Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran put on an MVP performance this winter
Jarren Duran showed why he’s one of the most exciting prospects in the Boston Red Sox farm system with a spectacular performance in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The 24-year-old was named the MVP of the 2020-21 Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente Final Series for leading Criollos de Caguas to a four-game series sweep.
Duran homered to lead off Game 4 on Sunday to help clinch the series with a 7-6 victory over Indios de Mayaguez. He went 5-for-15 with two home runs, two doubles, six RBI and seven runs scored in the series.
Caguas is managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vázquez, providing some additional insight into Duran’s performance that the organization is certain to have taken note of.
Baseball America has Duran ranked as the top outfield prospect and No. 5 overall in the Red Sox system. He’s graded as the fastest baserunner among Red Sox prospects and Duran has stolen 70 bases in two minor league seasons.
While he hasn’t displayed much power at the minor league level with only eight home runs and 38 doubles in 199 games, he showed encouraging progress during his time at the alternate site in Pawtucket last year after making adjustments to his swing and packing on some muscle. The extra-base hits that he piled up for Caguas in the Finals suggest his bat is on the verge of making a leap in that department.
Duran split time between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019, hitting .303 with a .775 OPS, five home runs, 24 doubles, and 46 steals.
He’s already a terror on the base paths and his speed has made him a solid defensive center fielder. We can already envision his emerging power making him a doubles machine at Fenway Park and he could add double-digit homers.
Last year’s cancelled minor league season was a setback for many prospects. While Duran was able to impress at the alternate site, it’s not the same as facing opponents in real game action every day.
The Red Sox still want to give Duran more time to develop and they are likely to start him at Triple-A Worcester this year. If he thrives at that level, Duran could be knocking on the door to his big league debut. We could see him in Boston at some point in 2021, potentially putting him in position to be the primary center fielder heading into the 2022 season.
Projecting Duran as their center fielder of the future at least played a part in the decision not to compete with the lucrative six-year, $150 million deal that the Toronto Blue Jays gave to free-agent star George Springer. Duran would have pushed Springer to a corner outfield spot within a year or two and his expensive salary would have become a massive overpay if he wasn’t patrolling center field.
The Red Sox are focused on signing a veteran to a short-term deal to serve as a placeholder until Duran is ready. They might be content to let Alex Verdugo hold down the position knowing it’s only a temporary solution, although that’s not ideal considering how well he handled Fenway’s challenging right field dimensions.
Either way, the center field job is waiting for Duran when he’s ready. Considering his MVP performance in Winter League combined with his encouraging progress last year in Pawtucket, Duran might be ready for the big leagues sooner than expected.