Red Sox

There's more to Jarren Duran's potential for Red Sox than his speed

There's more to Jarren Duran's potential for Red Sox than his speed

Jarren Duran's numbers suggest a Jacoby Ellsbury clone. But his rippling 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame calls to mind the wiry Christian Yelich.

One of the breakout performers of Red Sox camp before spring training came to a halt earlier this month, Duran has made a name for himself with high averages and higher stolen base totals since being selected in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, but physically he looks capable of developing power.

Which way he goes will go a long way towards determining how high his big-league ceiling rises.

"I'm OK with being the speed guy who gets on base for the bigger guys and lets them get their RBIs," Duran said during spring training. "I'm totally OK with that. I'll be the little guy that gets on base and steals bases. It doesn't bother me."

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

In a breakout 2019, Duran hit over .400 for two months at High-A Salem before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he came back to earth by batting .250 over 87 games. All told, he still hit .303 with five homers and 46 steals, establishing himself as one of the fastest players in the minors.

In his brief exposure to spring training, Duran hit .250 with a homer and triple, catching the eye of manager Ron Roenicke with his all-around athleticism, especially in the outfield, where the converted second baseman projects as a big league center fielder.

"Exciting player," Roenicke said. "Tools-wise, as good as it gets. And that type of player, he's thrilling to watch. Saw him run a little last year because he hit a couple of gappers for us. . . . The tools, he's just one of those special guys, if it all comes together, you've got a superstar."

That's getting ahead of the game, obviously, and Duran knows it. The 23-year-old hit. 387 at Salem before moving to Portland in June. He hit just .211 with a .543 OPS over his first month with the Sea Dogs before finding his sea legs. From July 21 through the end of the season, he hit .292 with a .740 OPS and 15 steals.

"I just had to put my head down and keep going," Duran said. "As soon as you think it can't be this easy, that's when the game will hit you. The game's going to get you. If you just keep your head down, keep working, you'll be fine.

"The competition was obviously better, but I just think I got in my own way," Duran continued. "Everybody is good, so you think, 'Do I belong here?' Everybody gets that little bit of self-doubt. I started figuring out toward the end, 'I can play here, I belong.' I think just getting out of my own way is my biggest enemy."

Duran's speed certainly played at Double-A. Over his final six weeks there, he hit .383 on balls in play. The adjustment was mental, particularly when it came to recognizing pitch sequencing.

"My speed will always be there," he said, "but pitchers being more in tune with their pitches, not being afraid to throw pitches in certain counts, was an adjustment I needed to make — knowing that, OK, he's not afraid to throw a changeup in a 3-1 count."

So what might the future hold? Duran is built to add power to his game. Ellsbury, after all, rose to the majors on his wheels and even stole 70 bases in 2009 before blasting 32 homers and leading the AL in total bases in 2011.

"I haven't really shown it yet," Duran says of his power, before shutting down any Ellsbury comparisons.

"Guys that are playing in the Show, I can't compare myself to them," he said. "They're in the big leagues, I'm not. I try to do my own thing, use my speed as much as I can."

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

The Red Sox have employed all manner of center fielders throughout their history.

Whereas left field has generally been home to run producers and right to all-around threats, the men in the middle have covered a wide range of styles. There are straight speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury, defensive dynamos like Jackie Bradley Jr., fun-loving eccentric types like Johnny Damon, underappreciated standouts like Ellis Burks, and even plodding sluggers like Tony Armas.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Only in recent years have the Red Sox consistently prioritized defense in the role, from Coco Crisp to Ellsbury to Bradley.

But that doesn't mean they haven't featured some talented players there, including a turn-of-century Hall of Famer, the younger brother of baseball royalty, and the one who fans over 50 still lament got away.

Click here for the Top 5 center fielders in Red Sox history.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

There was once a time when a list of baseball's top 100 players would've been dominated by men in their 30s or even 40s. In 2004, for instance, the NL MVP was 39-year-old Barry Bonds and the Cy Young went to 41-year-old Roger Clemens. It was the seventh respective award for each.

We now can be almost certain that neither accomplishment was achieved without help, but if any good came from that era, it's that it forced baseball to address its PED problem, which means that a top 100 list now looks very different.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Our list will reflect that shift. What it won't include are three pitchers guaranteed not to play in 2020 because of Tommy John surgery — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and of course Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Over the next four weeks, NBC Sports Boston will unveil its top 100 players, 25 at a time, and the list is dominated by youth. Never have young players been so essential to winning, whether it's 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the Nationals to last fall's shocking World Series title, or 23-year-old Cody Bellinger being named NL MVP.

Click here for Part 1: Players ranked 100th to 76th on our list.