Thaddeus Ward, top Red Sox pitching prospect, set to make Double-A debut Friday

For the first time since August 27, 2019, Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward will toe the rubber in a minor-league game on Friday.

Ward, 24, will be making his first start of the season for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs as they go up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays — at Hadlock Field.

The young right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers behind only Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, and Tanner Houck.

The Red Sox selected Ward, a native of Fort Myers, in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida.

Since then, Ward has been solid at every level he has pitched at, most recently posting a 2.33 ERA, a .203 batting average against, and a 70:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 starts and 54 innings pitched with High-A Salem in 2019 after earning a promotion from Low-A Greenville in June of that year.

With no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ward was left to work out on his own — with some guidance from the Red Sox — before being invited to the team’s fall instructional league at the Fenway South complex in his hometown.

Despite not having the opportunity to further develop during a traditional minor-league season last year, Ward is confident that he will be able to put his best foot forward in 2021 regardless of the circumstances.

“I think it is going to be difficult for everybody,” Ward told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last October. “But at the same time, I do have the confidence that I put in the work. I really committed to making sure I stayed on top of myself, made sure I kept doing what I was supposed to be doing and not let circumstances dictate if I get better or not… I’ve got to be better at the end of the day than when I woke up. That’s how I approached every single day. So hopefully when we get back into the games come spring training, or next season, whatever, hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”

Ward came into spring training this year having received an invitation to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee. He was later reassigned to minor-league camp on March 9.

In four Grapefruit League appearances, the 6-foot-3, 193 pound hurler allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, four walks, and two hit batsmen to go along with four strikeouts in four innings of work.

“First things first, slow down. He doesn’t have to impress people,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Ward back in March. “We know the player. We know the stuff. We love the tempo on the mound. But we need him to be careful. Sometimes you come into spring and you want to open eyes. He doesn’t have to do that. We know what he can do.

“He’s a very likable guy, a great competitor,” added Cora. “He pays attention to details on the mound: slowing down the running game, great tempo. He knows what it takes. And stuff-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. So excited to see him compete. I’ve been hearing about him for a few years. It’s to go out there and have a blast. That’s the most important thing.”

As he prepares to make his first career Eastern League start on Friday, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — is entering a somewhat pivotal year in his young career considering the fact that he is Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

In other words, the Red Sox will need to add Ward to their 40-man roster by November 20 if they want to protect him from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

Given Ward’s potential, that is almost certainly a lock to happen at the moment. Still, in what is sure to be an unprecedented season of minor-league baseball, how the righty performs this year will be something worth monitoring nonetheless.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Among the topics Ian and I discussed are how he got his start in scouting, how he is looking forward to the return of minor-league baseball next week, what he thought about brand-new Polar Park in Worcester, his thoughts on what the Red Sox could do in this summer’s draft, his impression of the Sox’ farm system under Chaim Bloom heading into the 2021 minor-league season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Ian for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow Ian on Twitter (@IanCundall) by clicking here. You can check out his work for SoxProspects.com by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Polar Park: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata returns to throwing program after suffering slight UCL tear in early March

After suffering a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in early March, Red Sox top pitching prospect Bryan Mata has recently restarted his throwing program, manager Alex Cora said earlier Sunday morning.

Mata, who experienced soreness behind his right triceps during the early stages of spring training, underwent an MRI last month that revealed a slight tear in his UCL.

At that time, the right-hander was to be shut down for at least three weeks as the Sox opted for rest and treatment as opposed to surgery.

Since then, Mata has apparently been progressing at a steady pace. On March 24, Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush revealed that the young hurler would “get back into a throwing program before too long” to test out his elbow.

On April 4, Cora revealed that Mata had indeed restarted his throwing program.

“He started his throwing program towards the end [of camp],” Cora said Sunday. “I’m not sure where he’s at right now as far as [distance], but I know he started his throwing program when we left camp.”

Mata, who turns 22 in May, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No.4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among pitchers in the organization.

The 6-foot-3, 227 pounder out of Venezuela was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2019. With no minor-league season in 2020, the righty spent his year developing at the club’s alternate training site — where his fastball reached 97 mph — and fall instructional league and was viewed as arguably the top starting rotation depth option the Red Sox had to offer at the minor-league level.

