Happy Birthday!

Juan Duran has been a high-profile prospect in the Cincinnati system since they signed him with a $2 million bonus in 2008. He's shown why the past week by hitting six homers over the last five games including three in the season finale on his birthday.

Bakersfield allowed three runs in the third inning en route to a 6-4 loss at Visalia. They took an early lead in the first inning after Juan Perez doubled, scored on a wild pitch, and Juan Duran hit a solo home run. Two more solo homers by Duran in the fifth and seventh innings were not enough for the comeback. He led the Blaze with three hits, a walk, three RBI, and three runs. Perez added two hits to his team's attack.

On the mound Fabian Williamson took the loss for allowing five runs (four earned) over the first four innings. Joey Housey relieved him for three innings over which he allowed one run before Ben Klimesh tossed a scoreless eighth.

Duran has been experiencing a power surge to end the season, hitting six homers in his last five games. He's hit .258 over his last ten appearances, but drawn enough walks to raise his on-base percentage to .395 over that span. Overall he ended the season .245/.317 OB/.423 SLG with twenty round-trippers.

It was indeed a special day for Duran who celebrated his 22nd birthday with three dingers. He's now completed two full seasons at Bakersfield and appears ready to index up the pipeline into AA next year. He's been a high profile prospect in the Cincinnati system since they signed him with a $2 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. Actually it was the timing of his birthday that gave the Reds a loophole to ink him early. Other teams considered him unavailable at that time because he did not turn seventeen until a couple days after the international free agent signing period which ends on August 31. However, the Reds realized that there could be an exception if a player's seventeenth birthday comes before the end of the season, so they put him on their roster at Billings because Mustangs' last game was on September 5 that year.

His age wasn't the only thing that increased as the teenager had to deal with body changes from a growth spurt of five inches to 6'7". He struggled through growing pains at the plate too until he hit sixteen homers at Dayton in 2010 despite starting slowly that season and dealing with a hamstring injury. Another slow start at Bakersfield last year led to a season-ending .237 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage which got him another tour in the California League in 2013.

Since signing as a teenager Duran was considered a high-potential prospect with raw talent. It goes to figure that after he's played in the minor leagues for six seasons he should be more polished. He's improved selectivity at the plate and raised his walk rate to ten percent of plate appearances, up from around five and a half last year. He's also made a slight improvement to his contact, but still needs to improve upon this year's rate of 29% of his plate appearances. He does potentially have enough power to make a high whiff rate more tolerable.

He has plenty of arm strength for right field, but much of his time has been spent in left as he's refined his defensive skills. This year he was moved back to right where he was charged with ten errors in 96 games at the position. Statistically it appears that he's learned fly ball routes better because he's averaged almost two putouts per contest after running down only 1.5 fly balls per game while in left field in 2012.

When it comes to Juan Duran, both he and the Reds are probably sorry the season is ending right now. They will keep a close eye on him at Pensacola next season and are probably considering giving him a spot on the 40-man roster to protect against the Rule 5 draft. He's still got a long way to go, but he's making progress and Cincinnati should have no plans of discarding the $2 million lottery ticket that they purchased five years ago.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds got off on the right foot in their big home series against St. Louis by winning 7-2. Mat Latos threw a complete game and held the Cardinals to four hits. Ryan Ludwick gave his team an early lead with an RBI single in the first. Todd Frazier led off the next frame with a double and scored on a Zack Cozart single who was on board for Shin-soo Choo's 19th home run of the season. The Reds scored in each of the first four innings after Frazier delivered a run-scoring hit in the third and Joey Votto hit a solo homer in the fourth. Jay Bruce went 2-3 with two walks, one of which drove in a run when bases were loaded in the eight. Four other Reds had two hits in the game: Choo, Ludwick, Frazier, and Cozart.

Louisville had a dramatic end to their season when Denis Phipps hit a walk-off grand slam in the Bats' 7-5 win over visiting Indianapolis. He and Mike Costanzo had two hits in the game while Mike Hessman reached with a double and two walks. Yohan Pino got no decision from allowing two runs on six hits in the first four innings. Trevor Bell allowed one run in one inning pitched but was the pitcher of record for the win.

Pensacola fell behind early and never threatened in their 10-1 loss at Mobile. The Wahoos offense was limited to four hits with one of them going to Corey Wimberly who also walked once. Robert Stephenson was roughed up for three runs in the first inning and was then lifted from the game, taking the loss. Parker Frazier threw three-plus scoreless frames of relief.

Dayton got blown out at home in an 11-1 loss to South Bend. Beau Amaral, Jeff Gelalich, and Humberto Valor each had two hits for the Dragons. Jackson Stephens got the start, was lifted in the fourth inning, and allowed five runs for the loss. Jesus Adames and Wandy Peralta combined for three innings of scoreless relief to end the game.

Billings scored a couple of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to end their season with a 6-2 win at Helena. Carlos Sanchez and Daniel Peralta both had two of the Mustangs' seven hits including a solo homer by Paula. Zach Weiss started the game by allowing one run over four innings. Scott Brattvelt relieved him with three innings and allowed one run on one hit/one walk for the win. Austin Muehring retired all six batters he faced to end the game with a save.

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