Coaches and veteran players around the Rangers call Ezequiel Duran “The Kid” when talking about him. It’s not all that shocking considering he’s 23 years old, born in 1999 and the youngest player with the big league club at the moment.
But for all his youth, Duran has held his own since making his big league debut on June 4. Duran, the Rangers’ No. 4-ranked prospect, is 13-for-40 in 10 games at the big league level after hitting .317/.365/.574 with Double-A Frisco this season.
Yes, Double-A. Duran skipped Triple-A altogether after injuries to Brad Miller and Josh Smith -- who was called up just a week before Duran -- as well as underperformance by Andy Ibáñez forced the Rangers to call him up to play third base.
“He's a very talented young kid, and he's always willing to learn, and he learns pretty fast,” Adolis García said through interpreter Raul Cardenas. “It doesn't surprise me that he belongs here.”
With Miller already back healthy and Smith nearing a return, it would seem that Duran’s big league days are numbered, at least for the moment. But the infielder may be forcing the issue. Manager Chris Woodward admitted that Duran is doing much better than maybe anybody expected, regardless of how highly they think of him.
He’s playing out of his traditional position, at third base instead of second, and he’s done it without skipping a beat. He’s fearless at the plate and seamlessly makes adjustments on the fly when he needs to. His baserunning, while not always flawless, has embodied exactly the type of aggressiveness that the Rangers want.
He’s even had his fair share of clutch hits, with a go-ahead homer against the Mariners on June 5 -- just one day after his debut -- and a game-tying RBI single against the Astros on June 13.
“He's big-time,” Miller said. “He really impressed in camp, just how he holds himself now in the big leagues and how he handles himself. Same with Josh [Smith] and all these young guys. This was a new organization for me, and I thought the younger guys are pretty impressive all around.”
It’s obviously a small sample size, but in a short amount of time, the youngest player on the team is performing and going about his business just like a veteran. Woodward noted that he genuinely trusts The Kid in any situation more and more every day.
“I know Josh Smith and him are pretty tight,” Woodward said. “Josh has gone out of his way to tell all of us that this kid is special. And Josh is obviously special, too. They're both beyond their years as far as the ability to take coaching and go out there and take a game plan and be fearless. It’s really, really impressive … this kid’s got a good heartbeat out there.”
It’s yet to be seen if Duran will stay in Arlington in the short term, but there’s no doubt he’ll be part of the Rangers’ long-term plans.
“I’m not surprised,” Duran said through Cardenas. “I’ve been working my entire life for this. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I’m super content and thankful for the opportunity the organization has given me. I’ve always worked so hard, so I’m just happy to be here.”