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Article: MIN 12, DET 1: Once Again, The Twins Bounce Back

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:41 AM
That’s more like it! After a demoralizing sweep, the Twins opened up a stretch in which they’ll face the Tigers in seven of their final 1...
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Fun with Numbers: 2017 edition

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:38 AM
Twins on pace to win 162 games this season. Twins team ERA on pace to be 1.0 Sano on pace to hit 162 home runs. Santana on pace to have t...
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Article: Where Are We Now? (152 Down, 10 To Go)

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:29 AM
On Wednesday, the Twins lost in New York to the Yankees (Rinse. Repeat.) Fortunately, the Twins got help from the American League Central...
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Should the Twins offer Mauer a Koivu-like extension?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:27 AM
Wild GM made a shrewd move I thought giving Koivu an extension at an affordable price in a cap-driven world.   No cap in baseball. N...
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2017 Cedar Rapids Kernels Roster Preview

In 2016, the Cedar Rapids Kernels went 78-61. They went a remarkable 42-28 in the second half and made the playoffs. The lost in the second round, but to get even that far was remarkable. The 2017 team looks to get back to the playoffs under a familiar face who is making his managerial debut. The fans of Cedar Rapids are likely disappointed to not be seeing 2016 top pick Alex Kirilloff, but there is still some good talent on this roster.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (Top L to R: Aaron Whitefield, Ben Rortvedt, Lewin Diaz, Bottom L to R: Tom Hackimer, Travis Blankenhorn, Tyler Wells)
Today we look at the Cedar Rapids Kernels players and coaching staff. We try to figure out a solid everyday lineup, and discuss the top prospects. Feel free to share any thoughts you may have on the team or roster, and ask as many questions as you would like.

COACHING STAFF

Jake Mauer led the Kernels to the Midwest League playoffs all four years since the Twins came to Cedar Rapids. He is moving up to Double-A Chattanooga, and the ever-popular Tommy Watkins is getting his first shot at being a minor league manager. Watkins was the Twins 38th round pick in 1998. He worked and persevered and in 2007, he was called up to the Twins and hit .357 (10-28) in nine games. Unfortunately, he got hurt and spent the final five weeks of the season on the Disabled List and never played in the big leagues again. Even as a player, many assumed he would become a coach and eventually a manager. His 12 year career came to an end in 2009, and in 2010 he became the hitting coach for the Twins. He has spent most of his time in the Midwest League, though he was promoted to AA Chattanooga for the 2015 season. He is excited for the opportunity to manage this year.

Brian Dinkelman returns to the Kernels for his second season as hitting coach. He spent one season in the GCL as well. Drafted in 2006, Dinkelmen spent eight seasons in pro baseball. He played 21 games and hit .301 for the Twins in 2011. JP Martinez is back for his second season as the pitching coach in Cedar Rapids. He came to the Twins after coaching high school ball for a couple of seasons. He was drafted by the Twins in 2004 and spent four seasons in the system before one year with the Orioles organization.

ROSTER

14 of these 26 players spent at least some time with the Kernels in 2016, and 13 of them were drafted or signed by the Twins in 2016.
HITTERS
Catchers: Caleb Hamilton, Mitchell Kranson, Ben Rortvedt
Infielders: Lewin Diaz, Brandon Lopez, Ariel Montesino, Jermaine Palacios, Travis Blankenhorn
Outfielders: Shane Carrier, Chris Cavaness, Jaylin Davis, Aaron Whitefield

PITCHERS
Starting Pitchers: Brady Anderson, Tyler Beardsley, Clark Beeker, Eddie Del Rosario, Sean Poppen, Alex Schick, Tyler Wells

Relief Pitchers: Max Cordy, Colton Davis, Tom Hackimer, Hector Lujan, Alex Robinson, Zack Tillery, Andrew Vasquez

POTENTIAL LINEUP

CF - Aaron Whitefield
2B - Brandon Lopez
3B - Travis Blankenhorn
LF - Jaylin Davis
1B - Lewin Diaz
DH/C - Mitchell Kranson
RF - Shane Carrier
C/DH - Ben Rortvedt
SS - Jermaine Palacios

