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  • Minor League Opening Day Primer

    Three days after MLB’s Opening Day, I wish you all a very Happy Minor League Opening Day! I may be in the minority, but I think I get as excited, if not more so, about minor league opening day as the big league version. For me, instead of just watching the Minnesota Twins games, I can now follow as many as five box scores each day.

    All four Twins minor league affiliates are scheduled to play their opening day games on Thursday. Hopefully weather will cooperate so they can get their games in. On Tuesday, I posted the Twins minor league opening day rosters. Today, I’ll provide a primer on the four affiliates. Please feel free to ask questions.

    ROCHESTER RED WINGS

    The Red Wings are scheduled to open their season at Buffalo. Scott Diamond decided to stay with the Twins organization. He will make the opening night start for the Red Wings opposite Blue Jays pitching prospect Marcus Stroman. The schedule has them playing their first two games in Buffalo before the teams move to Frontier Field in Rochester for two games to open up the Red Wings home schedule.

    Top Pitching Prospect – Alex Meyer
    Top Hitting Prospect – Danny Santana
    First Pitcher Promoted – Kris Johnson
    First Hitter Promoted – Chris Herrmann
    Most Underrated Pitcher – Deolis Guerra
    Most Underrated Hitter – James Beresford
    Radio Voice – Josh Whetzel (Listen Live here)

    NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS

    The Rock Cats will open their season at home against Richmond. Pat Dean returns to the team to start this season after getting a handful of starts in Rochester a year ago. The Rock Cats will play their first seven games at home at New Britain Stadium, four against Richmond followed by three against Harrisburg.

    Top Pitching Prospect – Flip a Coin (DJ Baxendale, Sean Gilmartin or Taylor Rogers)
    Top Hitting Prospect – Kennys Vargas (since Miguel Sano is on the DL and Eddie Rosario on the Restricted List)
    First Pitcher Promoted – AJ Achter
    First Hitter Promoted – Danny Ortiz
    Most Underrated Pitcher – Adrian Salcedo
    Most Underrated Hitter – Mike Kvasnicka
    Radio Voice – Jeff Dooley (Listen Live here)

    FT. MYERS MIRACLE

    Ft. Myers starts out on the road in Jupiter for two games before returning to Hammond Stadium for two games against the Hammerheads. Jason Wheeler returns to the Miracle despite a solid season with the team a year ago. The Miracle made it to the playoffs a year ago and this year will have a mix of guys who played with the Miracle or with that offensive juggernaut from Cedar Rapids last year.

    Top Pitching Prospect – JO Berrios
    Top Hitting Prospect – Jorge Polanco (or some might say Adam Walker, Travis Harrison, or Max Kepler… with Byron Buxton on the DL)
    First Pitcher Promoted – Jason Wheeler
    First Hitter Promoted – Lance Ray (if/when healthy)
    Most Underrated Pitcher – Mason Melotakis
    Most Underrated Hitter – Travis Harrison
    Radio Voice – Brice Zimmerman (Listen Live here)

    CEDAR RAPIDS KERNELS

    The Kernels had a hugely successful inaugural season as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The offense was remarkable. This season’s team will not hit anywhere near those prolific numbers, but the pitching staff certainly has a lot of talent. 2014 fifth round pick Aaron Slegers will make the Opening Day start for the Kernels when they host Clinton at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

    Top Pitching Prospect – Kohl Stewart
    Top Hitting Prospect – Zach Larson or Engelb Vielma
    First Pitcher Promoted – Miguel Sulbaran
    First Hitter Promoted – Michael Quesada
    Most Underrated Pitcher – Brandon Peterson
    Most Underrated Hitter – Zach Granite
    Radio Voice – Morgan Hawk (Listen Live here)

    PLANNING A TRIP TO CEDAR RAPIDS

    Last season, I had the opportunity to go to Cedar Rapids on two separate occasions. I was there for their opening weekend and then again around the Fourth of July. For me, it is about 11-12 hours each direction. If you live in the Twin Cities, the drive to Cedar Rapids is about four-and-a-half hours. Just check mapquest and you’ll see you only have to know about three or four road names/numbers to get there.

    On the way home, consider going up to Decorah and then to Rochester. There are a couple of places to stop and some incredible scenery. Driving that way and seeing all of the corn is actually a pretty incredible site. As you get further north and are driving along the Mississippi River, there are some breathtaking views.

