Wednesday afternoon was a perfect embodiment of what it’s been like to be a Minnesota Twins fan this year. Massive storm clouds dumped a heap of cold water on the Twin Cities just as people were starting to get excited to see their hometown nine play a ball game.
Yes, it’s been a tumultuous three and a half months in Twins Territory, filled with suffocating losing streaks, devastating injuries, and angst as the team approaches the trade deadline. While fans may be getting ready to bid adieu to beloved stars, namely All-Star Nelson Cruz, they should also be preparing for the emergence of a new power bat.
Enter Jose Miranda, a hulking slugger who is standing on the doorstep of the big leagues.
He knows it’s been a difficult season for the Twins, but he’s making a case as the biggest rising star in the minor leagues this year. His time to help the club has almost come and, rest assured, he is not throwing away his shot.
“I know it’s been tough for fans this year with all the ups and downs that have happened this season,” Miranda said. “But I want to tell [Twins fans] to be patient because better days are going to come.”
Going into this season, Miranda was seen as a fringe prospect in the organization. He was ranked No. 16 by MLB.com and No. 20 by Fangraphs. But with the graduation of top prospects Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Ryan Jeffers, along with an incredible first half on his own end, Miranda is ready to take center stage.
The lofty infielder demolished opposing pitchers in 47 games with Double-A Wichita, belting 13 home runs while slashing .345/.408/.588.
“Winter ball in Puerto Rico really had a big impact on me going into this year,” Miranda said. “Just getting more at-bats and seeing different pitchers really helped, especially because we didn’t get to play last year.”
The winter kick-start to this year’s campaign proved to be invaluable, as Miranda was promoted to Triple-A St. Paul late last month. In 13 games since that call-up, the slugger has picked up right where he left off in Wichita. His .333/.426/.667 slash line resembles an MVP candidate, all while playing against opponents who are generally much older than the 23-year-old.
“Being in St. Paul has been great so far. I love that the crowd gets really into it every game,” Miranda said. “The place gets packed every night, the stadium is great, the weather has been mostly nice. Really, it’s been amazing.”
While it’s been a storybook setting for the young infielder, one aspect of Triple-A ball has stood out more than anything else. Since he is on the cusp of living out his dream, he’s taking advantage of sharing a field with guys who have already lived out theirs.
“Getting to play with more guys that have already been in The Show makes it really special,” Miranda said. “That has really stood out for me this time, getting to learn from different guys.”
Twins fans need somebody with this kind of youthful energy and enthusiasm for the game.
Kirilloff and Larnach, otherwise known as The Power Patch Kids™, have impressed so far in their rookie seasons, but they appear to be strictly business off the field. The scouting comparison to franchise icons Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is crystal clear, and their even-keeled, level-headed approach plays into that.
That’s not a knock against The Power Patch Kids™. Winning teams need that approach too. But part of what made those exciting Twins teams so special in 2006, 2009, and 2010 was that they had Mauer and Morneau and spark plugs like Torii Hunter or Carlos Gomez to complement their personalities.
Like those high-energy guys, Miranda’s exuberance, length-heartedness, and winning smile should make him a fan favorite. It’s no surprise to hear that many of his favorite MLB stars share those same traits.
“I really like [Fernando] Tatís Jr., just the way that he carries himself while making incredible plays in the field,” Miranda said. “Same with [Javy] Baez and Francisco Lindor. I always liked that kind of player.”
It’s pretty special when a young player can put up numbers like the stars he looks up to, and Miranda is doing just that. The three players he mentioned are perennial All-Stars, even regulars on MVP ballots. So if he models his game after them, Twins fans could be seeing a ton of hard-hit baseballs.
- Tatís Jr.’s baseball savant page is littered with stats proving how red-hot his bat has been this year, including the fact that he’s in the 96th percentile for average exit velocity.
- Baez ranks in the 99th percentile for maximum exit velocity this season.
- Lindor is in the 85th percentile for maximum exit velocity, and that’s including a brutally slow start by his standards.
Miranda has found his power stroke this season, as made evident by his 17 home runs in 60 games. If that translates to the big leagues when that time comes, he could be a 25-35 home run infielder who can play multiple positions.
Of course, that’s a big if. The 2021 Twins have taught their fans an important lesson when it comes to sky-high expectations. And yet, it’s hard not to feel elated to have Miranda on the cusp of stardom.
Maybe 2021 can teach Twins Territory another lesson: No matter how big those dark clouds get, they always have some silver lining.
Or, in Miranda’s own words: “Be patient, have faith, and the time will come for better days ahead.”