After a few close races that have been dwindling down by number of participants, there was only one player left who had been battling it out for one of the top seven spots. It was possible for one of the others to step up with some support to make it close, but that simply wasn’t the case. This one was a runaway, which is apt given this player’s speed. We’re talking about Jarren Duran, who comes in at number seven in our voting. He receiving a whopping 85 percent of the vote.
Duran wasn’t drafted out of high school, but he was still heading to a college that had produced plenty of major-league talent at Long Beach State. He was an everyday player all three years he spent there, hitting a combined .294/.376/.377. The then-infielder also spent the summer of 2017 down on the Cape playing for the Wareham squad, hitting .281/.397/.368. He wasn’t an elite prospect after that junior year at Long Beach, but he was ranked 170th by Baseball America, and the Red Sox scooped him up in the seventh round with the 220th overall pick.
The Red Sox saw an opportunity to get a little more out of Duran after getting him in the organization, closing up his starting position compared to where he was in college. They also moved him out to center field after spending his college career at second base. This resulted in a monster professional debut in 2018, surprising even the team. He started that summer in Lowell immediately after being drafted, hitting .348/.393/.548, earning a promotion to Greenville just 37 games into his professional career. He didn’t slow down much at all in A-Ball, either, hitting .367/.396/.477. Some of that success, particularly with his 10 triples during that stint at Lowell, was thanks to shoddy low-minors defense, but even beyond just the results there were reasons for the organization to be excited.
They decided to keep pushing him as they headed into the 2019 season, starting Duran off in Salem for his first full season. Once again he did not miss a beat, hitting even better than he had in that pro debut the year before. Over 50 games in Salem, Duran hit .387/.456/.543, and only a little more than a year after being drafted he was heading to Portland for Double-A ball. It was here where, for the first time in his career, we saw the outfielder struggle. He made less contact than he had in the low minors, and over 82 games he hit .250/.309/.325. It is worth noting he both looked better and put up better numbers over the last month or so of the season, but it still wasn’t quite the same guy we had seen up to that point.
It is, of course, not the end of the world for a player to struggle in Double-A just a year after being drafted, and in fact sometimes it can serve as a positive. For the first time in his career we have to see him adjust, and if he can come back strong to start 2020, that would be a good sign of his ability to do just that.
On the scouting side, Duran is a fairly straight-forward player, at least offensively. His number one carrying tool is his speed, which is elite. He is a great baserunner, too, and utilizes that speed as he is still learning the outfield. One of the bigger points of contention comes down to his hit tool, one that I see as above-average but that some evaluators have knocked down a peg after his showing in Portland. Given that he doesn’t have much over-the-fence power — his slugging should play up some due to his speed stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples, but that only goes so far — the development of that hit tool will become key. The defense is also a point of contention. It’s clear right now he is below-average as he has still only been out in center field for a year and a half. I think he should be at least average out there given the athleticism, but some don’t agree. Put it all together and there is some disagreement about whether he’s a bench piece or a starter.
- This season, and the start of the year in particular, will be fascinating to watch. He will presumably be right back in Portland looking to make the adjustment and get off to a hot start. If that does happen, it’s not hard to see a mid-season promotion to Pawtucket, and from there the major-league debut could come as early as late this coming season. I would temper that a bit, though, and expect the debut is more likely to come earlier in the year in 2021.
Here is our list so far: