will fill that spot. They did not bring him up to sit on the bench. Duran is going to play most days. He’ll get some days off, especially as he acclimates to the majors. Manager Alex Cora will want to get Marwin and, if he’s still on the roster, Danny Santana some playing time, but this call up should, while everyone is healthy, mostly be the end of the rotating outfield cast.
Your starting outfield going forward should be Duran, Verdugo, and Renfroe (left to right), and if you’re a Red Sox fan you should probably be very happy about that. One more competent player in the lineup and in the field means they are a step closer to the roster this team needs the front office to build.
Duran’s challenge will be to show he can be a regular outfielder by improving his routes to balls and reads off of bats. He’ll further have to prove his power can play at the major league level and that his swing and miss issues aren’t too great to encumber his overall production. As in all things, we’ll see. Unless we get hit by a bus first.
40 man implications
Jarren Duran is not currently on the Red Sox 40 man roster, so adding him to the active roster means they have to add him to the 40 man as well. That means someone has to go. Who will that be? It’s hard to say. I could speculate on it, but A) I’d probably be wrong, and B) who cares we’ll all know by tomorrow afternoon anyway, so why bother? We know the roster will have to change between now and Thursday game time.
But for now, forget about the 40 man roster. Forget about the roster shenanigans, and minor league splits. Be happy! Rejoice! It is Jarren Duran season. Finally.