In the last edition of voting, which was won by Bryan Mata to take the third spot on our list, I mentioned that we are at a crowded portion of the list and that the votes would likely be close for a while at this point. Well, not so much. This wasn’t quite the level of blowout we saw with Jeter Downs in the second round of voting, but it also wasn’t particularly suspenseful. Jarren Duran had little trouble taking the four spot on our list, grabbing 33 percent of the vote.
Duran was not exactly a highly touted player coming out of college, with the Red Sox selecting him in the seventh round of the 2018 draft out of Long Beach State. In hindsight, he was the steal of that draft class for Boston, and perhaps one of the steals of the entire draft looking league-wide. The Red Sox saw raw talent in Duran in college, but knew he needed to make some overhauls to his mechanics at the plate in order to unlock that potential. They simplified his approach and moved him to the outfield where they saw his athleticism being more of an asset than it was at second base, which is where he played in college.
The results of these changes were immediate. Duran took to the mechanical alterations right away and absolutely destroyed the low minors. He started his career in Lowell, and over 37 games he hit .348/.393/.548, earning him a prompt promotion to Greenville. He didn’t slow down despite the new level of pitching, hitting .367/.396/.477 over 30 games to finish up his first summer as a pro. To be fair, some of this production, particularly in the slugging department, was due to poor defense in the low minors combined with his elite speed, but he was making more consistent quality contact than anyone could have expected.
Coming off the heels of that debut performance, the Red Sox unsurprisingly put Duran in High-A Salem to start the 2019 season, hoping he’d carry that hot start over to the next level. He did. The rising prospect only needed 50 games in Salem to prove he was too good for that level, hitting .387/.456/.543 before getting his promotion to Portland. The jump to Double-A can often be tough, and for Duran that proved to be true as we saw him struggle for the first time as a pro. Over 82 games with the Sea Dogs, he hit .250/.309/.325. For what it’s worth, he did improve some as the year went on, hitting .273/.329/.387 over his last 38 games to end the season. That’s still far below where he was in the lower levels, of course, but it’s good to see a player head in the right direction after struggling, particularly after struggling for the first time as a pro.
So, coming off of his first downturn in his short career, Duran was one of the most interesting players in the system as players reported to camp last spring. He got a chance to play with the big leaguers, and had some impressive moments before the league shut down due to COVID. Obviously he was not able to play affiliated ball, but he did get to participate at the Alternate Site all summer, and he was arguably the biggest bright spot in Pawtucket. Another swing adjustment unlocked power we had never seen from Duran before, giving him a higher ceiling than we had considered before. It’s a different story unlocking power while facing the same handful of pitchers day after day than doing so in organized league fashion — the power has carried over somewhat this winter in Puerto Rico, for what that’s worth — but by all accounts the coaching staff and scouting department was impressed.
And so here we are heading into the 2021 season, and Duran is arguably the most hyped prospect in the system thanks to his recent improvements and proximity to the majors. And there’s good reason for the hype. Duran has the potential to be an everyday center fielder in this league if everything clicks. He has a good hit tool. He does swing and miss a bit more than you’d like, but it’s not anything egregious and when he does make contact it’s often hard and on a line. Plus, if the newfound power is close to real, that swing and miss becomes much less concerning. He also has plus speed which scouts generally have as a 70 on the 20-80 scale.
The biggest question for Duran in terms of scouting is probably with his defense, as the converted infielder still looks like a converted infielder in center field at times. It takes some projecting to have him stick there, but it’s a projection with which I’m comfortable. He clearly has the athleticism to play the position, and play it well. The arm isn’t great, but it’s enough. The question is with his routes, something with which he is still struggling at times. That’s something that will improve with time, though, and with Duran specifically I’m confident he can refine things enough to be at least average out there, if not a bit above. There’s not much in a prospect’s development more important to me than an ability to make adjustments on the fly and have them click. Duran has done this twice at the plate since being drafted, and there’s little reason to think that work ethic won’t transfer to the outfield as well.
Looking ahead to the coming season, we can expect Duran to start the season in Worcester, one step away from the majors. He’s not yet on the 40-man so I wouldn’t expect an early call up, but he can play his way to the majors later in the year, particularly if the team falls out of the race by midseason. He’s going to be among the two or three prospects we hear the most about this year, and judging by what we’ve seen for most of his pro career it’ll be a blast following along.
Here’s our list so far.
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number five prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...