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Get to Know Twins RHP Prospect Jhoan Duran

On Wednesday afternoon, Jhoan Duran added another key achievement in his life. He was one of eight Twins minor leaguers to graduate and receive their high school diploma through the club’s Dominican Baseball Academy in Boca Chica. Get to know a little more about one of the Twins top pitching prospects.
Image courtesy of Daniel Venn, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (photo of Jhoan Duran)
Duran signed with the Diamondbacks in February of 2015, shortly after his 17th birthday. That summer in the Dominican Summer League, he went 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA in 12 starts. The next year, he came to the States and pitched at two rookie-league levels. The Diamondbacks kept moving him slowly. In 2017, he played for Hillsboro in the advanced short-season Northwest League. He went 6-3 with a 4.24 ERA in 11 starts.

The Diamondbacks didn’t move him up real quickly, and for good reason.

Last month, the Twins announced that they had hired Mike Bell to be their new Bench Coach, replacing Derek Shelton who had been named the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bell has spent the past 27 years in professional baseball. He was a player who got a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues. He became a coach and a manager in the minor leagues upon his retirement as a player. However, he has spent the last eight seasons as the Vice President of Player Development for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In other words, he was their Minor League Director.

Mike Bell was ultimately in charge of the development of each of the Diamondbacks minor leaguers, including Jhoan Duran. Bell said, “When we saw him, he had a real heavy sinker. We took some baby steps with him. We knew the kind of talent he was, so we were playing it pretty safe with him in rookie ball. We saw a fastball up to 99 with heavy sink, and he is around the strike zone with command.”

He began 2018 with Kane County in the Midwest League. He was 5-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 15 starts. Then came July 27th, 2018. He found out that afternoon that he had been traded, along with outfielders Gabriel Maciel and Ernie de la Trinidad, in exchange for infielder Eduardo Escobar.

Regarding the trade, Bell noted, “It was a painful trade, being on that side of it, watching him go.” He continued, “I was definitely in the room. I think it was a good trade for both teams. Escy’s a very good player, and a good teammate. I’ll tell you what, Duran is an incredible talent. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things here in the organization. I’m super-excited to reconnect with him.”

From Duran’s perspective, it was something new. He had obviously never been traded before then. He said he knew no one in the Twins organization at the time of the trade. But he took it as a positive. He said (through Twins translator Elvis Martinez), “It was actually a good experience. I got to meet new people, new staff.”

And he made a nice first impression in the new organization. In his first Kernels start, he threw seven no-hit, one-walk innings and struck out seven batters. He faced the minimum, 21 batters. In his fourth Kernels start, he struck out nine batters and gave up just one run over seven innings. The next start, he faced his old teammates from the Kane County Cougars. He gave up just one hit and struck out ten batters over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. In his six Kernels starts, he went 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA and had 44 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Duran spoke of it being nice to get off to a good start in his new organization, “It was a learning process. I think it was more mental than physical. I was just trying to get better every outing.”

Duran began the 2019 season in Ft. Myers. With the Miracle, he went just 2-9 despite an impressive 3.23 ERA. He also had 95 strikeouts (and 31 walks) over his 78 innings in the Florida State League. He never gave up more than three earned runs in any of his 16 outings. He moved up to Double-A Pensacola and made seven more starts. He went 3-3 with a 4.86 ERA. He struck out 41 batters, and walked just nine, over his 37 innings there. In his penultimate start of the season, he struck out 11 batters (and walked just one) over eight innings of two-hit, shutout baseball against the Jackson Generals.

The soft-spoken Duran said of his 2019 season, “I felt really good overall, however, I feel I can do better.”

The Twins obviously believe there is much more in there as well. In November, he was an easy choice to add to the team’s 40-man roster. Of course, it wasn’t as obvious to him.

“Actually, it was something that took me by surprise, but I was really happy. I was not expecting it, but it was one of my goals.”

Duran stands 6-5 and while he is lean, he is strong, weighing in at about 230 pounds. He has always been projectable. That 99 mph he was showing in rookie ball and now crept into the triple-digits often. His fastball averaged 97 mph in 2019.

Duran briefly spoke about his best pitch and the pitches that he feels most comfortable with right now. “Obviously I feel most comfortable with my fastball, but I also have another pitch that I really like to use and feel really comfortable with, and that’s my sinker.”

He also has a pretty good breaking ball or two that he continues to work on and hopes to make more consistent.

Jhoan Duran is on the 40-man roster. He’s been to Twins Fest. He now has his Dominican high school diploma. And to top things off, he is on the cover of the 2020 Twins Prospect Handbook.

Posted Image

As he looks toward 2020, Duran has a couple of goals in mind. “My main goal is to go out there and keep working, to get better and to try to make the team.”

And being on the roster means he is just one phone call away from reaching a lifelong dream, the big leagues.

He notes, “It will mean a lot. It will be a dream come true.”

His former farm director Mike Bell could become his bench coach with that big-league promotion, and I think his final comments on Duran echo those of Twins fans. “I’m excited to see what he can do here.”

Posted Image


No, I won't be giving away the whole book, but here is the Jhoan Duran profile page to show you what you will find in the pages of the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It is available in paperback or PDF(for immediate download). Order your copies today!

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24 Comments

I hear a guy hits 100 mph I think arm problems.I hear a guy can hit 100 mph but throws 96 and I think Verlander. Looking forward to good things here.

    • Dman, IndianaTwin, Platoon and 1 other like this
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Doctor Gast
Jan 30 2020 06:56 AM

Great talent! He should be rated higher but I believe he`ll rise up in the ranks shortly & be acclaimed thru out the league

Exciting future ahead for the Twins! If him and Brusdar develop like we all hope, this could give us the 2 front line starters we have been hoping for!

