Durbin tapping into power during Fall League stint

October 21st, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his first year in the Yankees’ system, Caleb Durbin established himself as a contact-first bat with solid speed on the bases, flashing both skill sets throughout his breakout 2023 campaign.

Those same qualities have been prevalent thus far in the Arizona Fall League, but the 23-year-old infielder has also been tapping into some power at the plate.

Durbin wasted no time showing off some thump from the right side on Friday night at Camelback Ranch, grooving a leadoff homer on the second pitch of the game in Mesa’s 11-4 loss to Glendale. The Yankees’ farmhand extended his hitting streak to five games, during which he is batting .500 (9-for-18) with five extra-base hits, including four doubles, and six RBIs.

“I feel great,” Durbin said. “I think the biggest thing is I feel really healthy right now. I had some bumps throughout the season that I had to battle through, but overall I feel [like] I got my rhythm down and I’m just glad to be here.”

Facing Mets right-hander Jordan Geber to open the game, Durbin turned around a 93 mph fastball to left field for his second homer of the fall to give the Solar Sox a first-inning lead. His drive came off the bat at 100 mph and traveled 411 feet, landing in the bullpen. Durbin added a pair of walks and a single to his line as well to raise his OPS to 1.192.

The Braves' 14th round pick in 2021 out of Division III Washington University in St. Louis has quietly been one of the top hitters on the Fall League circuit, hitting .366/.509/.683 with six stolen bases. Durbin has also walked more than he has struck out -- his 2.2 BB/K ratio ranks second among all AFL hitters.

His ability to consistently put the ball in play -- which was reflected in his organization-best 6.2 K% rate (among players with at least 250 plate appearances) -- continues to be an area of focus, but Durbin has honed in on trying to lift the ball more to maximize his power. He’s started to see it pay dividends through 12 games.

“I was hitting the ball well this year, just not getting it in the air enough,” Durbin said. “That was the biggest thing for me. I’ve had weeks during the season where I was getting air under it and getting those extra-base hits quite a bit. It’s going well now, I’m in that rhythm of getting the ball in the air pretty consistently -- that’s the key for me. Doing it not a couple times a week, but doing it two, three, four times a game.”

Acquired from the Braves in an offseason trade, Durbin entered the Yankees’ system following his first full season of pro ball in 2022, when he split 105 games between two Minor League levels. An injury kept him out for nearly two months this year, but Durbin still managed to hit .304 with an .822 OPS in 69 games between High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset.

“I worked really hard this past offseason,” Durbin said. “I saw some success this season. The Yankees helped me a ton. It’s just trying to continue that in the Fall League is the biggest thing.”

In an effort to garner extra reps following his standout summer, Durbin has taken full advantage of the Fall League, headlining a group of eight Yankees’ prospects. His fellow Bronx Bomber and Mesa teammate, Benjamin Cowles, also stood out on Friday, following up Durbin’s leadoff homer with a 422 foot clout of his own that clocked in at 108 mph off the bat. Cowles is hitting .333/.439/.576 in 10 games this fall.

Even as Durbin and Cowles have flown under the radar to this point in their professional careers, their performance in baseball’s premier fall circuit has been hard to ignore.

“I think you can kind of tell the culture that the Yankees have,” Durbin said. “Pretty consistently they come down here and perform pretty well from what I understand. Obviously me, Ben and [Nelson] Medina are trying to do our thing down here, but it’s definitely just the culture as a whole of the Yankees.”

Kevin Parada (Mets No. 5/MLB No. 89) had four RBIs on the strength of his second homer and a three-run double, leading Glendale’s offensive surge along with Bryan Ramos (CWS No. 7), who went 4-for-5 with a homer and three singles.