Jarren Duran & Brandon Marsh Have Arrived

The top prospects just keep on coming! On Friday when baseball returned after the all-star break, the Red Sox recalled their third best prospect and 55th overall ranked prospect, Jarren Duran. Then on Sunday, the Angels recalled their top prospect and ninth overall ranked prospect, Brandon Marsh. Let’s dive into each of their statistical records and investigate their chances of fantasy success this year.

Jarren Duran | BOS OF | Overall Rank: 55 | Team Rank: 3

Duran endured a fairly typical minor league ascension, rising through the Single-A ranks in 2018 before jumping up to Double-A in 2019 and then recording 219 plate appearances at Triple-A this year. I often times question the readiness of a prospect that flies through the minors and perhaps skips Triple-A, but Duran has accumulated a good number of plate appearances at each level and so there is no such concern here.

Heading into the season, Duran seemed like a better fantasy prospect than real baseball prospect, as he wasn’t strong defensively and lacked power, but stole bases at a hefty rate, which are worth far more to fantasy owners than MLB owners.

Then a swing change happened as described by Eric Longenhagen:

…very significant swing alteration that was evident during the club’s alternate site activity. He now starts with a narrower base than before, and his hands are set much lower to start, changes that theoretically create better rotation up through the kinetic chain and natural swing loft, respectively. We won’t know if the changes have a substantive impact on Duran’s power output until sometime in 2021, as his alt site hitting metrics are meaningless because they were generated against the same mediocre pitchers he saw over and over, but visually, it now appears Duran can better lift pitches in the bottom of the zone. He didn’t exactly hit for power in Puerto Rico over the winter, though, and the org thinks it’s because his new swing requires more precise timing, which Duran hasn’t yet found.

And guess what? It’s for real. His FB%, which had been stuck in the 20% range his entire career ,jumped to 38.5% at Triple-A this season, which is a significant spike. He didn’t lose his line drive ability or post a higher IFFB%, so there appeared to be no negative side effects on his increased FB% on the rest of his batted ball profile. He paired that FB% surge with a skyrocketing HR/FB rate, which went from a “wait, is this a typo” 1.6% at Double-A in 2019 to 28.8% at Triple-A. More fly balls plus a wayyyyy higher HR/FB rate led to 15 homers, or nearly double his career minor league total through 2019 in about a quarter of the plate appearances. Now that’s a power spike!

All that extra power did reduce his stolen base prowess, but he still swiped 12 bags this year, putting him on a pace well above 30 over a full season. In fact, his full season pace put him on track for a 40/30 year, which should have fantasy owners salivating.

The one minor concern is that he posted a 14.8% SwStk% at Triple-A, which is higher than you would expect given his respectable 23.7% strikeout rate. All that swing and miss means there could be some downside in the Majors and we could easily see a strikeout rate closer to 30%, which would cut into all his counting stats, and of course hurt his batting average.

That said, from an offensive perspective, Duran’s power surge backed by a swing change, combined with his speed, makes him one of the most exciting fantasy prospects out there. However, he might sit against lefties and with the Red Sox in first place, will need to perform to remain a starter, as the rope might not be too long, especially with Danny Santana set to return who could take over if Duran struggles. Still, I’m buying in all league formats.

Brandon Marsh | LAA OF | Overall Rank: 9 | Team Rank: 1

With all the injuries to the Angels outfield, you figured it was only a matter of time before Marsh got the call. However, he dealt with his own injury issue as he missed about a month with shoulder inflammation. Marsh was also expected to be a power/speed contributor like Duran, but tilted more toward power than speed. Defense didn’t figure to be an issue though as he already grades out at 50, with a future 60 grade, meaning that he doesn’t necessarily have to go bonkers at the plate to keep a starting job.

Like Duran, Marsh ascended through the minors at a reasonable clip, getting the experience I typically seek when evaluating prospect call-ups. Also like Duran, he hadn’t shown a whole lot of power through Double-A in 2019 before breaking out in Triple-A this year. His HR/FB rate nearly tripled from his 2019 Double-A mark, while his ISO jumped above .200 for the first time.

The increase in power output is good. Unfortunately, he hasn’t taken advantage of the power in his bat as much as he should as his FB% stood at a measly 20.3%. That’s great for his BABIP, especially combined with his big LD% and zero pop-ups, but not so for his home run total.

Amazingly, even with a .339 BABIP and only a marginally worse than average strikeout rate of 26.4%, he hit just .255. The good news is that his batted ball profile looks exceptional and he is probably deserving of a better projected BABIP than what the FGDC and THE BAT/X are forecasting. So I think he’ll hit better than .216 and .232. In addition, he doesn’t swing and miss often, so a lot of those strikeouts are likely coming due to passivity which could be corrected.

I think overall, this is a less straightforward skill set, so I am less sure of what we’ll get than from Duran. The FB% will really determine his home run potential and also drive his BABIP and batting average. He also swiped just two bases, so his willingness to steal will also greatly affect his fantasy potential. I think the upside is there to certainly take a chance in shallower leagues, but he also looks like a much better bet in leagues that use OBP instead of AVG.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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1 year ago

Thee big question with Marsh is will he play when Trout and Upton (already in a rehab assignment at AAA) return? With the Angels paying Upton and $23 million this year and $28 million in 2022, its hard to believe that they are going to have him sit on the bench. Do they make a utility player out of Taylor Ward who’s having a credible .747 OPS season? You’d think Marsh is going to play but its the Halos so who knows.

Jonathan Sher
1 year ago
Reply to  Forrest

Ward has been credible as a hitter but is a so-so defensive corner outfielder with a fairly low ceiling; also starting is cast-off Adam Eaton. If Marsh played even at league average, which is certainly attainable given his defensive value, he would be a strong favorite to continue starting, though you are right to note the Angels caveat.