No early struggles for speedy Jarren Duran in Salem
In college, Jarren Duran didn’t have a profile that jumped off the page. In less than a year of pro ball, that’s changed.
Taken in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, Duran put himself on the prospect map in his pro debut. In 67 games between short-season Lowell and Single A Greenville, he hit .357/.394/.516 with 24 steals. In just 37 games with the Spinners, he set a franchise record with 10 triples before moving up. It was an astounding debut.
“Even to me it was shocking,” acknowledged Duran. “I was like, ‘I wonder when these [hits] are going to dry out?’ It was too good to be true.”
(Narrator: “It was not too good to be true.”)
If anything, Duran has been even better this year against more advanced competition in the Carolina League. He owns a .395 average with High A Salem — the top average in all of minor league baseball — with a .449 OBP, .516 slugging mark, and 13 steals in 30 games. Though he’s played fewer than 100 games as a pro, he looks like a potential everyday, top-of-the-order hitter — a profile that few would have put on him coming out of college.
In three years at Long Beach State, Duran proved a steady contributor, hitting .295/.377/.374 with 49 steals in 168 games while playing solid defense at second base. Yet starting in the fall of his junior season, Red Sox area scout Justin Horowitz saw a player whose tools and athleticism vastly exceeded his stat line.
Duran’s skill set starts with speed. It would be an understatement to call him fast. He has a Jacoby Ellsbury gear on the bases, one that he relishes using.
Though somewhat reserved upon an initial introduction, Duran did not shy from his enthusiasm for that attribute of his game.
“I like to embarrass some people by using my speed,” he said this spring.
Horowitz heard about Duran’s speed before he watched him in a scrimmage, but was unprepared for what he saw on a single with Duran on first.
“When he rounded second base, I was watching the baseball in the outfield and I just saw this blur flash in front of my field of vision. It took my attention, like, ‘Wow, that is electric speed,’ ” said Horowitz. “That’s exciting stuff, man. It doesn’t happen every day.”
But Duran’s offensive profile wasn’t limited to that of a speedster who beats out grounders to the left side. Horowitz saw a player who consistently drilled line drives to all fields, showed good hand-eye coordination, and kept the barrel in the zone for an extended period.
“It was weird to see his numbers, that there was just no real power production from a performance standpoint,” said Horowitz, who noted that Duran played in a Long Beach home park (Blair Field) renowned for suppressing the power of the Dirtbags. “But when he squared it up, he had pretty incredible bat life. It would jump, it was loud, all those old-school scouting adjectives.”
The scout also was convinced that Duran had untapped defensive value. While he was a solid second baseman, Horowitz said, “His speed was kind of bottled up at second base.”
Last year, the Sox gave Duran time in right field, but this year, he moved to center, with strong early returns.
“He’s still learning the outfield, but the speed is an element that allows him to do a lot of things that most guys can’t,” said Red Sox roving outfield instructor Darren Fenster. “He has a great sense of the type of player that he is. He isn’t trying to do anything that he really is not supposed to be doing, really shooting the gaps, letting his legs do a lot of the work. He’s a very, very exciting young player.”
For now, Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett believes that Duran is at a level that is a good fit for his skills and experience. In seeing Carolina League opponents for a second and third time, he is seeing different pitch sequences than those he attacked in his first time.
If he sustains anything like this consistent impact in High A during his first full pro season, he will put himself in consideration for a promotion to Double A Portland.
“To hit the ground running as fast as he has is impressive,” said Crockett. “I think [Salem is] the right place for him right now, but we’re always evaluating.”
And to date, the evaluations are filled with raves.
“Every day I wake up and it’s exciting to see the box score and the game report, the impact that he’s making in every facet of the game,” said Horowitz. “He’s exceeding my expectations.
“I thought he could be a really interesting super-utility type that could play any of three outfield positions, be a super athlete, handle second base if we needed him to. Obviously, I hope Jarren continues to prove me wrong.”
■ Righthander Mike Shawaryn has a 2.79 ERA in seven starts in Pawtucket. Though he’s striking out a relatively modest 6.6 batters per nine innings, he has expanded his arsenal beyond four-seamer/slider/changeup to incorporate more two-seamers, while also varying the shape of his breaking ball to get more weak contact. After allowing 1.5 homers per nine last year with the PawSox, he’s yielded 0.6 per nine innings this year.
■ Triston Casas , the 2018 first-rounder, is already displaying the all-fields power that drew the Red Sox to him out of high school. The 19-year-old is hitting .252/.322/.505 with six homers in 30 games at Single A Greenville.
■ Eduard Bazardo , 24, has been dominant in Salem, with a 1.21 ERA and a 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk rate through 22⅓ innings. The slight righthander features both a curve and slider, multiple swing-and-miss weapons, on top of a low- to mid-90s fastball.
■ Portland second baseman Brett Netzer is off to a rough start, with a .252/.292/.336 line, a 26.3 percent strikeout rate, and just a 4.4 percent walk rate — surprising numbers for one of the system’s reputed better pure hitters.
■ Double A reliever Durbin Feltman , a 2018 third-rounder, is enduring a severe loss of control. He has allowed five hits (including a homer) and walked nine batters in his last three innings, striking out just one. For now, he’ll continue to pitch roughly every three days.
■ While lefthander Jay Groome’s recovery from Tommy John surgery almost a year ago is projected to fall within a normal 12- to 18-month timetable, it won’t be at the shorter end of that range. Groome is still throwing on flat ground and has yet to progress to a mound. It remains possible that he’ll see action in minor league games this season.