Minnesota Twins fans received some great news to start their week. Jose Miranda, the team’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, was called up to the big leagues following Miguel Sanó’s trip to the injured list.
No matter the circumstances, this is a call-up Twins fans were anticipating. In 2016, Minnesota used a competitive balance pick on Miranda out of high school. However, the Puerto Rican didn’t crack the Double-A roster until late 2019. Still, after MLB canceled the minor league seasons in 2020, he reached Triple-A in 2021 and never looked back.
Miranda put together one of the best minor league seasons the Twins system has ever seen. It started with a great first impression. Miranda recorded five hits in his first career Triple-A game, and three of those hits were home runs. He slashed .343/.397/.563 with 17 home runs in just 80 games for the St. Paul Saints last season en route to winning the Twins Minor League Player of the Year award. MLBcom ranked Miranda as the No. 21 prospect in the Twins system in 2020, but he skyrocketed to a top-five prospect last year. Miranda’s success in St. Paul also meant that increasingly more fans anticipated his arrival in the big leagues.
That buzz grew more when veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson’s future with the team became increasingly uncertain. When Spring Training rolled around in 2022, a large number of the fans were clamoring for Miranda to earn the starting spot at third base after Minnesota traded Donaldson to the New York Yankees. Miranda slashed .256/.295/.442 with a couple of home runs in 21 games in St. Paul this season. Although there wasn’t much room for him on the initial roster, it was inevitable that Miranda would get to the majors this season.
Miranda has seen his production jump through the roof over the last year. But what kind of a player is he, and how can he help the Twins win in 2022?
The infielder earned himself a reputation as more of a contact hitter in the minors. He has a good eye at the plate and the ability to keep his strikeout numbers down. Miranda only has 264 strikeouts in 1977 at-bats. Miranda had a career-high 74 punchouts in Double- and Triple-A last year but hit for more power. His 17 home runs in Triple-A were a career-high. He also had 13 in 47 games for Double-A Wichita before getting called up to St. Paul.
Monday was Miranda’s big debut. Rocco Baldelli penciled in the righty to start at third base and hit sixth against righty Tyler Wells. Miranda’s debut was largely uneventful. He didn’t record a hit and didn’t have a ball hit to him while he was in the field. Still, there are some inferences we can make from his big-league debut that Twins fans can be hopeful for as his career unfolds.
Miranda’s first couple of big-league at-bats showcased his discipline at the plate. Wells had retired two batters on three pitches before Miranda’s first at-bat. However, Miranda was able to take a couple of pitches and draw out the plate appearance before grounding out. Then he hit a soft fly ball to center field after a near 10-pitch at-bat where Wells threw him a majority of breaking pitches.
Miranda went hitless in four at-bats on Monday night, but he looked comfortable at the plate. Pitchers continued to throw a majority of breaking pitches. He did an excellent job identifying them and laying off those balls that were breaking away, which isn’t easy for a rookie to do.
Young hitters are pitched to in a couple of different ways. One is to throw them heat and force the hitter to catch up to and hit your pitch. The other is to throw a bunch of junk and make young hitters have to read and react to your breaking pitches. Most minor-league hitters aren’t ready for the movement that big-league pitchers offer.
Miranda was given a nice sign of respect in his first game by being pitched to with the latter approach. Throughout the minors, Miranda has been known as a good fastball hitter. Despite the offspeed throws to him, every ball he put in play Monday night came off of the fastball. Miranda will have to adjust to big-league pitching, and we don’t know how long that will take.
The biggest thing Miranda has going for him is that he has an opportunity to get some plate appearances in the short term. Sanó and Alex Kirilloff’s injuries could allow him to get reps at first base and more time at third to accommodate those injuries.
Minnesota’s long-term future at third base is still uncertain. Gio Urshela has been serviceable at third so far this year, but he only has one more season of team control after 2022. Urshela is more valuable with his glove and can hold his own at the plate. Miranda is known more for his bat while being an average fielder who can play at first and second. However, he is primarily a third baseman.
Miranda will have to earn his plate appearances for now. Still, he can make it difficult for Baldelli to keep him out of the lineup if he can get his bat going at the big-league level. The Twins have a track record of riding the hot hand. In 2019, they went with Luis Arraez over Jonathan Schoop and Mitch Garver over Jason Castro. Even last year, the Twins favored starting Kirilloff at first over Sanó. Miranda has a chance to do the same this season.
Jose Miranda showed his potential value to the Twins with a monster year in Triple-A. If everything comes to fruition, the team could have their next third baseman for years to come. His Twins debut might not have been as memorable as his first game for the Saints. However, there still is plenty to be excited about. Miranda has to earn a starting role. But it will be hard to see him giving it up if he does.