Red Sox top prospect Jarren Duran’s focus at the plate is to keep his bat in the zone as long as possible. Coming up through the minors, Duran always felt he was too rotational with his shoulders. As a result, his bat was in and out of the zone, ultimately leading to weak contact.
In an effort to correct that, Duran came up with a tactic employed by both Justin Turner and Troy Tulowitzki: stay on the white line at the front of your toes in the batter’s box.
For Duran, it serves as his reminder, one that increases the likelihood that he can catch more barrels and get to pitches his opponents are trying to exploit.
“I always struggle with inside pitches,” said Duran, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, “but with this new swing, it just opened me up to be able to get to those pitches. But I still think your approach stays the same. So if I’m looking away, I’m going to try and get a pitch that way. I’m looking in, trying to cheat, then I’m looking in.”
That tweak is part of what has landed the outfielder on the Sox’ big league radar after he made an impression during spring training and at the team’s alternate site last year.
“What we saw on the alternative side was, hopefully, the beginnings of that being able to tap into some power,” said Mike Rikard, the Sox’ vice president of amateur scouting. “To just become a more complete hitter.
“And that’s typically what happens with most of the better guys, is they make adjustments, and they tighten up their holes. Hopefully, that’s going to enable him to have success at the major league level.
“I know he’s been working hard, and looking forward to seeing some really good things for him.”
That power didn’t necessarily translate to this offseason in Puerto Rico, where Duran played winter ball for Criollos de Caguas. He hit just .236 with two extra-base hits and no homers in 70 plate appearances.
“I wanted to do so much extra for my team and prove to them I’m a great player because they’ve never seen me play before that,” Duran said. “I kind of got out of my element of trying to do too much.”
Still, his swing — and overall game — continued on a path of refinement. Duran is arguably the most dynamic player in the Sox system. At 24, he has a chance to make his big league debut at some point in the 2021 season.
He also has improved his routes in the outfield. That, matched with his speed, could make him an elite defender, and furthermore, perhaps, a five-tool talent.
“He can impact the game in a number of ways,” Rikard said. “He’s a real threat on the basepaths. He’s getting to the point now where he’s becoming more confident and consistent in center field.”
Duran, who split the 2019 season between Single A Salem and Double A Portland, will continue to forge a path toward the majors, but when might that be? Much of it will depend on whether there’s an opportunity in front of him. In the meantime, he’ll keep his feet in the batter’s box, continue to grind, and stay on that white line.
“I’m here to play wherever the organization wants me,” Duran said. “If hey want me in Double A, I’m playing in Double A and work my ass off for them. If they want me in Triple A, I’ll work my ass off in Triple A.
“At the end of the day, I don’t control where I go. They do. All I can do is work my ass off for them and do what they need me to do the best I can do.”