Minor League Review: The Juan Miranda Lottery Ticket


Juan Miranda was supposed to be a lot better than this.

Miranda was a member of the Cuban National Team in 2001, and played for Pinar Del Rio in the Cuban National Series from 2002 through 2004 as a first baseman and outfielder. Over his four year career in Cuba, he hit .301 with 57 home runs and 205 RBI. Miranda displayed a solid batting eye, drawing 197 walks while striking out 242 times. In early 2004, after several failed attempts, he defected to the Dominican Republic, becoming a resident in 2005. Miranda was granted citizenship in 2006.

On December 12, 2006, the New York Yankees signed Miranda to a 4 year, 2 million dollar contract, putting him on the 40 man roster. At the time of the signing, scouts projected Miranda as a .280 hitter with 20 to 25 home runs, with excellent plate awareness. He opened the 2007 season for the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League, where he displayed flashes of potential. In 67 games, he posted a .264/.348/.464 line with 9 home runs and 50 RBI. Miranda also hit 17 doubles, hinting at the possibility of even more power.

His debut was good enough to have the Yankees promote him to the Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League halfway through the season. He continued to show potential, posting a nearly identical line of .265/.352/.480 over 55 games. He had a slight increase in his power, hitting 17 doubles and 7 home runs in 196 at bats, while driving in 46 runs. Overall for 2007, Miranda hit .265 with 16 home runs, 34 doubles and 96 RBI. He walked 52 times, but also struck out 106 times, which gave him a strikeout percentage of 23.8%.

Miranda was promoted to the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees of the International League for the 2008 season. He improved on his 2007 campaign, hitting at a .287/.384/.449 rate. While his power numbers declined (22 doubles and only 12 home runs with 55 RBI), Miranda displayed a better eye at the plate, walking 55 times and only striking out 79 times in 356 at bats. On September 16th, he was brought up to the Yankees, where he had 4 hits, including 1 double, in 10 at bats.

2009 found Miranda back in the International League for the majority of the season. He again flashed his power potential, slugging 19 home runs and hitting 30 doubles while driving in 82 runs. His overall line improved, as Miranda hit .290/.369/.498, as he drew another 55 walks while striking out 101 times in 438 at bats. Miranda also had two brief call ups to the Yankees, resulting in 3 hits in 9 at bats, along with his first major league home run.

Miranda began 2010 in Scranton for the third consecutive year. He picked up where he left off in 2009, posting a line of .285/.371/.495, while hitting 15 home runs and 15 doubles in 295 at bats. Following an inevitable Nick Johnson injury, the Yankees recalled Miranda on July 16th, giving him an extended trial in the major leagues.

This chance did not end well. Miranda only hit .219/.296/.422, with 3 home runs and 2 doubles in 64 at bats. He did walk 7 times, but he appeared overmatched. His infield fly ball rate was an extremely high 31%, much higher than the major league average of 9.3%. Miranda also tried to hit fly balls, as evidenced by his ground ball to fly ball rate of 0.49. The major league average for 2010 was 1.18.

That offseason, the Yankees traded Miranda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 19 year old pitching prospect Scott Allen. It was expected that Miranda would finally realize his potential in the major leagues, now that he was out of New York. The pressure on him would not be nearly what it was, and he would be able to relax and perform to expectations. This turned out not to be the case.

Miranda opened 2011 as the Diamondbacks everyday first baseman, and put up similarly putrid numbers. Through 65 games spanning 202 plate appearances, he hit at a .215/.315/.402 rate, with 7 home runs and 8 doubles while driving in 23 runners. Miranda displayed a decent batting eye, drawing 23 walks; however, that was about the only positive sign. His infield fly ball rate decreased to 18%, which was still far above the major league average of 10.6%. He kept trying to hit everything in the air, as evidenced by his ground ball to fly ball rate of 0.62.

On July 14th, the Juan Miranda experiment ended, as Miranda was sent down to the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League. His numbers continued to look awful, as he only had a .229 batting average. However, he drew 20 walks in 126 plate appearances, and hit 5 home runs while driving in 24. His line drive rate for Reno was 27.5%, much higher than the league average of 17.9%. His batting average on balls in play (.298, compared to a league average of .328) indicates that he ran into a stretch of bad luck in the PCL.

A free agent after the 2011 season, Miranda signed a minor league contract with the Rays on December 6th. Thus far through the 2012 season, he has struggled with the Durham Bulls, hitting at a .188/.288/.266 clip. Through 73 plate appearances, he has drawn 8 walks, but he has struck out 19 times. Miranda has yet to hit a home run, and has only 5 doubles. Perhaps the biggest sign of a problem is his line drive rate, which is only 13.3%. Meanwhile, he is hitting fly balls in 37.8% of his at bats.

It is still too early to call Miranda a AAAA player, but he needs a lot of work. Miranda appears to have become too conscious of trying to hit the ball into the air, much to his detriment. If the Rays can rebuild his swing, and his confidence, then they may have another piece that could help them down the line. Juan Miranda is a lottery ticket that the Rays may be able to get to pay off.