Red Sox hope Duran can develop into superstar

Outfield prospect brings speed, open mind to first Spring Training

February 27th, 2020

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As a young boy growing up in Southern California, Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran expended energy in a manner similar to many other kids his age.

He challenged his friends to races.

“You know when you’re younger, all you want to do is race? And I kind of won a lot so that’s when I started to realize I was kind of fast,” Duran said.

A trend started to develop: Duran won every single time. The exception was when he’d race his father, Octavio, a former basketball player in high school who also had the gift of seemingly running on a motor.

But the younger Duran has made his presence felt in the early portion of his first Major League Spring Training.

On Wednesday in Bradenton against the Pirates, hours after interim manager Ron Roenicke expressed confidence that Duran will grow into some power as he gets older, the left-handed hitter lofted a two-run homer over the wall in left during the second inning of Wednesday’s rain-shortened 6-3 win vs. the Pirates.

“I’m not going to try and hit more home runs, but I still feel like a baby,” said the 23-year-old. “Hopefully when I get a little older, I’ll get my man strength or something, and it will come.”

Center fielder of the future?
Three days ago in Sarasota, Duran made a tremendous catch at the wall in right-center and used every bit of his blazing speed by roaring into third with a stand-up triple.

It’s not a stretch to say he could be Boston’s center fielder of the future. MLB Pipeline just released Top 30 Prospects list for the Red Sox, and Duran is ranked No. 8 -- their second-best outfield prospect behind Gilberto Jimenez.

And with Jackie Bradley Jr. eligible for free agency at the end of this season, that future could come fast if Duran develops swiftly enough.

“I don’t really like looking at that because at the end of the day, Jackie is my teammate,” Duran said. “I don’t want to wish anything on him. I hope he stays here for more years to come and dominates the outfield some more. That’s what I wish on people. My time will come. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t, I had a fun ride. But I really hope Jackie stays and continues to do what he does, because he’s one of the best outfielders.”

Learning from the best
This Spring Training -- his first in big league camp -- Duran has had the opportunity to not only participate in outfield drills with Bradley, but other gifted defenders like Andrew Benintendi and Kevin Pillar.

To watch that up close has been perhaps more fun for Duran than the highlight reel he has produced in early Grapefruit League games.

What sticks out the most about those morning drills?

“How loose they are,” Duran said. “They do it like it’s second nature. I guess I’m still getting used to it but just the way they go about everything is so smooth and so clean. That’s something I want to do. The more comfortable you become, the easier it gets for you.”

At this stage, Duran tries to learn by observing.

“It’s been awesome,” Duran said. “I talk to them every once in a while but I try not to bother them. I’m still a young pup. Just watching them, what they do, it’s kind of amazing watching what they can do in the outfield. They’re all really good outfielders. I’m kind of blessed to be behind them and watch them.”

Bradley said he will gladly offer any advice Duran wants.

“I hear he can run. I wish I had seen [the triple on Sunday],” Bradley said. “I can see running in the outfield, that he has a lot of fast-twitch muscles. Yeah, I’d be happy to help anybody.”

Adapting to the outfield
Although Bradley has played center field for pretty much his entire life, the position is still fairly new for Duran, who was drafted as a second baseman by the Red Sox in the seventh round of the 2018 Draft. After playing mostly infield at Class A Short Season Lowell to start his pro career that summer, Duran transitioned to the outfield full-time upon his move to Class A Greenville later that season.

Don’t expect him to move out of center field any time soon. According to Roenicke, the biggest key for Duran on defense will be him improving on going back on the ball.

“It’s that ball going back, it takes a long time to get comfortable where you can turn your back and get there,” said Roenicke. “He made a nice play the other day going back for a ball. It’s a little different because with the sky sometimes, you don’t want to take your eye [off the ball], but ideally you turn your back and you just fly and then you turn around and pick it up. He still needs to learn that part of it but once he gets to that part, I mean, you’re going to see a tremendous outfielder.”

Leading off
For the last several years, the Red Sox had an elite leadoff hitter in Mookie Betts, but that ended when he was traded to the Dodgers. Benintendi is expected to hold down that position this season, but in a perfect world he is probably a No. 2 hitter.

If Duran develops as the Red Sox expect, he should be a natural for the leadoff spot. In 132 games in the Minors last season -- split between Class A Advanced and Double-A Portland -- Duran stole 46 bases. He hit .303 and got on base at a .367 clip while scoring 90 runs and hitting five homers.

He profiles like two former Red Sox center fielders who batted lefty and could run at the top of the order: Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury.

“Yeah, but, then again, they played in The Show, I haven’t made it yet,” Duran said. “I don’t want to drive them down by saying I’m going to be compared to them. Because they’ve been there, they’ve done that. Maybe if I can make it, then I can be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m like them.’ I haven’t earned that title yet.”

But it will be fun watching the former Long Beach State player try to get there.

“Exciting player. Tool-wise, as good as it gets,” said Roenicke. “And that type of player, he’s thrilling to watch. He’s just, [with] the tools, he’s just one of those special guys. You know if it all comes together, you’ve got a superstar."