Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran has earned his roster spot
The Boston Red Sox must keep Jarren Duran in the majors
Jarren Duran‘s vaccination status will prevent him from traveling with the Boston Red Sox to Toronto this week. Once the team crosses over to this side of the border again for a weekend series in Chicago, Duran needs to be reinstated to the roster where he should remain for the foreseeable future.
There were whispers that Duran’s decision to remain unvaccinated would cost him his roster spot. Making a “personal choice” that prevents him from being available for a pivotal series against a division rival is a risky path for a young player trying to earn his place on the major league roster.
Those concerns should be fading away as Duran heats up at the plate. After collecting a pair of hits in Cleveland on Sunday, Duran is hitting .327/.386/.500 with five double and two triples in 57 plate appearances. He has recorded multiple hits in consecutive games and at least one hit in 10 of his 13 games this season.
Duran has been a sparkplug at the top of the lineup. He’s getting on base and he’s always a threat to run once he gets on, adding an element that the Red Sox have been lacking in recent years. Duran already has four stolen bases, which ranks second on the team behind Trevor Story (10).
Last year’s brief stint in the majors was disappointing but Duran has shown significant improvement since then. He’s looking to drive the ball instead of swinging for the fences. He’s learning to use the opposite field more often. Most importantly, his plate discipline is much better. Duran struck out at an alarming rate last year (35.7 K%) and rarely walked (3.6 BB%). During his brief time in the majors this year, his strikeout rate has dropped to 19.3% and he’s increased his walk rate to 7.0%.
Duran has shown enough to prove he’s ready for this level. The Red Sox will need to replace him on the roster while they are in Toronto but Duran should reclaim his spot at the top of the lineup as soon as they return.
Roster decisions will get a bit more complicated once Enrique Hernandez returns from injury. He doesn’t appear close to a return, but the roster crunch is looming. When the Red Sox inevitably activate Hernandez, it shouldn’t be at Duran’s expense. Duran needs to keep his roster spot and his role as the leadoff hitter even when Kike is back.
Some fans are ready to move on from Kike, who struggled to the tune of a .209 average and .613 OPS before landing on the injured list. He’s a streaky hitter who is clearly capable of better production than this. We saw what he did on the October stage last postseason. Hernandez also provides elite defense at multiple positions. He’ll be a free-agent after this season, and while he won’t necessarily be re-signed, the Red Sox aren’t going to cut him this year if he can get healthy.
Kike might lose his spot as a regular in the lineup but he can compliment Duran in the outfield. It’s a very limited sample, but Duran hasn’t shown he can hit left-handed pitching. He’s 1-for-12 (0.83) against lefties in the majors this season and he was hitting .246 with a .696 OPS against southpaws in Triple-A. As much as he’s struggled this year, Hernandez has always performed better against lefties. He can still be useful when a left-hander is on the mound in place of either Duran or Jackie Bradley Jr.
Duran remains a work in progress in the outfield, so Hernandez could also provide value as as defensive replacement late in games.
Rob Refsnyder has impressed in his limited opportunities, hitting .414 with a 1.141 OPS in 29 at-bats while providing strong defense in the outfield. His right-handed bat could also find its way into the lineup against lefties if the Red Sox want to sit both Duran and JBJ.
The Red Sox need Christian Arroyo‘s versatility in the infield, so his spot is probably safe despite his underwhelming production at the plate.
Franchy Cordero or Bobby Dalbec could end up being optioned back to Triple-A when Hernandez returns, especially if Arroyo is capable of handling some time at first base. Both of their struggling first baseman could find their spots in jeopardy if Triston Casas is deemed ready for a promotion later this season.
The Red Sox will have options once their roster if fully healthy but Duran needs to be among the players who stay in the majors. His reluctance to get vaccinated will cause headaches when the team travels to Toronto at the end of the season and will be an issue if the Red Sox face the Blue Jays in the playoffs. They will cross that bridge when they get to it. In the meantime, Boston needs Duran at the top of their lineup.