Duran's Bat Heating Up

Juan Duran has been a high-profile prospect in the Cincinnati organization since the Reds discovered a loophole that allowed them to sign the outfielder with a $2 million bonus as a teenager in 2008. 2013 is his second time around at the high-A level and now at 21 years old he's giving indications that he's ready to take the next step in his development.

Bakersfield allowed runs in each of the first five innings and five more in the eighth in a 14-4 loss at Stockton. Starter Jake Johnson took the loss when he was charged with six runs in two-plus innings. The Blaze made five calls to the bullpen with Wes Mugarian and Carlos Gonzalez throwing one scoreless frame each.

Offensively Juan Silverio had two of the seven Blaze hits and Juan Duran gave his team a brief lead with a two-run home run in the top of the first. It was the second game in a row in which the outfielder homered and he's now 5-9 over his last three games. Steve Selsky hit a home run to lead off the fifth and Silverio doubled in a run in the sixth.

This time one year ago when Duran looked overwhelmed against high-A pitching. He improved over the season and now at the age of 21 he looks like he belongs at the level. He's gone 11-30 over his last nine games and gotten on base at a .421 clip over that period. That raised his season average to .270/.339 OB with three home runs. His slugging percentage is still under .400 but there's good reason to expect that to rise. In 2011 he hit sixteen homers at Dayton despite being slowed with a hamstring injury.

Duran still has the high strikeout rate this season and contact remains one of the top items for improvement. He's walking in almost 10% of his plate appearances this season which is a little higher rate than he'd done previously. Bakersfield has moved him back to right field this season and he's made a couple of errors in 29 games which is another improvement to his game. He's running down putouts at a decent rate and if he can master the routes and cut the grade with his leather there are no concerns with his arm strength.

Duran has been challenged with some growing pains-literally-since the Reds signed him as a high-profile free agent in 2008. That year they beat some other teams to the punch while they were waiting to go after him the following year after his sixteenth birthday. Cincinnati realized that the Billings season did not end until soon after his birthday and put him on the Mustang roster after inking him with a $2 million bonus. In some ways they got more than they asked for because he's grown around six inches in height since then. It's no wonder pitchers have been able to take advantage of his generous strike zone while he's adjusted to his new physique.

The skills are there, though they still need some polishing. When a team invests that much money on a foreign teenager they need to have some patience as he develops his game and the Reds have shown that with Duran who is still in single A in his sixth professional season. Over the past week he's giving indications that he's ready to take the next step. Duran remains a prospect with a potentially high upside in their system and he's now making strides that could earn a promotion to AA later in the season.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds won their sixth in a row and finished off a sweep at Miami with a 5-3 win in ten innings. Jay Bruce followed a Joey Votto double with a run-scoring hit to tie the score in the fourth inning and Brandon Phillips gave his team the lead with a solo homer in the sixth. Mat Latos had a strong start, allowing only one run in the first eight innings, but ran into some trouble when he allowed a triple in the ninth. Aroldis Chapman entered and ended the inning, but not before he allowed a two-out triple to tie the score. Phillips broke the deadlock in extra innings with a sac fly and Bruce followed him with a two-run double. Chapman picked up the win and the Reds needed the insurance because J.J. Hoover allowed a run in the bottom of the inning while picking up the save. Shin-soo Choo continued his fine work leading off with a hit and a couple of walks while scoring once. Bruce ended the game with two hits and a walk. Votto and Xavier Paul both reached safely with a hit and a free pass.

Reports are that Johnny Cueto will be ready to rejoin the Reds Monday after a couple of rehab outings at Dayton. That will necessitate a decision on the rotation where Tony Cingrani has kept a sub-three ERA over 28 innings while replacing him. Recent comments from manager Dusty Baker indicate that the overcrowding situation will not threaten Mike Leake's job as the rotation's five-man as some had previously speculated.

Louisville gave up three runs in the fourth inning in a 4-1 loss at Charlotte. The Bats had only four hits in the contest and their run came from back-to-back doubles by Denis Phipps and Emmanuel Burriss and gave them a brief lead in the second inning. Chad Reineke took the loss by allowing four runs five-plus innings. Clay Hensley and Curtis Partch combined for three-plus frames of scoreless relief.

Pensacola took their home game against Chattanooga into extra innings before losing 8-2 in ten. The Wahoos took a lead in the first inning from a solo homer by Ryan LaMarre, his third in the last five games. Travis Mattair and Tucker Barnhart each had two of their team's ten hits with Barnhart driving in the other run. Manny Parra got a rehab start and finished with two scoreless innings pitched. Tim Crabbe relieved him with four-plus innings and allowed two runs. Josh Ravin tossed a couple of shutout frames and punched out five strikeouts. Drew Hayes allowed five runs in less than one inning pitched and took the loss.

Dayton allowed five runs in the second inning en route to a 6-4 home loss against Western Michigan. Jesse Winker and Seth Mejias-Brean both had two of the Dragons' eight hits including a three run homer by Winker in the sixth. Brent Peterson and Nick O'Shea both reached safely twice with a hit and walk. Pedro Diaz got the start and the loss after he was lifted in the third and charged with six runs. Tony Amezcua relieved him with four-plus scoreless frames before Alejandro Chacin tossed two perfect innings with four strikeouts.

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