Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

May 21, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran (16) runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re discussing who’s the most electric player on the Red Sox right now, Jarren Duran will be the first name brought up. He’s grabbed the torch of the next Boston dirt dog that plays with his hair on fire every night and combined it with a ridiculous level of athleticism. It’s telling that Jacoby Ellsbury and Grady Sizemore are his two most frequent comps, who were both these freak athletes that challenged for MVPs in their prime.

Duran is in the midst of taking another massive step forward for the second season in a row, which only speaks to his growth since his debut. He has been on a roller coaster of a journey, going from a breakout top prospect to someone abandoned by a majority of the fanbase, before taking the narrative back and establishing himself as a key part of the core. For many guys, getting demoted back to AAA multiple times is a death sentence, but Duran just kept working and tweaking his game.

So, let’s dive into some of those changes and the numbers that put Duran’s 2024 season in context. Over the last week, it feels like the spotlight on him has started to grow, with MLB posting him all over their social media pages. It felt like the perfect time to do my own little deep dive, especially after touching on some potential trade talks last week.

  • 1. 99th Percentile Outs Above Average – 6 OAA

    MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

    May 16, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran (16) makes a catch for an out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    If you’re looking for the biggest improvement in Duran’s game this season, it starts with his defense. He’s been one of the elite defenders in all of baseball, despite being jerked back and forth between left and center field. This is a big thanks to his work with third base coach and outfield instructor Kyle Hudson, who has done everything from changing his jumps on balls off the bat to the way he runs.

    For those who forget, Duran was a second baseman when he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 7th round in 2018. It led to him looking uncomfortable in the outfield for a long time, especially when trying to hold things down in center field. That was why even the most positive evaluators on Duran never pegged him as anything more than an average defender down the line.

    Truth is, even that felt like a stretch after his 2022 blooper reel against the Blue Jays and Royals. But now, Duran’s defense transcends every defensive metric that is out there. Just looking at Defensive Runs Saved, he’s already racked up 9, which is the second-most in all of baseball outside of Daulton Varsho.

    Plenty of guys stick around in baseball for a long time because they can play a strong center field. Michael A. Taylor and Victor Robles are perfect examples of that. Duran is much different than those two though, because he’s also making an impact at the plate and on the basepaths every night.

  • 2. 8 Triples – Most in MLB

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 18: Jarren Duran #16 of the Boston Red Sox runs towards third base after hitting a two-run RBI triple against the Cleveland Guardians during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on April 18, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 18: Jarren Duran #16 of the Boston Red Sox runs towards third base after hitting a two-run RBI triple against the Cleveland Guardians during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on April 18, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

    Considering the extensive history of the Red Sox, you have to do something special to set a franchise record at this point in time. Duran is on pace to do that right now with the 8 triples he’s accumulated in the first 51 games of the season. Tris Speaker holds the single-season record for the organization, which is the 22 he smoked back in 1913, just one year after Fenway Park had opened.

    Duran is also leading MLB in triples right now, with 2 more than Bobby Witt Jr. and doubling C.J. Abram’s total of 4 in 3rd place. Keep in mind, Witt Jr. led all of MLB in triples last season with 11 in 158 games. Nobody is saying Duran is going to break Chief Wilson’s MLB record of 36 back in 1912, but he has a chance to land in the top 20 of all-time if he stays on pace.

    Last year, the story with Duran was his ability to turn singles into doubles on a regular basis. Now, he’s turning doubles into triples constantly, which points directly to his speed and the better quality of contact he’s making now. It also allows him to continue to be an extra-base hit monster (6th in MLB), which is needed considering he hasn’t completely tapped into his home run power yet.

  • 3. Since the leg kick: .341/.400/.732/1.132

    Jarren Duran

    May 24, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran (16) hits a double against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

    Speaking of power, Duran has been making some intriguing strides in that department over the 10 days after tweaking his mechanics at the plate. We first saw signs of this in early May as he started standing more vertical in the box, resembling Cody Bellinger in some ways. Then on May 15th, he reintroduced a big leg kick, which he had ditched going into 2023 to create a quicker path to the baseball.

    Since making the change, Duran has been on fire, slashing .341/.400/.732/1.132 with 2 homers, 6 doubles, and 2 triples. That’s good for a ridiculous 207 wRC+. Also, despite the leg kick leading to strikeouts in the past, that hasn’t been the case so far with a measly 15.6% K%.

    Another interesting thing is that the 2 homers Duran hit over that stretch were the second and third longest of his big league career. That seems like a pretty good sign that he might finally be tapping into the power he’s been missing the last two seasons. Nobody thinks he’s going to start popping 30+ homers a year, but if he can get to 15-20, he’ll be one of the most dangerous outfielders in the game on a yearly basis.

