I've never been someone that pays an enormous amount of attention to the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Most years, I would glance at a few writers focusing on who the Twins might draft in the first round, but the draft itself held little interest for me. I suppose, like many people, it seemed that it was going to be several years before I would ever see any of the young players drafted in a given year put on a Twins uniform. There was little point in spending much of my time on the draft.
I'm coming around, though, and, yes, it has a lot to do with the Twins now being affiliated with my local minor league team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Byron Buxton in photo
During their last several years as an Angels affiliate, it seemed to me that the parent organization seldom sent many of their top prospects to Cedar Rapids right away (if at all). That may be unfair, I don't know. I honestly never looked up whether my perception of things was backed up by facts.
But I do know this: With less than two weeks left before the end of the first half of the season, players drafted by the Twins in 2012 have played critical roles in putting the Kernels atop the Midwest League Western Division.
How critical? I'm glad you asked.
The newest Kernel, infielder Joel Licon, who joined the team from extended spring training just this week, is the ninth player drafted last summer to suit up for the Kernels this season. While Kernels fans haven't had a chance to get to know Licon yet, the other eight members of the 2012 draft class have made significant impacts. Consider these bats:
Byron Buxton (1st round)): .333/.435/.545 (.980) 11 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 7 HRs
Adam Brett Walker (3rd): .270/.321/.530 (.851) 12 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 10 HRs
Dalton Hicks (17th): .299/.376/.485 (.861) 17 2Bs, 7 HRs
I'm not sure where the Kernels would be without these bats this season, but they'd have been a lot less fun to watch. But if that's impressive, check out these pitchers:
Jose Berrios (Supp 1st round): 4-2, 39 IP, 2.54 ERA, 44 Ks, 1.28 WHIP
Mason Melotakis (2nd): 5-2, 51.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 42 Ks, 1.52 WHIP
Tyler Duffey (5th): 3-2, 58.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 47 Ks, 0.94 WHIP
Taylor Rogers (11th): 0-1, 10 IP, 7.20 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.80 WHIP
Alex Muren (12th): 3-0, 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.21 WHIP
Clearly, anyone who wants a sneak peek at who is likely to be playing big roles for the 2014 Cedar Rapids Kernels should pay close attention to both who the Twins pick with the 4th
overall choice and any college age players drafted in the following 15 rounds or so.
Of the nine players listed above, only first round picks Buxton and Berrios were selected following their senior seasons of high school baseball. The others all had at least some college experience prior to being selected and signed by the Twins.
The Twins’ brass have their work cut out for themselves: to replace that level of productivity from the draft class of 2012 with that from this year's draft class.
Of course, most players drafted this week won’t wear a Kernels uniform next year. More will likely arrive in Cedar Rapids the following year during the 2015 campaign.
Eleven of this year’s Kernels were selected by the Twins in the 2011 draft. That list includes third baseman Travis Harrison, catcher Tyler Grimes and eight pitchers who have toed the rubber this season as members of the Kernels pitching staff.
All together, 20 of the 32 players who have appeared in a Kernels uniform this season were drafted by the Twins in the past two years and several more could still arrive in Cedar Rapids this summer as promotions and injuries create roster openings.
Of course, Kernels fans may not have to wait until 2014 to get a look at some of this year’s draft talent. Under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, players with college eligibility remaining must be signed by July 15. That's much earlier than under the agreement in place before last year, which makes protracted contract negotiations almost impossible.
As a result, some of the players selected in this week’s draft may be assigned to Cedar Rapids before the end of this season. Last year, the Twins sent a handful of pitchers from their 2012 draft class to their Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, to help the Snappers during their playoff run.
The first and second rounds of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft will be broadcast on the MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com Thursday evening, beginning at 6:00 CT. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed on MLB.com beginning Friday afternoon and rounds 11-40 will be streamed on MLB.com beginning Saturday afternoon.
Editor's note: You can also follow @TwinsDaily on Twitter to get updates on the key picks the Twins make this week.
SD Buhr covers the Kernels for MetroSportsReport.com in Cedar Rapids. Photos: SD Buhr/Knuckleballsblog.com