Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 19

Juan Duran was a high-profile foreign prospect when the Reds signed him with a $2 million bonus in 2008. After six years in their system he's now on the 40-man roster as he plans to debut at AA to start the season. It's not difficult to find needed improvements to his game, but they are easy to overlook because of his power potential.

Juan Duran is no stranger on top Cincinnati prospects lists since the Reds signed him out of the Dominican Republic with a $2 million bonus in 2008. Last year he made a return visit to Bakersfield where he cracked the twenty home run level and raised his on-base percentage by .037' over the previous campaign. He had an impressive finale to the season by cracking three home runs on his birthday in the final game of the season. Since then the Reds added him to their 40-man roster to protect against loss in the Rule 5 draft.

Duran is now 22 years old as he prepares to start his seventh season in the Cincinnati development system. He should be finished growing and he's had time to adjust to his body (6'7"/205#) which shot up around six inches soon after he signed. As one would expect, he was considered a raw talent as a sixteen year-old and after six years of playing professionally he's still somewhat "raw".

He did make strides with plate discipline last year and raised his walk frequency to almost 10% which resulted in a decent .323 on-base percentage. There's still some improvement needed to his contact, but his strikeout rate of 29% was a small improvement. Given the length of his arms, he'll probably never be a high-contact hitter, but he does flash power potential that could make teams tolerate the whiffs.

He's still raw in the field too after getting charged with ten errors in 97 games at right field in 2013. Improvement can also been seen with the leather though as he raised his fielding percentage to .948 in right field, up from .905 when he played left the previous season. A case can also be made that he's refining his routes because his putouts/game increased around 25% up to a decent 1.86 average. After he grabs the ball there are no concerns with his arm strength.

There's a reason that height is considered more of an asset in basketball than in baseball and Duran will face some challenges after he debuts in AA this season. He'll not only face higher level pitching, but he'll be giving them a big target every trip into the batter's box. On top of that it will be more difficult for him to get his arms around quickly enough to provide coverage of his generous strike zone. Home runs cure a lot of ills however, and if he can connect the ability is there to consistently give the ball a ride.

It would be difficult to find any prospect that is more impressive than Duran when it comes to batting practice and throwing drills before a game. Progress has been made and it will be interesting to see if he can continue that trend when he moves up to the Southern League. He'll be a bit young for AA and the Reds could afford to give him extra time to master that level, but they would prefer to see him knocking on the door to AAA. After watching him start out 1-17 in spring training there probably aren't any expectations that will happen early in the season. It would be foolish to invest $2 million and six years on any sixteen year-old without the patience to see the project through. Duran has managed to make some progress and patient they will be as they wait to see if he can earn a call for an MLB debut over the next couple of years.

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