  • 4. 52 Games Played – Tied for 1st in MLB

    Jarren Duran

    May 19, 2024; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran (16) celebrates with teammates after the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    This is as simple as a stat can get, but it’s something that differentiates Duran from a majority of players in today’s game. He’s penciled into the lineup every single day, no matter what. That’s a crucial skill for someone who is your leadoff hitter and solution in center field most days.

    Alex Cora has publicly declared that he’s going to ride Duran for as long as he can out there. Even if it means that Duran needs to turn the intensity down a bit some days, especially on the basepaths. Still, that speaks to the type of value Duran can give the team when he’s not operating at 100%.

    Last year, Duran was still being protected against lefties quite a bit, so this is the progression you’re hoping to see. What has been a nice sign so far has been his ability to avoid getting injured or beat up, which defined Ellsbury and Sizemore throughout their career. Obviously, he had the freaky toe issue at the end of 2023, but that seemed more like bad luck than being injury prone.

    It’s this type of mentality from Duran that will only endear him with Red Sox fans more. His manager also fits into that category as well, especially since he’s always talking about the importance of his players “posting” each day. I’ll be honest, it’s tough to think about what this team would look like without him in the lineup, even just for a day.

  • 5. 94th Percentile Sprint Speed / 100th Percentile Baserunning Run Value

    MLB: Washington Nationals at Boston Red Sox

    May 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran (16) runs out an RBI double against the Washington Nationals during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

    Everyone has heard by now that Duran runs like a lizard, but he put the work in this offseason to clean up his running mechanics and be more efficient. The results have been impressive so far, with his sprint speed still being elite and him being arguably the most impactful baserunner in the sport. That was put on full display when he stole home against the Rays earlier this week on a double steal and made it look easy.

    Duran is still on pace to steal 30 bags this season, which would be a career-high and a nice achievement for someone who didn’t show the best instincts on the basepaths early in his career. He’s also not being reckless out there with 11 stolen bases and only 2 caught stealing. As I mentioned above, he’s been taking his foot off the pedal in this department, so it wouldn’t shock me to see this number jump dramatically in bursts.

    Cora preached for years that he wanted this time of athleticism on the field every single day. It’s what Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. used to provide when he first arrived. Now, Duran is the face of that type of play for the Red Sox and it should only improve with Ceddanne Rafaela and Wilyer Abreu also in the mix.

  • 6. 87th Percentile xBA

    MLB: Chicago Cubs at Boston Red Sox

    Apr 27, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Tyler O’Neill (17) center fielder Jarren Duran (16) and right fielder Wilyer Abreu (52) celebrate their win over the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Something that has stuck out to me quite a ton has been Duran’s quality of contact so far in 2024. Now, some might cite that his batting average isn’t as high as it was a year ago, but if you look underneath the hood, his xBA has jumped from .268 to .285. On top of that, he’s already matched his Barrel total from ALL of last season at 13.

    That should completely erase many of those who framed Duran’s 2023 season as kind of fluky due to a lot of his hitting metrics pointing towards regression. Going from a xwOBA of .319 to .352 is a serious jump and it shows that even if he loses some of his athleticism, he’ll continue to have value strictly as a hitter. The steady improvements in his K% and BB% also point to him maturing with the bat, which should hopefully help cut down some of his streaky tendencies as time goes on.

  • 7. 2.9 bWAR – 7th-best in MLB

    MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

    May 20, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran (16) looks on as he stands in the on deck circle against the Tampa Bay Rays during the third inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

    Baseball Reference’s version of WAR is the perfect representation of the player Duran has become. He’s now impacting the game at every level and that’s led to him ranking with the other toolsy talents that fill the headlines on a daily basis. Only Gunnar Henderson, Mookie Betts, Bobby Witt Jr, Aaron Judge, Kyle Tucker, and Shohei Ohtani have been more valuable, and all those names are being included in MVP discussions through 2 months.

    It’s jarring to see Duran’s name mentioned with the rest, but this is why his ceiling was always so tantalizing for the Red Sox. There were plenty of moments where the front office could’ve hit the eject button and tried to cash in on him, including this offseason, but nothing ever seemed to get close. Even before the breakout, Chaim Bloom was getting criticism during spring training in 2023 for saying he still believed in Duran’s potential.

    Now, it’s clear Duran’s price has dramatically changed once again, because his WAR has already surpassed last year’s total in 50 less games. That can be tracked to his impact on the defensive side of things, where he’s been worth 1.1 dWAR instead of his -0.5 mark from last year. As Cora said in Tampa Bay, Duran is made for today’s game, and he keeps on proving that every single day.

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.