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Red Sox Outfielder Proving Value from the Leadoff Position

Boston Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran is off to a scorching start this season. It’s become apparent that he’s a much-improved player at the plate. It wasn’t always pretty for the California native in his first three seasons in the majors. Debuting in 2021, Duran played just 33 games and had an abysmal 53 OPS+, ranking towards the bottom of all hitters. The next year, he improved slightly but still failed to play more than 60 games. Through his first two seasons and 91 games, things weren’t great for Duran.

Jarren Duran’s Potential Impact on the Red Sox

Last season, however, was really the first time that Duran produced some eye-popping at-bats and stretches. He ended 2023 with nearly 400 plate appearances, a .295 batting average, and a strong OPS of .828. Duran capitalized on his opportunities, smacking 34 doubles and eight home runs while playing over 100 games for the first time ever. It was a promising sign to see, but more work needed to be done. Duran wasn’t a lock to be a key contributor in 2024 and had to further prove himself. Through nearly 50 games in 2024, it’s safe to say that he’s done just that.

Duran is a League-Leading Hitter

Entering 2024, Duran had seven total triples in 193 career appearances. In his first 48 games this season, Duran has already eclipsed that number. He currently leads all of baseball with eight three-baggers. The next closest player is Bobby Witt Jr. with six. Both Duran and Witt Jr. are the only two hitters in MLB that have tallied more than four this year. A truly remarkable start to the season.

Duran’s triples have come in different ways. At times, it’s his power that leads the outfielder to third base. During Boston’s 5-0 win over Tampa Bay on Monday, May 20, Duran hit a near-homer that bounced off the top of the wall and ricocheted toward the infield. He reached third standing and without a throw. It was his eighth and most recent triple of the year.

Duran’s speed has also been a strength. Most of his triples have not included a slide, with the leadoff-man cruising into third base. By the beginning of May, Duran had already doubled his amount of three-baggers from the previous season. Now, he’s quadrupled that number. 

With the top of Boston’s lineup producing at a high level to begin 2024, it’s becoming increasingly important for Duran to reach base. Placing the lead-off man on third can do dangerous things. When you are followed by Tyler O’Neill and Rafael Devers (who can’t be stopped right now), that reigns even more true. 

Duran’s Value This Season

Duran’s eye-popping triple numbers this season paint the picture of an improved and valuable piece to a complicated Red Sox puzzle. But it tells far from the full story. When thinking about who matters most to their team, the big names usually come up. This year, he’s placed himself right beside them. 

Currently, Duran ranks seventh in Wins Above Replacement in MLB. His 2.8 WAR is close to Shohei Ohtani, Gunnar Henderson, Kyle Tucker, and league leader Mookie Betts. For position players, Duran ranks sixth. And, in the American League, he’s all the way at fourth. Before 2024, Duran had a career 1.4 WAR. He’s already at 2.8 this season in under 50 games. 

The numbers speak for themselves as Duran is playing like a star. It’s far from an accident that he is in the company of such elite players. It isn’t a fluke that he sits above Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve, and Adley Rutschman. He’s proving his value at the plate and competing with the best. 

His offense isn’t the only thing helping this statistic, though. Duran’s defensive presence continues to be felt. Opposing runners always have to be wary of where he’s roaming the outfield, waiting to claim his next victim. If they don’t, it usually doesn’t end well.

Is it logical to expect Duran to keep up this exact pace for the rest of the year? No. But it is logical to think that the outfielder has finally broken out and will continue to produce at a high level. What Duran is doing is not easy. His stats speak for themselves. Whether or not the public wants to notice them is a different story.

Main Photo: © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports


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