TOP PROSPECTS
  • Travis Blankenhorn
  • Lewin Diaz
  • Ben Rortvedt
  • Jermaine Palacios
  • Aaron Whitefield
  • Tyler Wells
  • Jaylin Davis
  • Eddie Del Rosario
STORIES TO WATCH
  • Travis Blankenhorn was drafted as a third baseman. Last year, he spent most of his time playing second base. This spring, he’s played both spots. How (and where) will his defense progress in 2017? And, of course, can he show some of the power he showed in Elizabethton last season?
  • Jermaine Palacios put up monster numbers in the GCL and Elizabethton in 2015. Last year, he struggled mightily in the season’s first months in Cedar Rapids before being hit by a pitch, which ended his season. He’s back and healthy, so will he be able to find his swing again?
  • Six of the seven starting pitchers mentioned above were drafted or signed in 2016. Only one of them was drafted before the 15th round last year. All of them were pitching in college a year ago at this time, so it will be interesting to see how they do in the Midwest League.
  • The roster lists three catchers, yet there is some versatility with the position. While 2016 second-round pick Ben Rortvedt will likely only catch (and DH some) the others can play around the diamond. Mitchell Kranson played almost exclusively behind the plate this spring, but in college, he played nearly every defensive position. He has a middle-of-the-order bat, so it’s likely he’ll get some time besides when he is catching. Caleb Hamilton just moved to catcher at Instructional League after the 2016 season. At Oregon State, he played many positions, depending upon the team’s need. He is a good athlete and can play all over.
  • I think that Lewin Diaz is going to bust out this year in Cedar Rapids. He’s a big man and a good athlete. He will strike out some, but he is also likely to hit several really long home runs.
Please feel free to discuss this roster. Ask lots of questions and check back often. What stories will you be following?

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24 Comments

That's an interesting infield.  Lopez and Palacios have been playing exclusively at SS and Montesino looks more like a utility player.  I thought that Blackenhorn will likely stick at second. Whitefield (huge jump btw) has played a bit of third in the past and so has Hamilton who is being converted into a C, and so has Kranson. I suspect that the 3B and not 1B will be the rotating position for one of the extra catchers.

 

I think that they will be a middle of the road team at best; just not enough pitching

    • glunn likes this

that pitching might work in A ball, but not sure there is much starter upside long term....we'll find out over the next few years, I guess!

    • glunn and mikelink45 like this

 

That's an interesting infield.  Lopez and Palacios have been playing exclusively at SS and Montesino looks more like a utility player.  I thought that Blackenhorn will likely stick at second. Whitefield (huge jump btw) has played a bit of third in the past and so has Hamilton who is being converted into a C, and so has Kranson. I suspect that the 3B and not 1B will be the rotating position for one of the extra catchers.

 

I think that they will be a middle of the road team at best; just not enough pitching

 

I think Lopez will play a lot of 2B, and Blankenhorn will play a lot of 3B. Montesino played a little in CF too. Whitefield will play almost exclusively CF. I'd be surprised to see him play in the infield. 

 

 

    • glunn likes this

 

that pitching might work in A ball, but not sure there is much starter upside long term....we'll find out over the next few years, I guess!

 

It's too early to know, to be honest. These guys are not high draft picks (Schick was 6th round, went to HS with Gonsalves... Wells is the highest upside, in my opinion... Del Rosario is little, but has some great stuff)... None are real high prospects, but I'd suspect 1-2 of them do a real nice job... And there are some guys at EST that should probably start at Elizabethton, but we could see in May or June...

    • glunn, Mike Sixel and bluechipper like this

 

It's too early to know, to be honest. These guys are not high draft picks (Schick was 6th round, went to HS with Gonsalves... Wells is the highest upside, in my opinion... Del Rosario is little, but has some great stuff)... None are real high prospects, but I'd suspect 1-2 of them do a real nice job... And there are some guys at EST that should probably start at Elizabethton, but we could see in May or June...

 

I bet, given the right path, at least 1 pitches relief innings in the majors.

    • glunn likes this
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108Stitches
Apr 03 2017 11:10 AM

I bet, given the right path, at least 1 pitches relief innings in the majors.


John Smoltz
Andy Pettite
Jake Peavey
James Shields
Derek Holland
Sergio Romo
All were late round draft picks. Hell Nolan Ryan was a 12th round pick. Draft is merely a snapshot in that moment of time the draft happens to take place. Very presumptuous to assume one guy might be a reliever.

 

John Smoltz
Andy Pettite
Jake Peavey
James Shields
Derek Holland
Sergio Romo
All were late round draft picks. Hell Nolan Ryan was a 12th round pick. Draft is merely a snapshot in that moment of time the draft happens to take place. Very presumptuous to assume one guy might be a reliever.

 

Well, the vast majority of picks never make it. Predicting at least one will make the majors is actually probably betting against the odds.

 

As for the draft, it simply isn't a crapshoot. Most late round picks never get more than a cup of coffee, if that. 

 

edit:

Less than 7% of pitchers taken after round 5 make this cut of getting more than a taste:

 

http://www.baseballa...XcTLMKP55x2b.97

 

Predicting 1 in 5 will make it seems like a safe bet, neither too high, or too low.

