THOMA COLUMN | A fork in the road for Miranda, Lewis -- and the team

·2 min read

May 15—It is a classic "Yogism," attributed to Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Last week's demotion of the struggling Jose Miranda represents a fork in the road for the Minnesota Twins, whose grand plan for 2023 had Miranda nailing down the third base job and developing into a reliable middle-of-the-order bat.

Instead, he hit .220/.275/.318 — a slash line that not only doesn't belong in a key lineup slot, but doesn't fly in the bottom of lineup even with elite defense in a key position. And he was brutal in the field as well.

Fork in the road. Which direction to take?

For now, the Twins will limp along with a quasi platoon of Kyle Farmer and Willi Castro — two guys who had and lost regular shortstop jobs with other teams (Cincinnati and Detroit respectively). Neither is much of a hitter, but both presumably will not give away outs in the field. Their floors are higher than the Twins were getting from Miranda, but the ceiling is much lower.

But Farmer and Castro are place holders. They should not be the third basemen a month from now.

One possibility would be for Miranda to sharpen his pitch selection. He emerged as a prime prospect with a selectively aggressive approach, and he lost his job by hitting too many pitches that aren't in his wheelhouse.

His strikeout rate is well below the major league average, but a third of his batted balls are on pitches outside the strike zone. He's chasing pitches and making weak contact.

Fix that quickly, and he'll get another shot.

But quickly is a key word there, because Royce Lewis is coming. The former No. 1 overall draft pick last week began his rehab assignment from his second knee surgery — playing third base rather than his accustomed shortstop.

Remember: Carlos Correa has a pricey lock on the shortstop job. If Lewis — or fellow shortstop prospects Brooks Lee and Austin Martin — is going to play for the Twins, it will be at a different position.

And Lewis, for reasons unknown here, played mostly third base and outfield for his high school team before the Twins drafted him in 2017. He hasn't played a lot at the hot corner since turning pro, but it's not terra incognita for him either.

Lewis is now on the 60-day injured list and off the 40-man roster. I'm not sure when he's eligible to come off the IL, but since the clock is ticking on his rehab assignment, it may be later this month.

A fork in the road is coming. Miranda or Lewis?

Which direction the Twins take in the coming weeks at third base will matter not only for their 2023 season, but for the careers of two talented players coming off setbacks.

Edward Thoma is at Twitter: @bboutsider.