With this recent setback, though, it would seem to be in the Sox’ best interest to not rush Mata back and instead see how he responds to the throwing program he has recently started again before determining the next steps in this rehab process.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox roster moves: Eduard Bazardo, John Schreiber, Connor Wong optioned to alternate training site

Following their 5-3 victory over the Braves at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Sox made their fourth round of spring roster cuts, as the club optioned three players to their alternate training site.

Right-handed pitchers Eduard Bazardo and John Schreiber and catcher Connor Wong were all optioned to Boston’s alternate site in Worcester, but they will remain at the Fenway South complex through the end of spring training.

Bazardo, 25, was initially added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November after showing out at the team’s fall instructional league late last year.

The Venezuelan-born righty is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system and carries with him a 1.80 ERA through his first four appearances of the spring — the most recent of which came in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s contest against Atlanta.

Schreiber, meanwhile, joined the Red Sox’ 40-man roster when he was claimed off waivers by the Tigers last month.

The 27-year-old, equipped with a funky delivery, has gotten off to a tough start with his new club this spring, allowing a total of two earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings of relief spanning two appearances out of the bullpen.

Prior to getting claimed by Boston in February, Schreiber has spent the first two years of his big-league career with Detroit in 2019 and 2020, posting a 6.28 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 28 total outings and 28 2/3 total innings pitched while consistently being shuttled between Triple-A and the majors.

Finally, we arrive at Wong, undoubtedly the most familiar name on this brief list.

One of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, the 24-year-old Wong is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in the Sox’ organization, ranking tops among catchers.

The former third-round pick out of Houston, who hits from the right side of the plate, clubbed his first home run of the Grapefruit League campaign for Boston on Tuesday.

Since camp broke in February, Wong has drawn plenty of praise from Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“There’s a calmness about him that managers like,” Cora said of Wong. “And we’re very happy. Last year, he was part of the big trade, and I bet everything was going so fast for him. And now for him to slow everything down, and being able to work, it’s a testament of who he is as a person, as a player. And obviously he’s somebody that we’re counting on in the future.”

All three of Bazardo, Schreiber, and Wong will now begin the 2021 season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Following Tuesday’s moves, the Sox now have approximately 47 players at major-league camp in Fort Myers with Opening Day just over two weeks away.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on top prospect Triston Casas: ‘For him to be around us, it’s beneficial for us’

He may have gone hitless in his first start of the spring on Monday afternoon, but it was still encouraging to see top Red Sox prospect Triston Casas back on the field.

The 21-year-old infielder made his spring debut against the Twins on Sunday and went 0-for-2 after pinch-hitting for Xander Bogaerts in the sixth inning of an eventual 5-5 draw with the Twins.

On Monday, he started at designated hitter and eventually moved to first base while going 0-for-3 at the plate with a walk and a strikeout batting out of the nine-hole.

Again, even while not getting into the hit column against the Rays on Monday, Casas still put some of his tools on full display by drawing a six-pitch walk off Hunter Strickland in the second inning and by smoking a line-drive flyout to right field off left-hander Josh Fleming in the fourth.

Before making his Grapefruit League debut over the weekend, Casas had missed some time at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers after being evaluated for a non-baseball-related medical issue in Boston earlier this month.

Now that he is back at camp, it appears that the 2018 first-round draft pick will have the chance to get more in-game at-bats through the end of spring training.

“We know the hitter. I’m starting to know the player,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Casas earlier Monday morning. “He’s a guy that asks a lot of questions. He’s always checking where he’s at, what he needs to do. Yesterday, we had to move him to third base, and you could see he was prepared. He’s looking around, he’s looking at Carlos [Febles] pre-pitch. For him to get at-bats, it’s good. But just for him to be around us, it’s beneficial for us.”

According to Baseball America, the left-handed hitting Casas — listed at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds — is the No. 1 prospect in Boston’s farm system going into the 2021 season.

The Miami-area native is projected to begin the 2021 season with Double-A Portland, but, as previously mentioned, he will presumably get the chance to get into some more Grapefruit League games these next few weeks.

“He had a big smile,” said Cora in regards to Casas’ first game back on Sunday. “For everything he went through the last few weeks, it was refreshing to see him out there.”

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs suffers injury to left side in Sunday’s game against Twins, will be evaluated on Monday

After coming on as a defensive replacement at shortstop for Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 5-5 draw against the Twins, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs would have to leave the game an inning later.

