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D-backs Game Preview, #19: 4/27 vs. Dodgers

Will Jhoan Duran prove to be the one who got away from the Diamondbacks?

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

DODGERS DIAMONDBACKS
Mookie Betts - RF Cooper Hummel - LF
Freddie Freeman - 1B Jordan Luplow - RF
Trea Turner - SS Matt Davidson - DH
Max Muncy - 3B Christian Walker - 1B
Cody Bellinger - CF Ketel Marte - 2B
Chris Taylor - LF Carson Kelly - C
Edwin Rios - DH Nick Ahmed - SS
Gavin Lux - 2B Daulton Varsho - CF
Austin Barnes - C Sergio Alcantara - 3B
Julio Urias - LHP Zac Gallen - RHP

The lack of power pitchers on the D-backs has long been a notable point. Since the start of the 2019 season, there have been 3,419 pitches clocked by StatCast with a velocity of 100+ mph. Precisely one of them was thrown by an Arizona hurler. It was by Yoan Lopez, back on July 16, 2019. Over the same time-frame, the Diamondbacks rank dead-last in average fastball velocity. Now, there’s more to pitching than pure heat (as Brusdar Graterol proved last night: four-pitch walk, two-run homer). But velocity does correlate to strikeout rate, and strikeout rate to a better ERA, due to the smaller number of balls in play, and consequently hits. I’m sure we’ll all thought it’d be nice to have someone tossing an easy 100+ out of the ‘pen.

Someone like Jhoan Duran, perhaps? He’s 24. and the Twins’ #5 prospect, who reached the majors this year. Small sample size, to be sure, yet in nine innings, he has struck out 15 batters, with an average fastball of 100.2 mph. and capable of reaching 102, as in this pitch to Trevor Story. What’s particular interesting about this flamethrower is, he WAS part of the D-backs organization, having been signed by Arizona for a $65,000 bonus in 2014. But at the trade deadline in 2018, he was dealt with fellow prospects Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel to the Minnesota Twins, for Eduardo Escobar. At the time, Duran was ranked #19 on Arizona’s list of prospects, but it seems the Twins front-office saw more in him.

“We liked the body, we liked the physicality, [and] we felt his arm worked pretty well. There were maybe some question marks about starter/reliever at the time, but when we made that trade, we had an eye toward, ‘How do we build more on top of what he had?’ He had a really good foundation. He was only in A-ball, but we knew there was something to really like. His splitter... has become kind of a standout pitch. No one throws something like that. What I’ve heard from hitters who’ve seen it along the way, it’s definitely jarring. That’s a good thing. When you have a pitcher that has something unique, like Jhoan brings, hopefully that’ll allow him to do some things that hitters are really uncomfortable facing.”

There are still question-marks about Duran. Shoulder problems meant he threw only 16 innings last season, and issued 13 walks. But if his better control this season (two walks in nine IP) is for real, then it’s easy to see him becoming the Twins closer of the future. However, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that he could even go back to starting, as Duran did for almost all of his time in the minor leagues. While Escobar was worth 5.6 bWAR over his time here, most of that came during a contract extension. During the couple of months covered by his original deal, he put up just 0.5 bWAR. If Duran gives the Twins 5+ years of quality starts, or becomes a dominant closer, this could end up as one of the worse deals in the Hazen era.