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The Yankees have two talented prospects in Anthony Volpe and Ezequiel Duran

Low-A Charleston will have a talented middle infield combination in the form of Volpe and Duran.

MLB: AUG 22 Yankees at Athletics Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This coming season, the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs will see numerous talented players grace their roster. Possibly nowhere on the diamond will the talent have as high of a ceiling as the middle infield combination of shortstop Anthony Volpe and second baseman Ezequiel Duran.

Volpe and Duran entered the Yankees system on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of expectations. Duran was signed for a $10,000 signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic as an 18-year-old. He had initially failed to submit the proper paperwork to MLB that would have made him eligible to sign at 16 like many of his fellow countrymen. Volpe, on the other hand, was the Yankees top draft pick last June. Already committed to play in college for Vanderbilt, it took the Yankees offering him a $2.7 million signing bonus in order for him to forgo college.

After a strong, but short, 2017 debut season in the Dominican Summer League, FanGraphs rated Duran as the 14th best prospect in the Yankees’ system. He played just 15 games, but there was a lot that impressed scouts, including a 220 wRC+.

In 2018 skipped over the Gulf Coast League and moved to the Rookie Advanced Pulaski Yankees. Here some holes in his game were exposed, and he was held to a 48 wRC+ that included a frightfully low 3% walk rate. With expectations lowered, but the physical tools that excited some still in tact, Duran was given the modest promotion to the Short-Season A Staten Island Yankees to start 2019.

Through six games, it looked like 2019 was going to be a repeat of the 2018 season, as Duran struck out 14 times while only recording three hits to start the campaign. From there, the Yankees saw dramatic improvement in the young prospect, as he began to make steady contact and tap into his impressive raw power.

On the season Duran led the NY-Penn League with 13 home runs, and he was in the top 10 for slugging percentage, OPS, and RBI. According to Baseball America’s sources, he also had a 91.9 mph average exit velocity, which would rank him among the top 20 of major-league hitters.

Heading into 2019, scouts questioned if Duran could stick as a middle infielder, as he appeared to pack on some more muscle as he physically developed. Staten Island manager David Adams believed in him, though. “Defensively, he is young and has room for improvement,” he told Baseball America. “He shows up early and asks for more work. He is never satisfied.”

That strong work ethic paid off during the season, as Duran changed plenty of minds about his defense. Multiple scouting reports following his time with Staten Island think that he is not just a long term second baseman, but that also has the tools to cover shortstop if needed.

Last year, Duran formed a middle-infield pairing with the Yankees’ second-round draft pick from 2019, Josh Smith. This coming season, he will likely look to his right and see Volpe.

The shortstop made his professional debut in the Appalachian League for Rookie Advanced Pulaski after being drafted in June. This was the same level that gave Duran so many problems in 2018. Volpe struggled early, hitting only .125 during his first 16 games. After adjusting to pro ball, Vople caught fire for a stretch and hit .292/.413/.462 over his last 18 games before his season ended early due to a case of mononucleosis.

Scouts saw a hitter with a great swing that will produce a lot of contact and line-drives. Despite a rash of errors that are common among young players, evaluators also saw a player with a highly polished defensive game that has the ability to stick at shortstop long-term. He is an above average runner with good baseball instincts that should continue to serve him well as he climbs through the system.

Both Ezequiel Duran and Anthony Volpe will have question to answer heading into the 2020 season. Duran will have to prove that his power and explosive bat can continue to produce against tougher competition, while Volpe’s professional career is built on a small sample size at this point. There will be pressure to show that his hot finish is sustainable. With these questions on the table, both extremely talented players will play side-by-side and give the fans in Charleston an exciting duo to get behind.