Red Sox News: Future is now for outfield prospect Jarren Duran

BOSTON, MA - MAY 11: Jarren Duran #24 of the Worcester Red Sox reacts before the inaugural game at Polar Park against the Syracuse Mets on May 11, 2021 in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was the first game ever played at Polar Park. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 11: Jarren Duran #24 of the Worcester Red Sox reacts before the inaugural game at Polar Park against the Syracuse Mets on May 11, 2021 in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was the first game ever played at Polar Park. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Exciting Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran is ready for the big leagues

The Boston Red Sox will open the unofficial second half of the season with a new addition to the outfield. According to Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Jarren Duran is on his way to the Bronx to join the Red Sox for their upcoming series and could make his major league debut against the Yankees.

MLB Pipeline ranks Duran as the No. 3 prospect in the Red Sox farm system and No. 86 overall. His stock has been rising rapidly since the return of the minor league season with Duran showcasing the improved power that was rumored to be emerging at the alternate site in Pawtucket last summer. The 24-year-old naturally gained strength as he filled out but he also revamped his swing to incorporate more loft and the results are paying dividends.

Duran is batting .270 with a .926 OPS, 15 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 46 games for Triple-A Worcester. His home run total has already obliterated his previous career high but his bulkier frame hasn’t prevented him from flashing the speed he possessed when swiping 46 bases in time split between two minor league levels in 2019.

The Red Sox will initially ease Duran in near the bottom of the batting order but his skill set makes him a candidate to emerge as the leadoff hitter this lineup is starved for. Boston ranks 27th in the majors with a .300 OBP and 25th with a .699 OPS from their leadoff hitters this season.

The five-tool talent has been doing everything possible to force his way to the big leagues. The Red Sox were hesitant to rush him since the converted second baseman was still learning to play the outfield but apparently they are now convinced he can handle the challenge.

It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox deploy their outfield with Duran in the fold. He isn’t being called up to sit on the bench. Alex Verdugo is a lock to remain in the lineup most days. Hunter Renfroe has been a pleasant surprise at the plate and they need his strong throwing arm in right field. Kike Hernandez was starting to heat up leading into the break. He could see more time at second base with Duran in the mix but Hernandez has been making a habit of dazzling defensive plays in center field, making it difficult to take his glove out of that spot.

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A rotation that leaves ample playing time for all four outfielders seems likely but the Red Sox need to find space for Duran fist. Marwin Gonzalez exited Sunday’s game against the Phillies with a strained hamstring and could be heading for the injured list. Boston still needs to clear a spot on their 40-man roster before Duran is eligible to join the active roster though. Assuming Gonzalez’s injury isn’t serious enough to warrant a stint on the 60-day IL, his roster move isn’t sufficient.

The Red Sox likely need to designate someone for assignment before they can add Duran. There are a few relief pitchers on thin ice at the moment but they may prefer to jettison a position player in order to add to their outfield. Danny Santana would be a candidate. He hasn’t performed well and is currently injured, which might allow him to slip through waivers and return to the organization with a reassignment to Worcester.

Duran’s promotion comes at an opportune time with the Red Sox holding a slim 1.5 game lead in the AL East exiting the All-Star break. The promising young outfielder will be thrust into the heat of the pennant race but his arrival is late enough that it won’t impact his service time. Duran won’t earn a full year of major league service this year and won’t accrue enough to qualify for early arbitration as a Super Two player. If he remains in the majors, he’ll be controllable through 2027 and won’t reach arbitration-eligibility until after the 2024 season.

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The Red Sox still have some tinkering to do in order to upgrade their roster for a playoff push. The trade deadline offers more opportunities to improve the talent on the roster but if Duran comes anywhere close to matching the hype, he’ll be one of the most important mid-season moves the team makes in their pursuit of the postseason.