If there's one player particularly feeling the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, it's Jarren Duran.
The speedy center fielder turned 24 in September, but has yet to take a swing beyond Double-A. In a normal 2020, he would've opened at Portland and likely progressed to either Triple-A Pawtucket or the big leagues.
In the abnormal 2020 we just lived, he instead spent most of the summer at the alternate site, honing his skills in live batting practices and glorified scrimmages, by all accounts impressing the Red Sox brass. But still, there's no substitute for actual game action, and Duran hadn't had any since appearing in the 2019 Arizona Fall League.
That changed this winter when he suited up for Caguas in the Puerto Rican winter league that's named after Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Duran didn't do much during the regular season, hitting .236 with no homers and a .658 OPS.
But he found his footing in the World Series, leading Caguas to the title with a monster run that earned him MVP honors and highlighted just how valuable he could be to the 2021 Red Sox, even if he doesn't break camp with them.
In the four-game championship series vs. Mayaguez, Duran went 5-for-15 with a two homers, two doubles, six RBIs, and seven runs. He homered leading off the game and drove in three runs in Sunday's 7-6 clincher.
The power surge is meaningful, because it's one part of the athletic outfielder's game that has yet to be unlocked. Listed at 6-foot-2, 187 pounds, Duran is rangy like former A's and Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes, who once produced a 20-homer, 50-steal season.
Duran's numbers during his two minor-league seasons read like a jitterbug: .322 average, 70 steals, eight home runs. But his frame and physique suggest he could add power, which he demonstrated over the weekend in Puerto Rico as one of the few Red Sox farmhands of note playing winter ball.
There's certainly a scenario in which Duran either breaks camp with the team or joins the parent club after some seasoning in the minors. For one, if the Red Sox trade Andrew Benintendi and decline to re-sign center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., their lineup will be overwhelmingly right-handed, with outfielder Alex Verdugo and third baseman Rafael Devers the only left-handed regulars.
Along those lines, players like right fielder Hunter Renfroe and jack-of-all-trades Enrique Hernandez have often been used in platoon roles vs. left-handed pitching. Duran's presence would provide some balance.
And finally, without Bradley, the Red Sox don't really have a center fielder. The expectation is that Verdugo could slide over from a corner spot, and Hernandez has also started over 100 games there, but Duran has the physical tools to make an impact after converting from second base in college, though he remains a work in progress.
Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline consider Duran one of the top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system. He may not have quite the same buzz as first baseman Triston Casas or second baseman Jeter Downs, but don't be surprised if he's the next youngster to make an impact in Boston.