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Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Monday Morning Brushback: Union-Mandated Break Time

The Red Sox week in review dives into Jarren Duran, Justin Turner, and Marcelo Mayer

My new theory of “just let the chaos happen” continues to gain momentum.

In last week’s Brushback, I contended that there was no use in getting too worked up one way or the other after a Red Sox game in 2023. We only have one life to live folks; let’s not waste energy getting in a tizzy after a bad loss or a great win, because Boston will just go ahead and do the exact opposite in a few days. Laugh when they spill their lunch all over themselves. Laugh when they pour it on some other stinky club. Laugh your worries away, my friends.

If I were take a critical look into this past week of Red Sox baseball, I would say that they’ve been firing on all cylinders as the All-Star break officially begins.

I would say that they’re on a 15-8 run.

I would say that they’ve won eight of their last nine games.

I would say that they’re one of the hottest teams in the majors heading into the Midsummer Classic.

I would say they looked impressive while taking two of three against a high-octane Rangers group that has pennant aspirations.

I would say that they’ve won five straight contests to catapult themselves right back on the heels of the Yankees and Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot. I would say that their run differential is comparable to both of those clubs; they sit seven runs away from Toronto and seven runs clear of New York.

I would say that their next few sets of games after the break are pretty favorable—their next three opponents are all under .500.

I would say they did all of that with a limited pitching staff, which is nothing to sneeze at.

I would say that by July 24, right before their two game series against Atlanta, we’re going to have a very good idea of how possible a late-season push can be.

But again, I’m not saying any of that. I’m just letting it all happen, baby.

It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.

Let Jarren Cook

Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

In case I haven’t made myself explicitly clear, I’d like to extend an apology to one Jarren Duran.

Right around this time last year, I had had just about enough of the outfielder. He wasn’t performing up to snuff, there was the Raimel Tapia inside-the-park fiasco, there was the rough weekend he had in Kansas City—there were a whole bunch of things that turned me off to the guy. I did not see the upside in Duran going forward at that point.

Yet after an off-season of shifting his approach on and off of the field, he’s made quite the compelling argument to be a fixture of this team for the foreseeable future. I’ve gotta give him a ton of credit for changing the narrative around him; he certainly deserves that much.

Jarren’s adjustments have been evident in between the lines in 2023. At the All-Star break, he’s logged about 250 plate appearances—that’s quite a healthy sample size when talking about the first half of the campaign. Across that time, he’s logged an .886 OPS while hitting the ball to all fields. Hell, if you took a quick look at his spray chart this year without any context, you’d be reasonable enough to assume he’s a righty instead of a lefty! Peep the doubles and homers—a fair amount of them have been hit to the opposite field.

His season-long numbers have been very good, but Duran has been on absolute fire in the box as of late. Since June 10—a month ago from the date of this wonderful article’s publication—he’s hit .420 (blaze it) over 69 ABs (nice) with 10 RBI, 15 runs, and 15 extra base hits. The nine steals he’s chipped in during that time certainly don’t hurt, either, considering that Boston’s been starving for speed in recent years.

Is that stat line good? Because I’m thinkin’ it’s pretty good, folks.

If you’ve been watching Duran, you know he’s done a much better job in sitting back on softer pitches. Just watch him wait on this 0-2 slider to come to him back on Independence Day before he turns on it, sends it to the triangle at Fenway, and switches on those freakin’ burners to leg out a stand-up (STAND-UP!!!! WITH EASE!!!! HE’S SO FAST!!!!) triple.

The improvements in Duran’s quality of contact against secondary offerings between 2022 and 2023 has been notable: Savant shows that his expected slugging percentages against sliders and changeups have jumped by about 250 points to around .500 and .375 respectively, while that same expected metric against curveballs has risen by another 200 points to—once again—nearly .500. A batter being able to attack different offerings like that is a tell tale sign of a proper tweaks being made.

Here’s the thing with Durran, though: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy is he not an everyday player at this point?

