Jarren Duran’s transformation from seventh round draft selection to top 30 global prospect in just three years has been quite the spectacle. He showed off a strong ability to hit for average and steal bases from Low-A in 2018 to Double-A in 2019, but the lack of power in his game was a big weakness. Duran set out to change that at the Alternate Site last year, and he put on a ton of muscle while also revamping his swing to get more loft on the ball. This combination of added strength and increased launch angle really showed up in Triple-A this year, where Duran posted a career-bests in Isolated Power (SLG - AVG), flyball rate, and groundball rate.
Unfortunately, these improvements have not yet translated to his performance in the big leagues. Through his first month as a major leaguer, Duran’s flyball and groundball rates have fallen back to the power-lacking levels they were at before his swing change, resulting in an ISO below league-average. Duran has also been struggling with his plate discipline – he’s striking out over 38 percent of the time and has drawn only two walks, a surprise considering he posted a walk rate in the double digits at Triple-A. All in all, his season’s wRC+ is a very poor 57, meaning he’s been 43 percent worse than a league-average hitter.
Despite Duran’s troubling start, we’re still dealing with a very small sample size as he’s accumulated just 84 PA thus far. There isn’t major reason to worry about how he projects long-term because of a bad first month. He’s a blue-chip prospect with a very bright future, and he deserves a lengthy opportunity to sort out his struggles and adjust to big league pitching. Regrettably, the Sox just aren’t in a position to give him this opportunity.
The Red Sox have already fallen out of the division lead, and the Wild Card race is getting tighter and tighter. The Yankees and Blue Jays have gained significantly on both the Sox and the Athletics, with New York fully catching up on Tuesday, and every single game feels like a must-win at this point in the season. The Red Sox simply don’t have the luxury of letting a rookie figure out his struggles when one game is separating them from being a playoff team or a non-playoff team.
Additionally, the Sox’ recent acquisitions seem to potentially leave Jarren Duran as the odd man out. Kyle Schwarber’s bat should be a mainstay in the lineup, and he’s either going to stay in the outfield or attempt to play some first base. Christian Arroyo’s impending return is also imminent, and if he moves back to second base, that could push Enrique Hernández back into the outfield. Bobby Dalbec’s recent hot streak has given him a second chance in my eyes, and recently acquired Travis Shaw can also play multiple positions.
Clearly, the Sox’ lineup is getting pretty crowded, and Duran could definitely see his playing time start to trend downward if he doesn’t show signs of improvement. To be entirely clear, he still has a bright future, but the games are getting more and more important, and Duran is going to need to start producing fast if he wants to consistently see the field during this stretch run.