Fort Worth's Duran enjoying breakout season

After a solid season with High-A Bakersfield in 2006, Frisco second baseman and German Duran is enjoying a breakout season with the RoughRiders. Lone Star Dugout features the Fort Worth product.

German Duran grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and dreamed of playing major league baseball for the Texas Rangers. Now in his third year in the Rangers' organization, Duran is emerging as a legitimate prospect with a good chance of realizing that dream.

The 22-year-old Duran is currently playing second base for the Frisco RoughRiders. While he may fly under the prospect radar, he has done nothing but produce since the Rangers drafted him in 2005. In 33 games this season, Duran is hitting .327 with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in. Duran is not only an offensive player, as he has made only five errors in his first full season as a second baseman. With a shortage of middle infield prospects in the upper minors and only Matt Kata on the bench in the major leagues, Duran should be viewed as an option if injuries strike the big league club.

A native of Zacatecas, Mexico, Duran moved to the United States when he was just two months old. As a teenager growing up in Fort Worth, Duran had numerous showdowns with hard-throwing pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo, who played at Fort Worth Trimble Tech, was a second round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2004 and currently ranks as their No. 1 prospect.

"It was really fun to play against Yovani growing up," Duran said. "He threw really hard, but you got a lot of fastballs to hit. You could usually expect a fastball right down the middle."

After a successful high school career at Fort Worth Paschal, Duran chose to stay close to home and play college baseball at TCU. Duran would only play one season for the Horned Frogs, but in that season he was named a Freshman All-American after he hit .330 with five home runs. At one point during the season Duran had a 21-game hit streak. He also led the Horned Frogs to post-season play.

Duran chose to transfer to Weatherford Junior College after his freshman year at TCU. In his one season there, he hit .357 and had a slugging percentage of .670. Those kinds of stats caught the eye of Rangers scout Jay Eddings, who convinced the Rangers to draft him in the sixth round of the 2005 draft.

Duran had an unspectacular debut as a shortstop for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League, as he hit .262 with four homeruns and 33 runs batted in. However, he showed the Rangers enough in spring training before the 2006 season that they had him skip Low-A and report to High-A Bakersfield.

He showed no problems adjusting to the increase in competition, as he improved across the board from the previous season. His average jumped to .284, while his home runs and runs batted in jumped to 13 and 72, respectively. Duran started 54 games at shortstop, 46 games at second base and one game at third while with the Blaze.

Duran appears shorter than his listed 5-foot-10 height, but shows surprising power for someone his size. Although he was drafted as a shortstop, he has now moved to second base full-time, where his range and arm strength play better.

"I see myself as a second baseman," Duran said. "I am going to continue to work hard and be the best second baseman that I can be. But I will play wherever they put me if it helps the team win."

Duran's lack of size and plus tools make it unlikely that he will become a major league starter at second base. However, his versatility makes him a valuable player. His future is more than likely as a utility player with gap power, good speed and strong defense.

"I don't try to hit home runs, they just happen," Duran said. "I try to stay short to the ball and keep my swing compact. My goal is to drive the ball to the gaps."

In a recent series in San Antonio against the Missions, Duran showed off his power stroke. In the second game of the series, Duran hit a home run over the 402 foot sign in dead center field. To prove that was no fluke, he hit another round-tripper the next day that traveled even further to deep left-center field.

There are a few things Duran needs to work on, one of which is lowering his strikeout rate. While it is not alarming, he has struck out once every five at bats over the last two seasons. Duran could also be more patient and draw more walks. These are the main things Duran will be working on this season in Frisco and potentially next season at Triple-A Oklahoma.

Even though he won't force the Rangers to move Ian Kinsler off second base, Duran has showed that he has the bat and the glove to be a valuable utility player for years to come.

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