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Ezequiel Duran sticking with process at top of Staten Island order

Heading into the season, one of the top prospects on the Staten Island Yankees was infielder Ezequiel Duran. Duran has been in Staten Island for the entire portion of the short-season so far and flourished in July after a rough start to the year.

The 20-year-old began the year hitting .167 in the first 13 games. Since then, the average has gone up to .277 for the season after a slash line of .333/.392/.630 with 7 home runs and 20 RBIs in 26 games during July. Right now, Duran leads the league in home runs (9) and slugging percentage (.526) and is fourth in the New York-Penn League in RBIs (28) and OPS (.878).

“He’s getting better every day about his attitude,” said Duran via translator, catcher Carlos Narvaez. “Right now, he is super strong with his mind.”

Duran signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2017 out of the Dominican Republic. When he signed with the team, Duran mentioned that “he was happy and thankful for the opportunity that the Yankees gave him to play baseball.”

Yankees infield prospect Ezequiel Duran at the plate for the Staten Island Yankees (Robert M. Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

When you look at top prospects, there’s always pressure to succeed and players can tend to press if the numbers aren’t there right away. It is up to the player to continue to stick with the process from the coaching staff and according to hitting coach Ken Joyce and manager David Adams,

“Right now, he’s starting to see the results because of the process and not worrying about the batting average. The batting average will climb when you start to do things right and continue to do things right. He’s not swinging at as many first pitches,” said Joyce.

“For me, it boils down to not doing too much. He’s trusting in himself and showing a little more consistency,” said Adams.

While Duran’s power has stood out for sure with the 8 home runs he has this year, his pitch recognition skills have definitely improved. Last year, at Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, the right-handed hitting second baseman had 9 walks in 53 games. This year, that number is up to 19 in 45 games in Staten Island, which is third on the team.

“Right now, he’s starting to see the results because of the process and not worrying about the batting average. The batting average will climb when you start to do things right and continue to do things right. He’s not swinging at as many first pitches,” said Joyce.

When a player gets to the New York-Penn League, seeing a heavy dose of breaking balls is always something that a player needs to adjust to. Duran even mentioned that the breaking pitches have been the toughest part about adjusting to professional ball.

However, there are tools that the team uses to help players recognize those pitches before the game. Joyce went into details on drills that are used to help the players improve on a daily basis:

“Part of what we are doing is working on pitch recognition. We have pitch recognition video that we work with and we have occlusion glasses that shot off on them when the ball is halfway to home plate. He’s been working on some of those things that recognize the ball coming out of the hand and what pitches to swing at.”

“We also work the seven-ball plank during batting practice so that we know what balls we should be hitting in what counts. He’s bought into it and he’s been really good at it.”

Yankees infield prospect Ezequiel Duran makes a defensive play for the Staten Island Yankees. (Robert M. Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

Duran, whose favorite player is Gleyber Torres, mentioned that working on pitch recognition was key for him in extended spring training because he was swinging at a lot of bad pitches. As a leadoff hitter, limiting chasing pitches out of the zone is key and Duran has done just that.

Right now, Duran is the team’s primary leadoff hitter and has flourished in that role. In 26 games at that spot, he’s hitting .306 with 8 home runs, 20 RBIs, a .339 on-base percentage, and a .640 slugging percentage. It is an added responsibility for a young hitter to help set the tone for the rest of the team, but it is something that Joyce mentioned that Duran has bought into:

“He’s the guy that sets the tone at the top of the order. Part of that responsibility is to see more pitches and to give the guys behind him a chance to see the repertoire of the pitcher that we are facing. I think he’s bought into it, it has helped him, and it has helped the team,” said Joyce.

Yankees infield prospect Ezequiel Duran at the plate for the Staten Island Yankees (Robert M. Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

Duran has also brought the attention of some of his teammates, such as David Metzgar, an infielder who has played for 3 different affiliates in the organization over the last 2 years:

“I played with him in spring training and I know he has the power he has and is a great fielder too. He’s doing what I have known him to do,” said Metzgar.

When we did our Top 100 Prospects list, Duran came in at #25 on our list. As his pitch recognition skills continue to improve, Duran is someone to watch because when he makes contact, the ball travels off the bat.

One of the can’t miss prospects going into the year for Staten Island has been as advertised and should be one of the players representing the team at home in the All-Star Game later this month. If Duran can stay strong mentally going forward, he has a good opportunity to rise up future prospect lists.

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