    Of course, along that path is Dyersville, IA, which of course is the home of the Field of Dreams movie site. My brother and I made a stop there on our way home and although we were only there for about an hour, maybe 90 minutes, it was a pretty neat experience. It is incredible in its simplicity. Walk in the corn, play catch, take some pictures in front of the house, or sit on the bleachers where James Earl Jones gave the memorable "They Will Come, Ray" speech. For any baseball fan, Dyersville should be on your bucket list. And, it is about one hour north and east of Cedar Rapids.



    Also along that way, if you’re as cool as me (and I wouldn’t wish that on many people), Burr Oak, Iowa is on the way. Of course, that is one of the many places where author Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. Maybe you’ve got a goal to visit many midwestern-type, small town museums. You can cross this one off the list!



    The Amana Colonies are about 15 to 20 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids. There are several cultural options as well such as the NewBo City Market, the Czech and Slovak Museum, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Arts and around the Fourth of July is the Freedom Festival. Depending upon your interests, Cedar Rapids has many options so you (and your family) have something to do between Kernels ball games!

    That’s right, back to the Kernels…

    They play at Perfect Game Field. Another interesting thing is that the Perfect Game facilities are basically right across the street from the ballpark.

    Each of the six Kernels games that I went to I had at least one (and usually two or three) people come up and tell me they had driven down from the Twin Cities. Generally speaking they would leave work at noon on Friday or Saturday, spend a night and go to a second game the next day before driving back. I had one or two people say they drove down that afternoon and were driving back after the game. I couldn’t do that, but it is an option.

    The atmosphere at the stadium is tremendous, especially after school lets out and the weather warms. You will most likely see GM Doug Nelson roaming the huge concourse, talking with fans and making sure they’re enjoying the experience. The Kernels players do a ton in the community and before each game two players are up in the concourse signing autographs.



    The field is really terrific and they continue to make improvements each year. This offseason, the put in new grass on the field which was a huge undertaking. The year before, they put in a huge 30x48 LED scoreboard in the outfield that shows replays and provides a ton of statistical information. They also have a pregame show before each game on the board that includes the daily Minnesota Twins Organizational Report which is sponsored by Twins Daily.



    You'll also want to check out their Hall of Fame. Cedar Rapids has a long, rich history of minor league baseball going back over 100 years. There is a ton of information on that history. There are also a lot of plaques on the wall of contributors, but also of a lot of players you will recognize from the Reds and the Angels organizations.



    They also have a really neat feature, a Walk of Fame with players getting stars around the concourse. It was a very neat thing to see all those big league stars who spent time with the Kernels, such as the new $144.5 million man, Mike Trout.



    And after the games, be sure to head over to Bushwood Sports Bar & Grill for lots of sports on big screen TVs, beverages and great food. Most likely, you will also find Steve Buhr (aka Jim Crikket) sitting at a table top. You can thank him for all his great writing and reporting of the Kernels by buying him a beer and some corn nuggets (which are actually not too bad!).

    I can’t emphasize enough that if you enjoy reading about the minor leaguers, and Twins Daily is certainly the best place online to do that every day, it’s so satisfying to get to a couple games and see for yourself. The Twins have an affiliate within reasonable travel distance. Take advantage. Check out their schedule and their promotions and book some tickets if you’re interested.

    And, if you do make a trip to Cedar Rapids to see the Kernels (or see the Miracle, Rock Cats or Red Wings as well), be sure to report for us what your observations were about the facilities, the experience, the players and anything else you found interesting in the forums of Twins Daily.

    Again, Happy Minor League Opening Day to everyone! It’s great to be able to talk about five teams, especially when the big league club struggles. Good luck to each of the teams and all the players.
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Looks liike the order at AAA is Diamond, Meyer, May, Johnson, and Darnell. The top four at CR are Slegars, Randy Rosario, Eades, and Stewart, then TBD.

      Dean is the opening day starter for NB, then a bunch of TBD. All TBD at Fort Myers.
    1. tarheeltwinsfan's Avatar
      tarheeltwinsfan -
      Really nice article, Seth. It reminds me of why I love baseball, even though the Twins blew a victory yesterday by really sloppy play..
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I hope its Buxton who is the first hitter promoted over Ray. Assuming he recovers from his injury quickly
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      LOL, I asked Jake Mauer if he'd seen Jim Crikket here and he said no, but that Steve Buhr was here.

