Back in 2007 with the Red Sox rolling towards the postseason, their title chances received an unexpected boost from rookie speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, who forced himself onto the playoff roster with a monster September.
He ended the World Series sweep of the Rockies as Boston's starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, displacing veteran Coco Crisp.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was an infielder on that club, and he remembers Ellsbury's impact, which came almost entirely with his legs. Power? It wasn't even on his mind, though four short years later, Ellsbury would blast 32 homers and finish second in the MVP race.
"He was flying around the bases and doing the things that he did," Cora said. "He was a game-changer with his legs and he helped us to win a World Series. But I never envisioned him, I never thought about 'Oh, what's going to be of this guy?' But then he started hitting the ball in the air a little bit more and he got stronger."
Ellsbury's case is instructive because the Red Sox currently feature another center field prospect who has flown through the minors on the strength of his wheels. But Jarren Duran is making a case that he can be more than a speedster.
He was named MVP of the Puerto Rican winter league finals after smacking a pair of homers in Caguas's four-game victory over Mayaguez. He wasted no time leaving the park in spring training, either, launching a shot to right field in Tuesday's victory over the Rays.
This is a new wrinkle for Duran, who hit only eight homers in 199 games in the minors before the pandemic struck. Over the same period, he swiped 70 bases in 93 attempts while hitting .322.
Duran's minor league stats may suggest he's a mighty mite, but in reality, the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder is built like an Adonis, with the physique to leave the yard from the left side, just like Ellsbury before him.
Might he actually be ... a power hitter?
"No, he's not a power hitter, but he'll run into some of them," Cora said. "If you make a mistake in the zone, he can hit it out of the ballpark."
On Tuesday, Cora spoke to Duran early in the game, noting that if the third baseman continued to play back, he should drop a bunt "and jog to first base."
"Little did I know that the next at-bat, the third baseman was playing off and he was playing a little bit back and I was saying, 'Is he going to bunt here?'" Cora said. "And he gets a hanging changeup and hits it out of the ballpark, so good for him that he didn't listen to me. But he has power, not only to the pull side, but he has opposite field power, too."
This is a big season for the 24-year-old Duran, who has yet to appear above Double-A but spent last summer at the alternate site. While he's unlikely to make the Opening Day roster, he could certainly be in the mix for a promotion sooner than later.
He actually reminds Cora of a different ex-Red Sox center fielder, and that's Grady Sizemore, whom the manager saw in 2005 spring training with the Indians. Sizemore was a speed guy then, too, but Cora could see the potential for power, and he eventually blossomed into a 30-30 MVP candidate.
Needless to say, All-Stars like Ellsbury and Sizemore might not be the fairest or most realistic comps for Duran, but there's no harm in indulging some best-case scenarios. Duran's ticket to the big leagues remains his speed, but there's enough power potential to make him legitimately intriguing.
"Get on base, use his legs. It's not about hitting the ball on the ground, either," Cora said. "Just keep hitting the ball hard. Whatever happens, happens.
"He'll run into a bunch of them. His swing has been groomed to hit more line drives and more fly balls, which is good. Let's see where it takes him."