Met him at Twins Fest, and have say what a nice young man he is.He played air hockey with my son, was soft-spoken, but very friendly and generous with the kids and fans (so was Akil Badoo, by the way).Was glad to have him pronounce his name for me. :) And yes, I was struck by what a big guy he is!I'm a bit surprised that he is just finishing school.Does Arizona not have a similar system for their young players to complete their high school education?Does anyone know how common it is for them to get that?Congrats to him and glad that those players are given the opportunity to do that.

    • Blake, Dantes929, Oldgoat_MN and 4 others like this

Duran is relatively new to me and his record has not jumped out, but if he can be a starter along with Balazovic and Graterol in a year or two I will be happy. 

    • SQUIRREL and Dantes929 like this
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MMMordabito
Jan 30 2020 09:40 AM
Give him the big league offense and that 2-9 becomes 9-2
    • wabene likes this

If my math is correct he just turned 22. I too ave high hopes for the kid but feel he needs to master AA before we can even think about him in the majors. My guess is that he will not be a factor with the Twins this year and possibly not until late next year but that's okay with me. I don't think there is any need to rush him ..

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

Since Duran is on 40 man, will probably get short term opportunities this year. A spot start or to get bullpen some rest. Like Poppen got last year.

Congrats on the HS diploma, Jhoan!!

    • SQUIRREL and Oldgoat_MN like this

Too bad he doesn't have a curve ball or slider.

 

Too bad he doesn't have a curve ball or slider.

Handbook says he has a show-me curve and a very sharp slider and both can generate swinging strikes. Sounds rather good to me. Big frame size with easy delivery reaching 100 mph; I'll take some of that.

    • Oldgoat_MN, mikelink45 and MN_ExPat like this

Too bad he doesn't have a curve ball or slider.


Fangraphs grades his slider as above average now, with plus potential.
    • MN_ExPat likes this
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DanFordWasTheMan
Jan 30 2020 01:24 PM

Let me just start by saying how damn refreshing it is to read (multiple!!) write-ups about Twins pitchers who can reach triple digits. As a long-time fan, I can't stop smiling.

 

Like others, I'm quite intrigued by Duran. A 97+ mph fastball with sink could be deadly. And that seems to be backed up by a nearly 2/1 career GB/FB ratio and the fact that FIP and xFIP paint an even rosier picture of his future ability to generate outs.

 

The one area that looks like it might be a concern is his numbers against LHs. Hardly rare to have that show up for a RHP, but wonder if anyone can speak to his ability to throw his slider in on lefties or if he has a developing changeup.

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45 and Ben Noble like this
I think Duran and Balazovic project as starters more favorably than Graterol. Graterol needs to show he can hold up to a starters work load, it's not necessarily the pitches for him. If he ends up as a fireman with the other 2 as starters that wouldn't be bad. Of course a rotation with all three could be fun!
    • SQUIRREL, mikelink45 and Dman like this
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DanFordWasTheMan
Jan 30 2020 01:32 PM

Also worth noting...if he ends up being a #2 or even ace, we will have the Liriano trade to thank. One of my favorite things to do is track the trades that keep on giving for years. 

    • SQUIRREL, birdwatcher and wabene like this
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MMMordabito
Jan 30 2020 02:06 PM

 

Also worth noting...if he ends up being a #2 or even ace, we will have the Liriano trade to thank. One of my favorite things to do is track the trades that keep on giving for years. 

 

Wait ... Wouldn't that make it the Pierzynski trade?:)

    • birdwatcher, Dman, wabene and 1 other like this
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DanFordWasTheMan
Jan 30 2020 02:11 PM

 

Wait ... Wouldn't that make it the Pierzynski trade?:)

Ha! Yes!

 

If my math is correct he just turned 22. I too ave high hopes for the kid but feel he needs to master AA before we can even think about him in the majors. My guess is that he will not be a factor with the Twins this year and possibly not until late next year but that's okay with me. I don't think there is any need to rush him ..

 

I'm comfortable with that. He's only got 6-7 AA starts so far. He's worked on things this offseason and let him keep working in AA. Now, he could be a spot start or spot bullpen type, but he's a guy you protect knowing he probably won't factor into the 2020 season... at least not until late.

    • MN_ExPat likes this

 

I think Duran and Balazovic project as starters more favorably than Graterol. Graterol needs to show he can hold up to a starters work load, it's not necessarily the pitches for him. If he ends up as a fireman with the other 2 as starters that wouldn't be bad. Of course a rotation with all three could be fun!

 

I agree with all of this.

    • MN_ExPat and wabene like this

Prospect are just that...prospects.But can't help but be excited about a possible 2022 rotation featuring Berrios, Graterol, Belazovic, Dhuran.Talk about some young guns.

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Tom Froemming
Jan 30 2020 07:24 PM

Here's some video of Duran:

    • SQUIRREL and Alex Schieferdecker like this

Interesting fact: Duran throws a "Splinker" as his fourth pitch, according to Baseball America.

 

Twins' Jhoan Duran Uses 'Splinker' To Flummox Hitters

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Alex Schieferdecker
Jan 31 2020 08:59 AM

Am I wrong to be worried when I hear about a prospect's sinker? Unless they are Brandon Webb incarnate, I thought sinkers were generally on the way out among pitchers?

Am I wrong to be worried when I hear about a prospect's sinker? Unless they are Brandon Webb incarnate, I thought sinkers were generally on the way out among pitchers?


Duran misses bats with his though.
He's not pitching it to contact and hoping for ground balls.
    • Twins33 and MN_ExPat like this

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