Fielding a ground ball off the bat of Jose Miranda to lead off the bottom half of the seventh, the 22-year-old dove to his left, landed hard on his side, and as NESN’s Jerry Remy put it, “never got a handle on the baseball” as Miranda reached first base safely without a throw.

Upon getting back on his feet, it appeared that Downs was a bit shaken up as he crouched down in front of second base, leading to Red Sox manager Alex Cora and associate head athletic trainer Brandon Henry coming out to check up on the young infielder.

Following a brief conversation between the three, Downs exited the game and was replaced by Chad De La Guerra at shortstop while fellow top prospect Triston Casas took over at third base.

During his postgame media availability, Cora couldn’t get into the specifics about what was hampering Downs, only assuring that more information will be revealed on Monday.

“They checked him and it seems like he’s OK,” Cora said via Zoom. “They’re going to obviously wait for him tomorrow, see how he feels at night, and we’ll have more tomorrow.

“It was his left side,” he added. “We can’t say it’s an oblique injury or just a bruise. We’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Downs, who was one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, is currently regarded by Baseball America as Boston’s No. 2 prospect behind only Casas.

The right-handed hitting middle infielder out of Colombia was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday and is projected to begin the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Alex Cora, Jeter Downs, and Brandon Henry: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora looking forward to seeing top prospect Gilberto Jimenez in action at spring training: ‘It should be fun to see him run around the bases’

In case you missed it, the Red Sox added top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee Friday afternoon.

Jimenez, who does not turn 21 until July, is now the second-youngest player at Red Sox camp behind 2020 first-round draft pick Nick Yorke.

Manager Alex Cora has had high praise for the 18-year-old infielder since he arrived in Fort Myers for his first ever big-league spring training last month. His attention now shifts to another youngster at the Fenway South complex in the form of Jimenez.

“Just like the other kids, to be able to have him here, work out with us and learn the game,” Cora said of the 20-year-old outfielder following a 5-4 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday. “Hopefully, he can get some at-bats and see what he can do.”

Jimenez is currently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the Dominican national slashed .359/.393/.370 with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases across 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

At that time, Jimenez was listed at 5-foot-11 and around 160 lbs. Since then, he has bulked up tremendously. And he put that added muscle on full display at the Sox’ fall instructional league last year (2020).

“The young Dominican is now listed at 212 pounds, up significantly from where he was with Lowell,” SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Jimenez’s showing at fall instructs in December. “Even though he has added that much size, he still is an elite athlete and has only lost a little speed, now grading as a 70 runner rather than 80.”

Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox system, the switch-hitting Jimenez is perhaps one of, if not the quickest prospect the organization has to offer.

That aspect of his game — as well as his strength — is something Cora is looking forward to seeing in action.

“This is the first time I’ve seen him,” the Sox skipper said. “Strong kid. Strong. Looking forward to him to go out there and learn from the guys. It should be fun to see him run around the bases.”

Cora wanting Jimenez to learn from the veterans around him at camp should come as no surprise. He did after all encourage Yorke to follow around Enrique Hernandez during workouts.

“He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do,” Cora said of Yorke late last month. “Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

Though he did not say it on Friday, it’s safe to assume Cora wants Jimenez and Yorke to share the same sort of experience this spring.

Put another way, neither of the organization’s most talented prospects have a realistic shot of cracking Boston’s Opening Day roster or getting called up to the majors this year, but what they learn right now could help them down the line as they continue on with their development.

Jimenez, who signed out of the Dominican for just $10,000 back in 2017, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

This year has the potential to be an important one for the speedster, as he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this December.

At this point, one would have to assume that Jimenez is a favorite to secure a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster some time between now and November 20, but a strong season in Greenville — or wherever else he plays — certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Jarren Duran homers once again for Red Sox as outfielder’s impressive spring rolls on

On the same day former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. reportedly found a new home with the Milwaukee Brewers, his potential heir apparent had another strong showing in spring training action on Thursday afternoon.

Outfield prospect Jarren Duran — making his third start and fifth overall appearance of the spring — went 2-for-3 at the plate with one double, one home run, one RBI, and two runs scored against the Orioles in Sarasota.

The home run, which came off Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, was one that was aided by the wind, but it also showed how strong Duran is.

