Wolves hunt in packs and do not rely on the element of surprise when attacking their prey. Each wolf has their role, as some chase while others surround. The end goal is to eat. The Rangers are one of the top offenses in MLB, being second in runs scored, eighth in home runs, second in RBI, sixth in batting average, sixth in SLB, and fourth in OPS. Oh, they eating all right. Over the years, they have brought in hitters with excellent plate discipline (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien) but they still get googly eyes for the wild child, power/speed combo players. Think Adolis Garcia. For transparency, I wrote a piece earlier this season to fade Garcia. I’m not a smart man. Garcia has made massive improvements in the plate discipline and could the same trajectory be in store for one Ezequiel Duran, who has been scorching hot and possesses a similar profile to the Garcia of the past?
Ezequiel Duran is 23 years old, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, and bats from the right side.
Throughout his minor league career, he exhibited power and speed while the batting average fluctuated and the strikeout rate was in the high-20 percent range. The walk rate never got above nine percent.
He made his MLB debut last season and accrued 220 plate appearances, slashing .236/.277/.365 with a .130 ISO. He produced five home runs and four stolen bases. The walk rate was 5.5% while the strikeout rate was 24.5%.
So far this season, Ezequiel Duran has a .304/.333/.478 slash with a .174 ISO in 96 plate appearances. The walk rate is 1% while the strikeout rate is 25%. He’s mainly been batting seventh in the lineup but has hit leadoff or second a few times. He has been getting consistent playing time with Corey Seager on the injured list but Bruce Bochy intimated that he would get creative to keep Duran in the lineup. Duran has played shortstop, third base, second base and the corner outfield spots this season.
Let’s dig in.
The BABIP is an elevated .375, which is fueling the .304 batting average. During his minor league career, both the BABIP and batting average were all over the map. He had two seasons in which the BABIP was over .350 and the batting average was .290 and .317 during those seasons. There are also other seasons when he hit below .230.
For much of his time in the minors, the GB/FB ratio was below 1. In two MLB seasons, that number has been 1.53 and 1.5 this season. The HR/FB rate is 18.2%, but he often exhibited a high number during the minors. Compared to last season, he’s pulling the ball around 42% of the time. The main difference is that he’s going oppo less and instead going up the middle more.
Now we come to the plate discipline numbers. The chase rate is 45.5%. Only three players have a higher number. The contact rate in the zone is 79.2% while the swinging strike rate is 14.8%. That would place him in the top 20. I hate those numbers but they are not the death knell for players. Many of the top players are whiffers and hackers, but when they connect, ball go boom.
Duran’s Statcast page is beautiful. He’s in the 88th percentile for max exit velocity, 89th percentile for hard hit percentage, 83rd percentile for xBA, 78th percentile for xSLG and 94th percentile for sprint speed.
Duran is aggressive, maybe to fault, but one cannot deposit balls into the seats if one does not swing. Aggressiveness is his style and is probably one of the reasons why he made the majors. He is not a crocodile that patiently waits for prey to come to him. No, he is a wolf that swings and swings and swings.
I used to essentially forgo these kinds of players but have become less “get-off-my-lawny” as I get older. That said, I’m not expecting this kind of production to last. I do think regression will hit when pitchers find some exploit. And they will find something to exploit. The key, as it usually is, will be how Duran adjusts to the adjustments. Bochy is obviously happy with the current production and has said that he will try to keep him in the lineup when Seager returns, but there’s danger that Duran gets sent back down if regression does hit.