The first of the two signed was left-hander Omar Duran, who was also given an invite to big league spring training along with his deal. Duran posted a 2.54 ERA in 37 appearances (60 1/3 innings) across high-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, including 79 strikeouts while walking 28.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Duran is just 24 years old who has had his career derailed by injuries. Despite seven seasons of being an active member of the A’s organization, he’s accumulated just 278 innings of work, or about 40 innings per year.
Duran has been the classic hard-throwing, tough-to-hit, no-idea-where-it’s-going pitcher. The issues with his control and command are what have held him back, because his stuff is impressive. He’s a lefty that can hit 97 MPH on the gun, and also features a good curveball that can generate swing-and-misses as well.
In past years, Duran battled his control mightily, frequently “pitching to the gun” and worrying more about his velocity than his effectiveness. As recently as 2012, his walk rate was nearly eight walks per nine innings. But in the Arizona Fall League last year he started to show signs of developing, and in 2014, lowered his walk rate to about four walks per nine. That’s still not good, but for a lefty that throws 97, it’s at least improvement.
Duran was signed for his live arm, with the hope that he continues to develop and could become a useful weapon out of the bullpen. It’s probably unlikely that happens (if it was likely, the A’s probably wouldn’t have let him leave via minor league free agency), but the Tigers like to take chances on guys that have good velocity, and Duran certainly fits the ball.
Besides Duran, the Tigers also signed third baseman Jefry Marte. Marte was only with the Athletics for two years after being acquired from the Mets. Shortly after being acquired, he was considered one of the top 20 prospects in the A’s organization, but his production didn’t match the reputation that came along with him. Marte received those accolades for consistently being “young for his league”… similar to another former Tigers third base prospect, Francisco Martinez.
Marte, another Dominican, is even younger than Duran at just 23 years of age. Over his seven seasons, he’s hit .257/.323/.373. Marte always displayed impressive power in batting practice, but hadn’t yet translated that into game play. For his career, he averaged just one extra base-hit every 15 at-bats.
Marte has always had a good approach at the plate, and some believe that approach has hindered the development of his power in games, as he’d be more likely to go the other way for singles, rather than trying to turn on or drive balls to the gaps.
Like Duran, Marte has battled injury issues the past couple seasons, with leg and oblique injuries limiting him to 173 games over the past two years. He did however begin to show signs of the power coming through in live games this past year though, albeit in limited action.
Marte isn’t a threat to compete for a big league job heading into spring, but given his youth and potential that he’s displayed, is another worthwhile gamble for the Tigers to plug into the upper levels of their farm system to see if they might have snagged a diamond in the rough.