“I don’t know if that ball is gone from April on,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said with a masked smile while referring to the fact that Major League Baseball will implement deadened baseballs beginning on Opening Day. “Those are the ones that the balls are going to take away, but right now it counts.”

Boston may have gone on to drop Thursday’s contest to Baltimore by a final score of 6-3 in six innings, but Duran’s impressive offensive run to kick off the Grapefruit League campaign continued nonetheless.

Through his first five games of the spring, the 24-year-old is hitting .500 (5-for-10) to go along with two doubles, two homers, three RBI, and three runs scored in 11 trips to the plate thus far.

Having said that, it appears that Duran still has room to grow defensively in center field, as evidenced by a few of the decisions he made during the bottom half of the third inning on Thursday.

“There’s a man at first, a base hit to his right, he throws to third base, [the runner] gets to third, they advance,” Cora said. “Those are the things that are part of the equation. It’s good that he makes mistakes like that, so we can correct [them].”

Duran, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

Boston originally selected the California native in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State, where he primarily played second base.

Upon reporting to short-season Lowell shortly after signing with the club in 2018, Duran was moved to the outfield as Red Sox area scout Justin Horowitz believed he “had more potential based on his bat life and strength and that he could unlock greater defensive impact” in the outfield as opposed to the infield.

Since then, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Duran — listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs. — has emerged as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and one of, if not the fastest minor-leaguer the organization has to offer.

Combine his freakish strength, athleticism, and quickness with his desire to get better, and it becomes clear that the speedy outfielder should be making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

“We’ve been saying all along, he’s a good athlete, he’s working on his craft swing-wise, and he keeps improving,” said Cora.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran, top Red Sox outfield prospect, homers in second start of spring: ‘He lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball’

Outfield prospect Jarren Duran started his second game of the spring in center field for the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old, hitting out of the two-hole, went 1-for-3 with a solo home run and a walk before being lifted at the start of the seventh inning.

That homer, which came on a 1-0 breaking ball from Rays right-hander David Hess, was belted deep to right field — well over the Boston bullpen, for Duran’s first big fly of the spring.

Even without a minor-league season last year, Duran still got plenty of time to develop between spending time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Over 16 regular season games for Criollos de Caguas, a team managed by Red Sox quality control coach Ramon Vazquez, the California native slashed a modest .236/.386/.273 to go along with two doubles, six stolen bases, and 10 RBI.

Duran did turn things around in the Puerto Rican postseason by posting a 1.046 OPS en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the league’s championship series.

The fact that Caguas won its respective league allowed the club to represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series, which led to Duran becoming a Caribbean League All-Star after going 10-for-25 (.400) at the plate with one double, one triple, one home run, and three RBI over seven games played.

While continuing to develop at the alternate site and in winter ball these past few months, it’s clear that Duran has grown stronger, as evidenced by his uptick in power as well as physique.

“He’s strong,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. “That’s the Puerto Rican diet: rice and beans and chicken the whole offseason. And two brunches with the manager. I took care of that.

“Like I said earlier, he lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball,” continued Cora. “That’s what he does. And he enjoys it.”

It wasn’t too long ago when it seemed like Duran — who Boston took in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State — was going to be someone who relied on his speed more than anything. He did after all steal 46 bases between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019.

Taking his speed into account, Cora told Duran that as a left-handed hitter, he should consider dropping down a couple of bunts because of where the Rays were positioning their third baseman.

“It’s funny, because we were talking about certain situations,” the Sox skipper said. “With the third baseman back early in the count, with his speed, it would be good for him to drop a few bunts down just to get on base. And then he hits a home run.”

Cora’s first exposure to Duran as Red Sox manager came during spring training in 2019. The speedy outfielder appeared in seven games back then, but it’s safe to say he has grown a lot in the last two years.

“He’s a lot stronger than what he was two years ago,” stated Cora. “He’s in-tune with the game, and he’s going to keep developing and he’s going to be a good one.”

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, Duran has one of the best speed tools among Red Sox minor-leaguers, according to FanGraphs.

The second baseman-turned-outfielder is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

If all goes according to plan, Duran — who last played at Double-A Portland in 2019 — could make his major-league debut at some point this summer, if not sooner.

For now, he will have the chance to continue to dazzle the masses in Grapefruit League play in southwest Florida.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)