Featured Posts | Twins

Twins notes: Rocco Baldelli on Jose Miranda; Nick Gordon on playing center field

Twins' logo
The Twins’ logo is displayed on the Twins dugout at Target Field before a baseball game, between the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers, Sunday, July 24, 2011, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

BOSTON—Though he was a top 30 organizational prospect, Jose Miranda’s offensive performance through the 2019 season was fairly pedestrian. In his age-21 season at High A Fort Myers, Miranda hit .248/.299/.364 in 478 plate appearances. Though his glove was thought to be legit—he started games at second base, third base, and shortstop—the offensive numbers were underwhelming enough that the Twins left him unprotected in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, and unlike Akil Baddoo and Tyler Wells, every team in the league passed on him.

Less than a year later, a monster season in the high minors has him skyrocketing up prospect rankings and given him a legitimate shot of debuting with the Twins this September. Miranda slashed .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs in Double-A Wichita, and essentially has repeated those numbers in Triple-A, slashing  .337/.399/.585 with 12 home runs going into play Wednesday.

Miranda has always profiled as a strong bat to ball hitter. In an era where strikeouts have never been higher, Miranda has consistently put the ball in play. In 2018, he had just 62 strikeouts in 552 plate appearances. In 2019, he totaled 54 strikeouts in 483 plate appearances. That consistent contact didn’t translate into a high average or significant power until this season, though. This year, he’s been able to maintain the low strikeout rate—59 strikeouts in 446 plate appearances—but is now driving ball into the gaps and out of the park.

“He’s been a guy that has good bat to ball skills, he has good components at the plate, he does a lot of things you’d want to see a guy do for a young hitter,” said Rocco Baldelli. “It’s a great skillset to start with, when you have a guy with good strength, he’s a good sized young man, he’s got a good looking swing, he’s always found a way to put the ball in play and hit it hard. When you can start with that, you have the backdrop for someone to really figure things out. He hasn’t had the great, magnificent levels of success until this year. He hit some balls good for us when I’ve seen him in person, but what he’s doing this year, it’s obviously a much different version of Jose Miranda, and he’s really putting himself on track for the major leagues.”

Miranda’s played around the diamond again this season, but his primary position appears to be third base. With Josh Donaldson mostly serving as a DH over the past month, the Twins have an opening to get Miranda at-bats over the season’s final month, where he’ll have a chance to prove his bat to ball skills play at the game’s highest level.

Gordon on playing center field

Nick Gordon’s had an unusual rookie campaign. After initially getting called up in April but never appearing in a game before he was optioned back to the minor leagues, Gordon spent much of the summer on the big league roster, but played only sporadically. Between May 24 and August 4, a span of 61 games in which Gordon was on the big league roster, he started in just 24 of them.

“It definitely brings its challenges, but it comes with the game,” said Gordon. “Just got to continue to work. You’re going to be put in situations that are uncomfortable, that make you better as a player and a person. For me, I just take it in stride, never really think about not getting in a groove and things like that.”

Along with the inconsistent playing time, Gordon’s had to learn a new position at the big league level. Despite playing exclusively infield in the minor leagues, injuries to Byron Buxton and others forced the Twins to play Gordon in center field, where he’s done well, particularly given his lack of familiarity.

“Buck helps me a lot, whenever we get a chance to get out for early work, things like that, I pretty much mirror him and follow him around,” Gordon said. “Tommy [Watkins] has done a great job of helping me. Rocco. Anyone who’s played the position, knows anything about it, definitely came to me and talked to me about it.”

Gordon’s bat has always been solid, and being forced into a position he’s never played before may help him carve out a spot in the big leagues as a super utility player that can play around the infield and outfield. With Buxton’s return imminent, the Twins would be wise to prioritize getting Gordon big league at-bats. Those could come in the corner outfield spots—where he played briefly in August with the Saints—and at second base and shortstop. Andrelton Simmons has continued to play regularly at shortstop despite a disappointing offensive season and an expiring contract. Those would be valuable at-bats to give to Gordon, as he looks to establish himself as an everyday player in the big leagues.