 

Well, the vast majority of picks never make it. Predicting at least one will make the majors is actually probably betting against the odds.

 

As for the draft, it simply isn't a crapshoot. Most late round picks never get more than a cup of coffee, if that. 

 

edit:

Less than 7% of pitchers taken after round 5 make this cut of getting more than a taste:

 

http://www.baseballa...XcTLMKP55x2b.97

 

Predicting 1 in 5 will make it seems like a safe bet, neither too high, or too low.

 

I think it would be successful if one of them becomes a reliever. I just think we learn a lot more about pitchers in their first full professional season. Obviously more than we learned in their partial season after being drafted. But, I'm at least intrigued by a few of these guys.

 

To me, Tyler Wells is the one to watch. He's 6-8. Throws in the low-90s, though I think that'll jump up a few ticks, and he has what can be a really good slider and a curveball. There's some stuff to work with there.

    • glunn, Mike Sixel and Cory Engelhardt like this

 

I think it would be successful if one of them becomes a reliever. I just think we learn a lot more about pitchers in their first full professional season. Obviously more than we learned in their partial season after being drafted. But, I'm at least intrigued by a few of these guys.

 

To me, Tyler Wells is the one to watch. He's 6-8. Throws in the low-90s, though I think that'll jump up a few ticks, and he has what can be a really good slider and a curveball. There's some stuff to work with there.

 

Based on your rankings and comments over the last year, he's the one I most would watch if I watched minor league ball (on that roster). Just something that looks / sounds / reads, as a future MLB player.

    • glunn likes this
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108Stitches
Apr 03 2017 11:28 AM

I think it would be successful if one of them becomes a reliever. I just think we learn a lot more about pitchers in their first full professional season. Obviously more than we learned in their partial season after being drafted. But, I'm at least intrigued by a few of these guys.

To me, Tyler Wells is the one to watch. He's 6-8. Throws in the low-90s, though I think that'll jump up a few ticks, and he has what can be a really good slider and a curveball. There's some stuff to work with there.

Agreed. I totally think this guy has a real shot. They got a bargain on him. I watched him in E town strike out 14 in 7 innings with one hit. And his stuff is filthy. Such downward plane and hard breaking stuff with a slow curve that he throws for strikes that often buckles hitters. And to Mike, yes I suppose you're correct. I'm just sayin there are definitely some guys who have slipped through the draft. And many guys who were busts that were over drafted. Do higher draft picks make it more often because they are that much better? Or because they have investments into them and they get more leeway and attention to develop? Take Patrick McGuff. He was very good his rookie year and he was near the end of the draft. He did way better than guys who got hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in general I do agree that late round guys don't make it as often, but guys like Wells are the ones who make the scouts look like Nostradamus. And top 1/3 of the draft isn't that far off in the big picture. Let's just hope a few of them turn out to be great!
    • glunn and Mike Sixel like this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 03 2017 11:37 AM

Hard to project his future due to his lack of size, but Eduardo Del Rosario is a super fun pitcher to watch right now. Really came along as the year progressed. Over his last nine games had a 2.31 ERA, held opponents to a .195/.275/.314 line and had 60 Ks against 15 BBs. His swinging strike % over that stretch was about 15%, which is elite.

    • glunn, Mike Sixel and Cory Engelhardt like this

 

Agreed. I totally think this guy has a real shot. They got a bargain on him. I watched him in E town strike out 14 in 7 innings with one hit. And his stuff is filthy. Such downward plane and hard breaking stuff with a slow curve that he throws for strikes that often buckles hitters. And to Mike, yes I suppose you're correct. I'm just sayin there are definitely some guys who have slipped through the draft. And many guys who were busts that were over drafted. Do higher draft picks make it more often because they are that much better? Or because they have investments into them and they get more leeway and attention to develop? Take Patrick McGuff. He was very good his rookie year and he was near the end of the draft. He did way better than guys who got hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in general I do agree that late round guys don't make it as often, but guys like Wells are the ones who make the scouts look like Nostradamus. And top 1/3 of the draft isn't that far off in the big picture. Let's just hope a few of them turn out to be great!

 

agree on all that. 

 

And many guys who were busts that were over drafted. Do higher draft picks make it more often because they are that much better? Or because they have investments into them and they get more leeway and attention to develop? Take Patrick McGuff. He was very good his rookie year and he was near the end of the draft. He did way better than guys who got hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in general I do agree that late round guys don't make it as often, but guys like Wells are the ones who make the scouts look like Nostradamus. And top 1/3 of the draft isn't that far off in the big picture. Let's just hope a few of them turn out to be great!

