Growing up in Southern California, Jarren Duran used to idolize second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox, a team he would later be drafted by in the seventh round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft.
“He’s always been a big Pedroia fan, he would emulate his style and he motivated him to play hard,” Duran’s father, Octavio, said. “He’s a grinder and works hard and wants to perform at the highest level because of his work ethic. ”
Duran realized his knack for speed early on when he would constantly beat out others he’d challenge in a foot race on school playgrounds and in his neighborhood. This speed would later attract the attention of MLB scouts.
In high school, Duran played for Cypress High School, winning the CIF-SS Division 2 championship in 2013. During his time at Cypress, his biggest struggles, according to head coach John Webber, were not on the field but mentally in his own head.
“He was a hard working young kid. His junior year he started for us and hurt his back but fought his way back in the lineup. JD never really played elite travel ball,” Webber said. “He was always an under the radar type of player, I had to sell him to coach Buckley at the time. He had offers from Cal Poly, Kansas State, Washington State and Hawaii and didn’t want to go because he didn’t believe he could do it.”
Duran said that the decision to attend the Beach came last minute, but ultimately became the best one for his career.
Quickly endearing himself to Dirtbags fans over the seasons, Duran ate up hard-hit grounders and slashed a collective .294 batting average during his time at the Beach.
“I think the attitude of the program is so crucial, it doesn’t matter if you are up by 10 or down by 10, you never quit and you finish what you started,” Duran said. “The culture of being a Dirtbag is rooted in being hardworking and has definitely shaped me where I am today.”
During his freshman year at the Beach, Duran started 55 games as the primary second baseman finishing with a .272 batting average.
In his breakout campaign of his sophomore year in 2017, Duran started 58 games at second base, missing only five games after he was hit in the face by a pitch versus California State University Fullerton on March 26. That season, Duran led the team with 47 runs scored, five triples and 19 stolen bases on 26 attempts.
After hitting .308 that year, Duran was also selected to the second All Big-West team.
“All the guy did was work, he constantly worked out,” former Dirtbag first baseman Jacob Hughey said. “When we got buried in conditioning during the fall, we’d have guys throwing up on the side towards the end [myself included], and he’d be standing there like he hadn’t even broken a sweat yet.”
In Duran’s junior year, scouts started to get wind of his aggressive baserunning and consistent plate presence. Finishing with a .302 average that season, Duran began to catch the eye of multiple pro clubs.
Duran’s exceptional speed, which grades as a 70 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale, was one of the main attributes that attracted MLB scouts to pursue him.
On June 14, 2018, Duran was drafted in the seventh round by the Boston Red Sox, a day he says he’ll never forget.
“I mean you’re always hoping to get drafted and the ultimate goal is to get to the MLB. My dad was an Angels fan and as a kid we would always be talking about the Red Sox as they played them a lot,” Duran said. “There was a little sense for me of ‘I did it, I’m here,’ but also I still have to prove myself.”
Duran was assigned to the high Class-A Salem Red Sox on April 3, 2019. At a point during his first full professional season, he batted a minor league-best .410.
An infielder his whole athletic career, Duran quickly adapted to being called to move to the outfield in Class-A ball.
“It’s obviously tough because playing baseball at the top level, it’s harder to move around and learn a new position. I’m getting the best coaching possible because I’m at the highest level,” Duran said. “I’m pretty comfortable with every position in the outfield, wherever they want to put me I’ll do it.”
Hitting situational line drives, ground balls and getting on base for the heavy hitters is where Duran excels. Baseball America currently has the 23-year-old as the No. 5 prospect in the organization behind Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Triston Casas and Bobby Dalbec.
Duran is ranked as the Sox’s best minor league prospect hitter for average, and, in 2019, was awarded the organization’s minor league base runner of the year award.
“I think for me his work ethic stands out. He’s an athlete and when you add those two together it’s dynamite,” said Corey Wimberly, head coach of the Class A Salem Red Sox. “His bat, ball skills are really good. He’s not a high strikeout guy and is very detailed with his work ethic, trusting coaches’ advice.”
To work on his game amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Duran returned home March 12 to Southern California from Florida after spring training was shut down.
Duran spent a significant amount of time working out at home and at Blair Field until the Los Angeles Angels began to utilize the field as their alternate site for summer camp.
Despite his success on the field and in his career, Duran’s biggest obstacles remain in his head.
“The competition in Double A increased a bit from Single A, and I had to keep telling myself that I do belong here and get past my self doubt,” Duran said. “That’s been the hardest thing for me about this whole experience.”
At the end of July, he was sent out to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to join the Triple A Pawtucket Redsox.
Having more than 82 games above Class-A ball under his belt, Duran may see the call up to the Red Sox this summer. Currently, the Red Sox outfield this season is full, but if someone gets injured or centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves next year during free agency, Duran will be seeing playing time.
“I went from being a not-highly-sought-after player when I was a sophomore in college to being a seventh round pick, Duran said. “I am trying to have fun everyday, if I have fun, I will have a successful day. I want to laugh and joke around with my teammates and just enjoy each day no matter the results.”