Jhoan Duran Throws A Remarkable Pitch

Image credit: Minnesota Twins

Their scouts were unanimous in praising Jhoan Duran’s strikeout pitch, but the Twins wanted a few more voices in their evaluation.

What they got from hitters who had faced the 22-year-old righthander was more questions than answers.

“What hitters were saying about it is, they don’t know what that pitch is. They were asking us,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “There are times when guys come back to the dugout and say, ‘I don’t know what that was, but it was hard and it just disappeared.’ “

That pitch is having the opposite effect on Duran’s status in the Twins’ system. He has become more and more visible to the organization since they acquired him at the 2018 trade deadline when they shipped Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks.

Duran features a standard two-seam fastball. He throws a curveball that’s slowly improving, and he’s working to add a changeup. But he’s also got a split-fingered fastball that is as effective as it is unusual.

“You think of a typical splitter these days, and you think of an offspeed pitch like a changeup—the break does most of the work” to fool hitters, Falvey said. “This is not like that. This is hard. It’s a fastball, and it has some of that diving action that just confuses you (because) it has such depth to it. It’s no changeup.”

Duran’s sinker-splitter hybrid reaches the mid-90s and is colloquially known as a “splinker.” The pitch helped him rack up 136 strikeouts in 115 innings at high Class A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola last season. His swinging-strike rate of 16.4 percent ranked seventh best among minor league pitchers with 100 innings.

Those numbers convinced the Twins to add Duran, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, to their 40-man roster in November, putting him “on on the cusp” of the majors, according to Falvey.

“Our message to him will be, ‘Don’t try to make the team on day one,’ ” Falvey said. “My biggest concern with young guys like Jhoan is, they want to show that splitter. They want to throw 100 (mph) right away.

“We don’t want him doing that on Feb. 15. Get acclimated, get ready, and we hope to see him (in the majors) someday soon.”

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