Remember about 250 words ago, when I referred to his line since June 10? Yeah, that was only over 24 games. The Red Sox played 27 games in that stretch. Out of those 24 games for Duran, he had less than two plate appearance in six of ‘em; that’s hardly enough time to make much of an impact on a game.

I understand playing the lefty-righty matchup game. I understand that 162 games is a lot for a relatively healthy team, never mind one that’s had more than its fair share of injury misfortunes since the start of 2022. I understand any manager should keep the long-term health of their roster in mind.

With all of that said: there’s zero (0) reason why Jarren Duran should not be a regular in Boston’s lineup. Y’know why? The kicker is that he LEADS THE TEAM IN FWAR DESPITE HIS PLAYING TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At some point, the Red Sox are gonna have to decide if Duran is going to be a regular in their outfield plans—someone who can play around 150 games—or if he’s just a platoon guy. As it currently stands and considering what he’s done in 2023, resigning to the latter would be doing a disservice to Duran, the team, and the fans. The team looks to be back in the playoff mix (at least for now) and arbitration for Jarren won’t even kick in until after 2025. Now is the time to figure out if he can be a mainstay for 2023 and beyond; you can’t learn that if you don’t play him!

To make a long story short: let Jarren cook.

Speaking of people who have been cooking...

The Great Red Hope

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

Justin Turner just knows how to freakin’ hit, man. What a roll he’s been on.

To keep it consistent with the previous segment, JT’s hit .353 with six round-trippers, 26 RBI, and 22 runs since June 10. He’s been even more red hot than his facial hair since the calendar turned to July—a .452 average during that stretch is bananas.

Just about every AB that Tormund puts together is competitive. He doesn’t get blown away too often (83rd percentile in K rate and 86th in whiffs, per Savant) while he’s done an excellent job of keeping the line moving for an offense that desperately needed an injection of juice (no, not the Barry Bonds type...well maybe they can have a lil’ ~~as a treat~~) just a few weeks ago. The way he’s spreading the ball also makes for Fenway magic.

It’s gotten to the point that even with his age, I’m really hoping that Turner opts in to his player option for 2024. $13.4 million—which is what his player option for next season would be—with this production would be an absolute bargain (he’s making even less this year, for what it’s worth). There’s no guarantee he repeats what he’s been doing so far in this campaign, but Turner’s also been around long enough for us to know who he is: a productive hitter. He’s posted a 132 OPS+ over 4,000 at-bats since he made his Dodgers debut in 2014.

Even as he creeps towards his 39th birthday, he’s still producing at a great clip with no signs of slowing down. He’s a winner and he’s a proven vet. Why not hope that he sticks around for another year at Fenway?

Baby Bro’s Big Break

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

To wrap up the article this week, I wanted to give a shoutout to the Red Sox’s top prospect and number one boy.

Shortstop Marcelo Mayer led the Boston cavalry in the All-Star Futures Game this weekend, giving us a glimpse of what, hopefully, is to come during his brief outing in Seattle. The man who looks like Vinny Chase (two HBO references back to back?) got a single in his only AB while chipping in a steal as well as a putout on the defensive end. His cleats also looked sick; look good, feel good, play good.

Look at that silky smooth swing, man. He’s just what the doctor ordered at short.

Did you know that no shortstop on the 2023 Sox has registered in the top 20 of fWAR on the team? Did you also know that the Red Sox shortstop core has posted a bottom three fWAR this year across the league?

Yeah, all of that is to say that Marcelo Mayer is set to be an antidote to the shortstop issues in Boston. He’s gotten high grades across plenty of evaluations. ESPN has him as the number three prospect in baseball, while Pipeline has him at number four overall. He’s the number one prospect in my heart, for what that’s worth.

Soon, my friends, will the baseball gods smile upon us as Marcelo Mayer makes his debut with the Red Sox.

Song of the Week: “All Star” by Smash Mouth

I mean, what else was it gonna be this week?

Until next time, my friends! Go Sox.

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