With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.
Today, we look at infielder Ezequiel Duran.
Ezequiel Duran was pressed into duty in the big leagues in 2022 earlier than expected, due to the ongoing revolving door the Rangers had at third base in the wake of the Josh Jung injury. Duran came up and spent about three weeks in the bigs in June, filling in while Josh Smith (who had initially been brought up to play third base after Andy Ibanez struggled) was on the injured list. Duran returned to the bigs in late July and was essentially the everyday third baseman until Josh Jung was called up in early September, at which point Duran returned to Round Rock, where he finished the season.
Duran is a bat-first infielder who played some shortstop in the minors, but is likely going to be a second baseman or third baseman if he stays on the grass. Duran played mostly shortstop and second base in 2022 for Frisco, where he started the season, before being called up to the majors. During his two stints with Round Rock, Duran split his time between the infield and the outfield, with Texas wanting to get him experience in the outfield so he could be a potential option there, given the lack of openings that appear to be on the horizon in the Rangers’ major league infield.
Duran hit very well in AA before his call-up, slashing .317/.365/.574 for Frisco. With Round Rock, there were contact issues that started to become of concern, as he slashed .283/.316/.531, but with 43 Ks in 155 plate appearances, against just 7 walks. That was an issue in his time in the majors, as well. Duran struck out 52 times in 220 plate appearances in the bigs, against just 12 walks, while slashing .236/.277/.365.
Although Duran played as a 23 year old last year, it was only his second year playing a full season — prior to 2021, he had played just 134 professional games, those coming in 2017-19, with the 2020 season resulting in no action due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Duran faded late in 2021, when he accumulated a career high 471 plate appearances over 105 games, and did the same in 2022, when he logged 575 plate appearances over 136 games between AA, AAA and the majors. Given that, it may a matter of getting acclimated to the rigors of a full season, and figuring out how to increase his stamina to deal with that.
Something that jumps out in looking at Duran’s batted ball data during his time in the majors in 2022 is that his batted ball profile was poor — 50% of his balls in play were ground balls, and another 16.9% were pop ups. Duran actually had more popups than fly balls in the majors last year, which is not a recipe for success. Duran doesn’t have a track record of being an extreme ground ball hitter in the minors, so one has to hope that this is something that will normalize over time.
I expected Duran to be traded this offseason — he likely isn’t going to hit enough to provide much value as a left fielder or a DH, and it seems unlikely he’s going to have an opportunity to get a regular starting infield job for Texas, which would make him more valuable as a trade piece than as an internal roster piece. While I have seen some suggestions that Duran could start the season with the Rangers in the big leagues in a bench role, I tend to think he’s likely going to be in Round Rock to start the year. Duran could step in at some point this year for the Rangers if someone gets hurt or if there’s just a black hole in left field. Barring that, though, I would think he’d be someone Texas would be looking to move in July.