Juan Miranda: Rising First Base Option

The Diamondbacks stated the season with an odd three-man platoon at first base, using Xavier Nady against lefties and both Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan against righties. Branyan’s .285 wOBA in 69 PA resulted in him getting his pink slip over the weekend, leaving the job to the other two guys while Brandon Allen waits patiently in Triple-A (.406 wOBA in 198 PA). Nady has been pretty bad this year (.310 wOBA) but Miranda hasn’t. The 28-year-old Cuban defector sports a nice .272/.392/.494 (.386 wOBA) batting line with three homers in 98 PA for the D’Backs this year.

Of course, small sample sizes like that can be deceiving. A week ago today Miranda was hitting just .225/.353/.380, which is hardly noteworthy. A 8-for-14 stretch with three doubles, a triple, and a homer boosted his season line into the .380+ wOBA territory. Miranda managed to push his BABIP up from ~.250 to ~.340 in the span of four starts, though his 13.3% walk rate has been pretty constant since the season started. New GM Kevin Towers acquired him from the Yankees during the offseason after getting familiar with him during his year spent in New York’s front office, and right now is move is paying some dividends.

Miranda has a track record of hitting in Triple-A, posting a .287/.374/.481 batting line in over 1,250 PA at the level over the last three years. The walk (11.4%) and strikeout (23.0%) rates are in line with his performance this year, which is reassuring if nothing else. It’s not like this is coming out of the blue. ZiPS likes him the rest of the way, forecasting a .257/.333/.441 (.343 wOBA) batting line with ten homers over the next four-plus months. That wOBA/HR projection is on par with guys like Mitch Moreland (.343/12), Matt LaPorta (.336/13), and Brandon Belt (.352/9), for some perspective.

The biggest thing for Miranda now is his clear shot at playing time. Branyan isn’t around to buy away at-bats with his veteran presents and Nady is on the short end of the platoon as the righty, plus the D’Backs seem to hate Allen for whatever reason. Miranda isn’t the sexy name but he’s a quietly effective option for those of you dealing with an injury, a disappearing act (Justin Morneau, Aubrey Huff, etc.), or just need an upgrade for the bench or UTIL spot. He’s currently owned in less than three percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, though it’s worth nothing that he’s day-to-day with a sore hand at the moment. It happened on a hit-by pitch and isn’t anything serious according to the team, who indicated that Miranda could be back in the lineup as soon as today.

Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

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Veteran presents….I like that one.