Full squad workouts don’t begin until Monday, but top outfield prospect Jarren Duran already is a hot topic of discussion. Duran, 24, came onto the scene last year when he put together an impressive showing during spring training. He carried that over to the Red Sox’ alternate training site last summer, then to winter ball in Puerto Rico in the offseason. Winter ball is where manager Alex Cora really got a glimpse of Duran and a comparison came to mind.
“I always talk about Jacoby [Ellsbury],” Cora said.
That comp probably wouldn’t make Yankees fans all too excited, but that’s high praise for Duran. In seven seasons with the Red Sox, Ellsbury hit .297/.350/.439 with 241 stolen bases. He had three seasons of 50-plus stolen bases, including 70 in 2009. He was an All-Star and finished second in the American League MVP race in 2011. When healthy, Ellsbury was dynamic.
Duran has proved to be dynamic at the minor league level. The Sox are hoping it will translate to the big leagues as it did for Ellsbury.
Duran hit .236 with just two doubles for Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican regular season. He said it was largely because he was pressing.
“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.”
But in the four-game championship series, Duran took home MVP after going 5 for 15 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 6 RBIs. He followed by making the all-tournament team in the Caribbean Series.
“He plays hard the whole time,” Cora said. “And at one point, he was hitting like .180 or something like that. It was fun. He worked hard on his swing. He has a great work ethic and I look forward to him coming here [this spring].”
Cora said Duran will see a lot of playing time with the big league club during the spring. After the minor league season was canceled last year because of COVID-19, Cora thinks it’s imperative that Duran sees as much live game action as possible to hone his skills.
Cora was asked if the loss of that year will have any impact on Duran and other prospects.
“We’re about to find out,” he said. “I remember when I came up, people were talking about 1,000 at bats or whatever, players need that. Obviously nowadays it’s less. They got their at-bats in the pocket at the [alternate training site] and the organization did an outstanding job of pushing those kids to get better, but it’s not the same. The competition, the pressure of winning the fanbase. We’ll see how much it’s going to affect these kids.”
Richards has the right stuff
Cora always has been impressed with starter Garrett Richards. He liked his stuff. He saw how it played last season when Richards was with the San Diego Padres. Cora saw how it played before that when Richards was with the Los Angeles Angels for eight seasons. Cora is now seeing it up close.
Richards has dealt with injuries, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018. The Sox believe they can unlock something with him. Richards is a power arm with a high-spin curve. Cora likened Richards’s raw stuff to how devastating Nate Eovaldi can be when healthy and just how dominant Eovaldi was in 2018 after the Sox acquired him from the Rays.
Cora believes Richards can have the same impact.
“This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, during the process, he feels that there’s more,” Cora said. “I’m looking forward to pitch him every five days and see where he can go.”
The Red Sox’ position players are scheduled to take physicals Sunday … Eovaldi threw a live batting practice Saturday. Cora initially said Eduardo Rodríguez was set to face hitters Saturday, but got the schedule mixed up. Rodríguez threw a bullpen Saturday and will toss live batting practice Sunday … The idea of moving Darwinzon Hernández to the rotation continues to be raised, but Cora said the lefthander will remain in the bullpen for now … The first full-squad workouts will take place Monday … Cora didn’t say much regarding the status of free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. The two remain in contact, Cora said, but they don’t talk baseball. With all players across the league required to report to spring training by Feb. 27 at the latest, Bradley is one of the big-name outfielders left on the market.