Image credit: Jarren Duran (Photo by Billie Weiss/Red Sox)
In three consecutive days, Team USA’s general manager, manager and one of its most accomplished veterans brought up the same prospect, unprompted, as a player making a big impression in training camp this week.
That prospect? Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran.
Duran, 24, is one of 13 prospects on Team USA’s training camp roster and is slated to be the team’s starting center fielder. He is the No. 90 prospect on the BA Top 100 and hit .278/.366/.625 with seven home runs in 18 games for Triple-A Pawtucket before reporting for training camp.
In Team USA’s three exhibition games this week, he was the only player to hit a home run.
“Looking at video ever since he was selected for our club, you just see the talent jump off the screen,” Team USA manager Mike Scioscia said. “Seeing him in person, his first step is incredible everywhere, whether he’s trying to steal a base or he’s in center field. He’s a five-tool player. When you call a guy a five-tool player you’re saying that he’s special. He’s in an elite group. I think that Jarren has that that skill set that can make him an impact player very quickly in the major leagues.”
The Red Sox drafted Duran in the seventh round out of Long Beach State in 2018. A second baseman with elite speed but little power in college, Duran shifted to the outfield after the Red Sox drafted him and made swing changes to add power last year at the alternate training site.
USA Baseball identified Duran as a player it wanted last spring for the qualifier that was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020, according to general manager Eric Campbell. The coronavirus pandemic pushed everything back a year, but the team’s interest in Duran never waned.
Very quickly, Duran has justified that desire.
“This kid Duran from the Red Sox has opened my eyes,” veteran third baseman Todd Frazier said. “I talk about work ethic with these kids. I mean, head and shoulders way above where I was at that age.”
Duran has never played for Team USA before at any level, so representing his country is a new experience for him.
Clearly, it’s one he’s cut out for.
“He makes you stop and watch,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player.”
ROTATION STILL TO BE SET
Team USA has still not decided on its starting pitcher for the opener against Nicaragua on May 31. Scioscia said the team expects to name its starter over the weekend and have the rotation set by Sunday.
Bailey, 35, pitched four innings in an exhibition against Canada and was “really sharp”, Scioscia said. Jackson, 37, pitched three shutout innings.
“With Homer and with Edwin, they can perform multiple roles,” Scioscia said. “One of them can start. We can piggyback them. We can use Edwin coming out of the bullpen for multi(ple) innings, same with Homer. So as we go through this, and obviously we have to see how some of our starters are going to line up and who we’re playing, we can set up our pitching rotation and see where they fit in. But no doubt they’re going to be a big part of what we need to do, whether it’s the bullpen, multi-inning or starter.”
Beyond Bailey and Jackson, Team USA’s starting options skew young.
Prospects Matthew Liberatore (Cardinals), Simeon Woods Richardson (Blue Jays) and Joe Ryan (Rays) are the only other pitchers on the roster currently working as starters for their respective teams. Other options include prospect lefthander Drew Parrish (Royals), who was a starter in college at Florida State, and righthander Brandon Dickson, who started for six seasons in Japan but spent 2019-20 as a closer.
Team USA’s pitching staff is still taking shape and undergoing some late changes. Righthander Jonathan Bowlan, a Royals prospect, had Tommy John surgery and was replaced by Anthony Carter, a righthanded reliever in the Mexican League. Carter previously reached Triple-A for the White Sox, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres and also pitched a year in Japan.
Lefthander Clayton Andrews, a Brewers prospect, will also no longer participate in the Qualifier. Scioscia said Andrews’ elbow is “not where it needs to be.” His replacement has not been officially announced.
Scioscia also revealed that Blue Jays righthander Alek Manoah was originally slated to pitch for Team USA before he was called up to the majors. Manoah made his major league debut Wednesday and pitched six shutout innings against the Yankees.