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Miranda This Weeks Top Yanks Prospect in Winter Ball

By Jed Weisberger ~ November 16th, 2009. Filed under: Yanks Minors.

Yankees prospect Juan Miranda is off to quite a start with Licey of the Dominican Winter League.

The Cuban expatriate, who signed a four-year, $4 million pact in 2006, is batting .385 (6-for-13) with a homer and four RBIs in his first four games with the Tigres as he readies for what will be an important spring training for him.

Miranda, who I saw play in both Trenton and Scranton in 2007-08 before his cups-of-coffee callups with the Yankees in 2008-09, is a pleasure to talk to. Miranda, 26 or 28 (the Yankees list him with a 1983 birth date, while Cuban information states he was born in 1981), chatted amicably about how he always wanted to get a chance to play with the Yankees and was an admirer of Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez.

He was 3-for-9 and hit his first major-league home run during his September 2009 stay in pinstripes and has improved his defensive play at first base. His issue in the Yankees system at present is first base is occupied rather well by Mark Teixeira .

Yet, all Miranda has done since the Yankees signed him is hit, with 47 homers and 230 RBIs in three years in the Yankees system.  A bulky 6-0, 225 pounds, he is suited mostly for first base – although he has played the outfield in the past - or, what could be his calling in 2010, a left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. He will take a walk and batted .290 (137-for-428) for Scranton this past season.

With Licey, he is 7-for-8 with five RBIs in his last two games.

Both outfielder Colin Curtis and infielder Brandon Laird have sparkled in the Arizona Fall League, batting .388 (26-for-67) and .313 (26-for-83), respectively. Curtis, a good athlete, finished 2009 in Scranton, where he hit .235 (59-for-251). His prospect star is fading, while Laird, who is second in the AFL in both homers (6) and RBIs (24), is on the way up.

Laird, who batted .266 (120-for-451) to help lead Class A Advanced Tampa to the Florida State League title, is ticketed for Double-A Trenton next season.  If can get over the Double-A hurdle in 2010 – something that Cody Ehlers was unable to do after a similar year at Tampa in 2006 – his status in the organization will rise as he also can play other infield positions.

Two other infielders who are swinging well are Reegie Corona, hitting .325 (13-for-40) in 18 games with Magallanes of the Venezuelan League and Walter Ibarra, batting .306 (11-for-36) in 19 games with Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific League. Ibarra played most of last season at Tampa, hitting .262 (62-for-234) combined in the FSL and with Class A Charleston.

Filling in for an injured Ramiro Pena with Trenton’s 2008 Eastern League championship club, he held his own by batting .268 (15-for-56) and will return to the Thunder in 2010 as a 22-year-old.

Among pitchers, righty Ivan Nova (1-0, 1.05) has registered four quality starts and allowed just three earned runs on 25.2 for Escogido of the Dominican League, while reliever Jose Valdez, impressive at Trenton the last two seasons, but ineffective at Scranton, is 3-0, 1,50 in 11 appearances with Licey of the Dominican League.

Ian Kennedy has been hot and cold with Surprise in the AFL, going 1-1, 4.74 and leading the circuit with 24.2 innings pitched.  His situation in spring training will be one to watch as he regains his arm strength.

Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.
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