 

It's both, but let's not pretend the investment doesn't play into it... You mention how good McGuff was last year in the GCL and E-Town and for Cedar Rapids in the playoffs... and he's starting in Extended Spring.

 

Then again, Brady Anderson signed last June as a Non-Drafted Free Agent, and he got to Cedar Rapids, and he's still around. So, those guys have to really, really produce to get noticed, but there's always a chance.

    • glunn and Mike Sixel like this
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Bob Sacamento
Apr 03 2017 12:04 PM

 

Hard to project his future due to his lack of size, but Eduardo Del Rosario is a super fun pitcher to watch right now. Really came along as the year progressed. Over his last nine games had a 2.31 ERA, held opponents to a .195/.275/.314 line and had 60 Ks against 15 BBs. His swinging strike % over that stretch was about 15%, which is elite.

Yeah Eddie is a personal cheeseball of my own, electric stuff, funny kid.  Just hope he got out of this chokehold:

 

EddieDelRosarioChockhold

 

    • glunn, Cory Engelhardt, Tibs and 1 other like this

Congrats to Watkins, a real class act who's earned it. As easy as it is to criticize the Twins for keeping too many former players in the organization after their playing days, I'm really glad they kept Watkins in the system and developed him as a coach. Hard to believe he's still only 36.

    • Seth Stohs, glunn and Bob Sacamento like this
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FormerMinnasotan
Apr 03 2017 12:33 PM
I am interested in watching Eddie DelRosario and Tyler Wells also. DelRosario and Lachlan Wells were a big reason that Cedar Rapids made it to the post season last year so it will be interesting to see if DelRosario takes the next step in his development. Sounds like he has the "stuff", but is a little undersized. And well, Tyler Wells is 6'8" and might have a decent arsenal of MLB quality pitches (potentially), and well striking out 14 in 7 innings and giving up 1 hit does get people's attention.
    • glunn and Tom Froemming like this

 

Hard to project his future due to his lack of size, but Eduardo Del Rosario is a super fun pitcher to watch right now. Really came along as the year progressed. Over his last nine games had a 2.31 ERA, held opponents to a .195/.275/.314 line and had 60 Ks against 15 BBs. His swinging strike % over that stretch was about 15%, which is elite.

 

He's so little, so wiry... but he throws hard and has some really good stuff. He'll hopefully gain some weight/strength, but he's certainly one to watch. 

    • glunn and Tom Froemming like this

 

Congrats to Watkins, a real class act who's earned it. As easy as it is to criticize the Twins for keeping too many former players in the organization after their playing days, I'm really glad they kept Watkins in the system and developed him as a coach. Hard to believe he's still only 36.

 

He's earned it on and off the field. Great guy. Great in the community. And he knows the game. He's a baseball lifer. Players love him. He's intense. It's going to be fun to watch how he grows into this new role.

    • glunn, Mike Sixel and Cory Engelhardt like this
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Bob Sacamento
Apr 03 2017 03:39 PM

 

He's earned it on and off the field. Great guy. Great in the community. And he knows the game. He's a baseball lifer. Players love him. He's intense. It's going to be fun to watch how he grows into this new role.

I'm thinking his next goal is to get back home and coach for the Fort Myers Miracle, man is a local legend around here.

    • glunn and Cory Engelhardt like this

 

I'm thinking his next goal is to get back home and coach for the Fort Myers Miracle, man is a local legend around here.

 

He's a legend in Cedar Rapids and New Britain and Rochester and Ft. Myers... Ha!

    • glunn and Cory Engelhardt like this
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Bob Sacamento
Apr 05 2017 08:47 AM

 

He's a legend in Cedar Rapids and New Britain and Rochester and Ft. Myers... Ha!

Well he's from the Fort Myers area (1998 Riverdale grad) and even substituted as a teacher this past fall at the school in Math and P.E.  He was also recently inducted into the Lee County Hall of Fame this past offseason joining his dad another Fort Myers athlete (Dunbar grad).  Also elected to the HOF this year was his second cousin Bills' WR Sammy Watkins; Tommy has like 20+ cousins who've gone on to play college football and other athletics.  So the Watkins are pretty synonymous around here.

watkinsHOF

 

Yup.

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clutterheart
Apr 06 2017 06:34 AM

Kernels website has Blankenhorn as the DH?

 

Boy I hope he plays in the field every day.  If he can't cut it at in the infield, put him in the OF.

 

 

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diehardtwinsfan
Apr 06 2017 07:15 AM

I have to say that the Twins are very high on Rortvedt to be putting him in CR this season.I honestly expected EST and a full season in Etown. 

 

That's unusual for a non-first round pick out of HS, especially given he went underslot indicating that there was a good chance he would have been a 3rd rounder... Hope the kid does well.


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