Jarren Duran was impressive at the alternate training site last summer and is being projected to play center field for the Red Sox in the near future. His time in Portland showed he still needs development. John Bazemore/Associated Press

With Jackie Bradley Jr. officially gone, the reconstructed Red Sox outfield features the likes of Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero.

Meanwhile, Jarren Duran has started spring training by going 5 for 11 with two home runs and two doubles.

“He’s going to keep developing and he’s going to be a good one,” said Boston Manager Alex Cora.

Because of his early gaudy numbers, there is talk that Duran could begin the 2021 season in the majors.

Sounds like a great story, but can we tap the brakes on that thought?

There is, no doubt, reason for excitement: Duran, 24, is a legitimate talent – another in a long line of former Portland Sea Dogs outfielders (including Bradley) who will make it to Fenway Park.

“He has tremendous bat-to-ball skills. And he’s a plus-plus runner. Mix that with an outstanding work ethic, and that’s what makes him so successful. The kid works so hard. He wants it.”

That was Duran’s Class A manager, Corey Wimberly, talking about Duran in May 2019, before Duran reached Portland. In Class A that year, Duran hit .387 in 50 games.

Then Duran came to Hadlock Field on June 4 – and here is where we pause before getting too carried away. When Duran arrived in Portland, he scuffled. After three weeks, he was batting .192.

“I think he got a little excited in his first at-bats,” then Sea Dogs manager Joe Oliver said, hinting that Duran was trying too hard.

Duran eventually settled down, batting .269 the rest of the way. His final Double-A stats in 82 games: .250 with one home run and 28 stolen bases in 36 attempts. The numbers were not thrilling, but there was improvement.

“Baseball is a game of adjustments,” Duran said.

Duran figured to return to Portland in 2020 before the season was canceled because of the pandemic. Instead, Duran reportedly performed well at Boston’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, and then had success in a small sample of winter ball in the Caribbean.

And now, in another small sample, in spring training, Duran is showing off newfound power to go along with his other skills.

But more than a small sample is needed before moving Duran to the bigs, which would also require a move onto the 40-man roster.

Fielding is an area to look at. Duran is a gazelle who can cover ground, but 2021 will be only his third full season as an outfielder (having played the infield at Long Beach State). The more repetitions, the better.

Let Duran continue development at the alternate training site in April, and then stay in Worcester once the Triple-A season begins. Duran’s performance will dictate when he is ready for promotion.

Duran is often compared to another speedy outfielder who played in Portland, and then Boston – Jacoby Ellsbury. In 2006, Ellsbury hit .308 for the Sea Dogs in 50 games. Instead of a promotion in 2007, Ellsbury was returned to Hadlock Field. He responded by hitting .452 in 17 games and moved to Triple-A, before becoming Boston’s starting center fielder in the World Series that fall.

CENTER FIELD may not be Duran’s eventual position, depending on need. Verdugo and Cordero have plenty of experience in center and stronger arms.

But Boston’s future center fielder may be only a year or two behind Duran. The Red Sox recently added 20-year-old center fielder Gilberto Jimenez to major league spring training camp.

Jimenez was signed out of the Dominican Republic for only $10,000 in 2017. Everything about him points to a future five-tool major leaguer. Jimenez played 59 games for short-season Lowell in 2019, hitting .359 with 14 stolen bases. Were it not for the pandemic, Jimenez may have reached Portland by the end of last year.

He hit three home runs in those 59 games but is reportedly much stronger now. It is telling that the Red Sox wanted a better look at him this month. He will likely begin the year in Class A, with sights on Portland.

Jackie Bradley Jr. played impressive defense in center field for the Boston Red Sox, but he was a streaky offensive player. Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

BRADLEY’S OFFICIAL departure, after signing a two-year deal with the Brewers last week, leaves a void in center, because he was a fielder with few peers. Bradley was supremely confident in his abilities – and a genuinely nice man (not always an easy combination) – because he worked so hard.

Anyone watching batting practice at Hadlock Field in 2012 saw how Bradley did not just shag balls in the outfield but played every ball as if it was live action. He was a master of routes.

Bradley’s bat could be electric when he was in a hot streak, but he also had many cold streaks. In his last full season, Bradley began 2019 by batting .127 in April. He got hot in June, hitting .315, but slowed to .198 in July and .194 in August.

Bradley exits Boston with two World Series rings and a host of fielding highlights, and he’ll be remembered as a true professional.

THE SEA DOGS are still waiting for permission to release game times for their season, which begins May 4. Geoff Iacuessa, the team president and general manager, said he hopes ticket sales can begin in April.

On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills announced a plan to relax crowd restrictions beginning at the end of March. Iacuessa said he plans to allow approximately 2,000 fans in the 7,368-seat stadium at the start of the season, but awaits approval from the state.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.