Top Prospect #47: Michael Durant

Keep in mind that minor league ball isn't all about the stats. If it were, Michael Durant would be lost. Luckily for him, his potential far exceeds that of many other players in the organization and he's bound to adjust and turn things around in the near future.

A lot of people who had the start in life that Michael Durant had wouldn't be where Durant is today. Durant's biological father wasn't in the picture and his mother was too young to handle the responsibilities of having a child. Luckily for Durant, his childhood was filled with people who stepped up to help make him what he is today. People assumed the needed roles in his life and kept him on the right path. They helped him to blossom his talent and put him in situations where he could succeed. Now, he's got a contract to play professional baseball after the Phillies grabbed him in the third round of the 2005 Draft.

For Durant, the high of being drafted was hit hard by reality. His first pro season didn't give him the chance to show what he can do with a bat in his hands. Instead, he looked somewhat lost at times, even in the lowest level of baseball. Durant would finish his first season hitting under the Mendoza-Line, although he did lead the Gulf Coast League Phillies with six homeruns. Nobody who has watched Durant play figures that's going to continue. Instead, the thought is that Durant will be a player who can terrorize pitchers with the long ball, but will also hit for a high average. His big, powerful frame - he's 6' 5", 230 pounds - doesn't give a glimpse into the athleticism that Durant possesses. In high school, he played basketball and football in addition to baseball and the Phillies believe he's agile enough that he can at least play the outfield and could possibly move to third base. For now though, they're leaving him at first base, preferring to let him develop at the plate before messing with his defense.

If you're looking for a player in the lower levels to watch out for and to root for, Michael Durant would be a good choice. He's got the raw talent and the attitude that will allow him to soak in all the coaching that he can get to make himself better.


Gulf Coast League

6 22 .190 39 126 21 24 4 0 3 16 56 .301

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies out of Berkeley High School in the third round of the 2005 Draft.

Batting and Power: Phillies' scouting director Marti Wolever fell in love with Durant watching him play. "He was probably one of the top five prospects in the country in terms of pure raw power. He has above-average bat speed and a lot of loft to his swing. You put it all together, and he's going to hit some long home runs," said Wolever. That's about what most people who have seen Durant play have had to say about his power. Durant hit .440 in his senior year at Berkeley High School and scouts believe that while it's difficult to gauge how well a young player will adapt to hitting for average in pro ball, most believe that Durant can at least hit in the .270 - .280 range in the majors with near 40 homerun power. The Phillies may want to rethink moving the left field wall at Citizens Bank Park back, but then again, the right-hand hitting Durant has enough power that it likely won't make much of a difference.

One knock on Durant is that he doesn't hit off-speed pitches. While that is a weakness, Durant has already started to improve in that area and figures to work hard to close that one hole in his game.

Baserunning and Speed: Don't look for Durant to steal a lot of bases, but he is more agile than he may look at first glance. In 39 games in the Gulf Coast League, it's worth noting that he stole three bases and wasn't caught. Durant will be able to use his speed to help him on the bases and he's smart enough that he can get good jumps on balls hit in the gap. With his size, not many people would want to be a catcher and see Durant steaming around third trying to score from second on a base-hit. That's gonna hurt.

Defense: While Durant is best known for his offense, he's not going to hurt you too much defensively. The Phillies technically drafted him as a third baseman and that could be in his future, but he's played first base throughout his high school career and was back at first base in the GCL. He's agile enough to play other positions, but whether he would have the reactions and an accurate enough arm to play third is a question mark. He could probably adapt to a spot in the outfield and that is a likely move in the future, especially if he's blocked by Ryan Howard.

Projection: Power alone won't get Durant to the majors, since teams are looking for more than that these days. Luckily for Durant, he has more than just power. When he adjusts to hitting with a wooden bat, he is likely to show that he has everything he needs to make it to the majors, although he's going to need a little work. It would be a surprise if the Phillies started Durant in a full-season league in 2006. He will possibly move ahead to Batavia, although if he struggles in extended camp, he could be back in the GCL. Since he's just out of high school, there is some time to let Durant develop and not rush him toward the upper levels. The Phillies are generally very patient anyway, so he'll be back in a short-season league next season and likely hit Lakewood to start 2007.

ETA: Who knows? In a perfect world, Durant will move to Batavia in 2006 and show that he's adapted to hitting with a wood bat and that he can move along. From there, he could move a level per season and possibly a little quicker down the road, but that's just speculation. We'll know better a year from now just how quickly Durant may move.

Comparison: Let's see, who would a big, powerful first baseman compare to? You knew it was coming. The comparisons to Ryan Howard are all around Mike Durant and you have to hope that doesn't hurt him. The two are similar in size and even have a slight resemblance to each other and both play first base. Durant hits from the right-side of the plate, while Howard is a left-handed hitter. Howard came to the Phillies out of college and started putting up solid numbers from the day he hit the organization. Durant came out of high school and struggled in his first campaign. Then, there's the rumored move of Durant to left field. That's something that Howard also went through with weak results. The smart money says that the more agile and athletic Durant would be able to make the move. Start salivating at the thought of a right-handed hitting Ryan Howard joining the original Howard in the Phillies lineup, providing a horrific back-to-back nightmare scenario for opponents.

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