2017 Cedar Rapids Kernels Roster Preview
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
- Travis Blankenhorn
- Lewin Diaz
- Ben Rortvedt
- Jermaine Palacios
- Aaron Whitefield
- Tyler Wells
- Jaylin Davis
- Eddie Del Rosario
- 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.
- Tom Froemming likes this