      Good article in the New-Press this morning on the Miracle.
    1. SD Buhr's Avatar
      SD Buhr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      LOL, I asked Jake Mauer if he'd seen Jim Crikket here and he said no, but that Steve Buhr was here.

      Good article in the New-Press this morning on the Miracle.
      I'm sure Jake was glad to see me leave Fort Myers at the end of last week so he'd have a few days without me bugging him before they arrived here in CR this week.

      Great article, Seth, and thanks for the great write-up on Cedar Rapids. I'm admittedly partial to my hometown of the past 35+ years. I would never claim it's the most exciting place to spend time, but I'm OK with that as long as we've got the Kernels to follow all summer.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Nice write up, Seth.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      I hope its Buxton who is the first hitter promoted over Ray. Assuming he recovers from his injury quickly

      You make a great point, but I guess I look at Buxton's time in the Florida State League (if any) as a rehab. He'll get to New Britain quickly.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      You make a great point, but I guess I look at Buxton's time in the Florida State League (if any) as a rehab. He'll get to New Britain quickly.
      That is good to hear. He had that league figured out last year
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      What's the deal w/ Ameries Minier (or whatever)? I thought he was supposed to be a stud at some point, or did I just make that up?
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by troyhobbs View Post
      What's the deal w/ Ameries Minier (or whatever)? I thought he was supposed to be a stud at some point, or did I just make that up?
      He was 17 last year. He'll be a stud but he'll need some time.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Despite being a huge Twins fan, or more reasonably BECAUSE I am a huge Twins fan, I look forward to the start of the minor league seasons as much as the ML season. My morning ritual each and every day is to pop on TD and read about the games the day/night before. Back before the Internet I would scramble for news and stats from the Sporting News and Baseball America on the Twins minor leagues, as well as tidbits from John and Herb during broadcasts. For a few years in the late 80's there was a newspaper, I don't recall the exact name any longer, that my father and I subscribed to that had a feature, roster, and full stats on the Twins minor leagues that was put out on a periodic basis during the season.

      Thank you Seth, and everyone else, so much for all the information you all provide to us fans in general, as well as this colum and the previous roster breakdown a few days ago.

      I almost wonder how you can even pick your hitter choices as the top three levels in particular, (especially New Britain and Ft Myers) have so many young bats to consider.

      Im a little surprised where some of the pitchers are begining their seasons. There are more than a few arms that in years past would be a level higher based on achievement the previous season, a taste of the next level in August, and general need. It clearly speaks to the overall depth in the system, as well as the Twins giving Rochester something other than just AAAA fodder to march out to the hill.

      Dean and Wheeler are a couple that rather surprise me. But I really like Gilmartin starting the season in AA. No matter that he came from the college ranks, he was promoted pretty quickly by the Braves. That and his injury problems last season allows him now to gain confidence and get back in a good groove at a level he should succeed at. I know some aren't too high on him because he doesn't have dominant stuff, and there is no way to truly predict his floor or ceiling at this point, but he's still young, barely out of college, and was a 1st round pick for a reason.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by troyhobbs View Post
      What's the deal w/ Ameries Minier (or whatever)? I thought he was supposed to be a stud at some point, or did I just make that up?
      He had shoulder surgery earlier this year, and he only played in the GCL last year, so he'll probably play for Elizabethton.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      It's so weird to not to be able to read this and not read names like...

      "Buxton...Sano...Rosario..."

      Arguably, our organization's top 3 hitters...not playing on opening day.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      It's so weird to not to be able to read this and not read names like...

      "Buxton...Sano...Rosario..."

      Arguably, our organization's top 3 hitters...not playing on opening day.
      Agreed. After Buxton/Sano there is a real dearth of impact bats. I think Rosario and Polanco will both hit well for MI but unless someone like Walker, Harrison, Kepler or Vargas really step up, we don't have another scary bat. It's not a total loss since the team just graduated Arcia and Pinto, who would both qualify.
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      As an expat teacher, I only get back to MN in the summer. This was a trip I wanted to make last year, but went to the North Shore instead. This year, I'll be making this trip- so thanks for all the useful suggestions and information.

      Thorough coverage of the Twins' farm system is one of the main reasons I keep on coming back, and makes TD superior to other teams' fan sites, imho. Unparalleled coverage.
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