Ariel Miranda could be diamond in the rough for Orioles

When the Baltimore Orioles announced the signing of Cuban-born left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda (no, not the star of Pretty Little Liars) in late May, there was very little information available on the 26-year-old from Havana. Over seven seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Miranda posted a 3.78 ERA in 386.0 innings. His Cuban ERA was lifted quite a bit by the first four seasons of his career in which he struggled, pitching to a 6.10 ERA in 50.0 innings. Take those poor seasons away, and Miranda’s Cuban ERA is a much more respectable 3.27.

Miranda is now seven games into his minor league career in the Orioles organization. He has started all seven games in which he has appeared, but the Orioles are bringing him along slowly as he missed the entire 2014 season after defecting. Miranda has thrown just 31.0 innings in his seven games. Although his innings count has been limited, the Orioles have advanced Miranda through the system quickly. On Saturday night, he made his first start at the Double-A level for the Bowie Baysox against the Harrisburg Senators, Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Against the Senators, Miranda was dominant, allowing only an unearned run in six strong innings. He struck out seven, allowed only four hits, and walked two. Miranda threw only 82 pitches to get through six, 55 of them strikes. His arsenal features a mid-90’s fastball, split-finger with good downward movement, and a changeup that is still a work in progress. He throws with a very smooth, repeatable delivery and consistently throws strikes. Miranda prefers to go to his splitter with two strikes, and it was working against the Senators. In Cuba, Miranda was able to thrive by pitching up in the zone, but the Orioles do not feel that approach will work at the Major League level. The organization has made a few small tweaks to his delivery to help bring the ball down in the zone, and Miranda has been receptive to the changes. Since fully committing to the changes after consecutive poor outings at Single-A, Miranda has allowed just one earned run over his past 17.0 innings.

The Orioles have been active in the lower tier of the Cuban free agent market the past few seasons with very few results to show for it. Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez have progressed to Triple-A, but have not been able to crack the next level. In Ariel Miranda, it seems the Orioles may finally see a payoff for their forays into the Cuban market. Expect Miranda to make a few more starts at Double-A before being given a taste of Triple-A before September roster expansion. If all continues to go well, Miranda could be an impact arm out of the bullpen during the season’s final month, and a contender for the starting rotation come 2016.

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