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Article: Kernels Hitting A Stride

jermaine palacios mitchell kranson tommy watkins jaylin davis lewin diaz
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#1 SD Buhr

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:15 AM

Heading into their four-game series with Midwest League Western Division leaders Kane County on Thursday, the Cedar Rapids Kernels were one game under .500, trailed the Cougars by two games in the standings and were tied for second place in their division.

(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)After trouncing Kane County 11-2 in the series finale on Sunday to earn a split of the four-game series, Cedar Rapids was one game over .500 (at 9-8), trail the Cougars by two games in the standings and are tied for second place in their division.

That sounds more mediocre than it was, in reality.

Kane County, the MWL affiliate of the Diamondbacks, have some game and the rest of the division will be challenged to keep up with the Cougars if they continue playing at early-season levels, so getting that split was hard work.

Still, it could have been better.

The Kernels had a 3-2 lead heading to the ninth inning on Thursday, but gave up three runs to the Cougars in the ninth and fell 5-3. On Saturday, The teams were tied 3-3 headed to the final stanza, where Kane County scored the winning run.

In fact, in five of their eight losses this season, Cedar Rapids has surrendered the winning run in their opponent's final inning at the plate.

All those close losses don't have manager Tommy Watkins concerned, however.

"The good thing is, after all those games, we responded afterwards," Watkins said on Saturday. "We’ve lost a couple of games in the ninth inning, but it happens. We’ve got a young team. We’re going to take some bumps and bruises, but I think things have been pretty good to start the season."

In fact, Watkins said his team has pretty much performed at expected levels.

"I didn’t have any concerns with either side of the ball. Pitching or hitting. Like I said at the beginning of the season, this is a fun team to watch up and down the lineup – pitching, defense, offense, running the bases. We’ve got some guys that can steal some bases. I really enjoy having these guys here."

One player that's certainly been as much fun to watch as any position player in the league has been Jermaine Palacios.

"Palacios has been swinging a hot bat and giving us a real boost at the leadoff spot," Watkins said, of his shortstop. "He’s being aggressive to balls in a zone."

Indeed he is.

The 20-year-old native of Venezuela is hitting .406 through Sunday and he hasn't been just slapping the ball, either. Palacios has three doubles, two triples and added his first home run of the season in Sunday's win over the Cougars.

He's leading the MWL in batting average and his 1.012 OPS is ninth best in the league, but not good enough to lead his own team.

That honor goes to Mitchell Kranson. His six doubles, one triple and two dingers have propelled him to a 1.045 OPS.

By and large, the pitching staff has been solid, as well. There have been a couple of games where, as one Kernels pitcher told me, "none of us could miss a barrel." But those instances have been rare.

Cedar Rapids continues their current homestand with a three game series against the Burlington Bees (Athletics) before traveling to Peoria (Cardinals) for four games with the Chiefs beginning Thursday.

I'll wrap up with a couple dozen pictures from the games on Saturday and Sunday at Veterans Memorial Stadium, as well as the traditional Sunday post-game autograph session.

(It appears I've exceeded Twins Daily's limit on photos below, so if you want to see them all, you may just need to pay Knuckleballsblog.com a visit.)


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  • Mike Sixel likes this

Writing about the Minnesota Twins and their minor league organization, with an emphasis on the Cedar Rapids Kernels, at Knuckleballsblog.com since 2010.

~You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant~


#2 rdehring

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:56 AM

What is Kranson's defense like? Is it good enough to consider him a future candidate behind the plate for the Twins?

#3 Seth Stohs

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 11:17 AM

 

What is Kranson's defense like? Is it good enough to consider him a future candidate behind the plate for the Twins?

 

Catcher is the position he's probably played the least, even in college, but it's the position that he wants to play. In college, he played 3B, 1B, RF, and a little catcher.

 

He's got work to do, as you would expect, but he'll work. He proved that this past offseason, so I think he's got a chance.


#4 Dman

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 03:28 PM

There are some exciting 20 year old hitters on the Kernals and Tyler Wells being a K machine is something I'm not used to seeing.  We lack young upside pitching in A ball so a little disappointing in that regard. Although Kranson is older his hit tool appears legit.

 

I assume mid season will see more young arms for the Kernals?  Still fun to follow this team especially the hitters right now.  Here's hoping they all go far and make it.


#5 darin617

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:41 PM

Come someone please send the picture of Tommy Watkins keeping his eyes on the ball to Byron Buxton so he can remember how it works.


#6 Deduno Abides

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:39 PM

Palacios: what happened last year? What are his growth projections? Can he stay at short?

#7 SD Buhr

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:06 PM

In the interest of accuracy, please note that in the next to last paragraph, I inaccurately indicated that Burlington is an affiliate of the Athletics. I do know better. They've been an Angels affiliate for a while now.

  • Mike Sixel likes this

Writing about the Minnesota Twins and their minor league organization, with an emphasis on the Cedar Rapids Kernels, at Knuckleballsblog.com since 2010.

~You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant~


#8 jrod23

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 10:59 AM

I can't get enough of Kernels baseball.  One of my favorite places to take in a game.  Just too bad it's a 5 hour drive and I have to see most of them on MiLB.  Those tenderloin sandwiches drenched in sauce with a smooth craft, and the sound of baseball...you just can't beat it.  Regardless, It's great to see Palacios find his groove again.  Palacios, Kranson, and Whitefield have been fantastic.  Curious how fast Whitefield is.  Blank needs to get that swing back, which I'm sure he will with that discipline.  Sean Poppen and Tyler Wells have shown great strides.  Wells still needs to find a pair of pants that fit him.

 

Who's going to be the first to move up in the system?  Palacios to Fort Myers to help fill the void left by Arraez or Gordon to Rochester where there really isn't much of a SS.


#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 09:03 PM

 

There are some exciting 20 year old hitters on the Kernals and Tyler Wells being a K machine is something I'm not used to seeing.  We lack young upside pitching in A ball so a little disappointing in that regard. Although Kranson is older his hit tool appears legit.

 

I assume mid season will see more young arms for the Kernals?  Still fun to follow this team especially the hitters right now.  Here's hoping they all go far and make it.

 

I mean to be fair the high upside guys have moved up quicker. Several at AA are as young/younger than the Kernels starters. And, we'll see what happens.  Hopefully one or two of these guys (all late-round college guys) take a good step forward.

 

I don't think you'll see younger pitchers move up to Cedar Rapids. They have some more of last year's draft picks just working and waiting in EST still. 

 

Thorpe will likely get to an affiliate sometime in the near future. Lachlan Wells is 20 at High-A. 


#10 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 09:06 PM

 

Palacios: what happened last year? What are his growth projections? Can he stay at short?

 

He was 19 in the MWL, playing against mostly 22-23 year olds. He'd never played in the cold. Got off to a cold start and wasn't able to get out of it. 

 

Similar thing happened to Felix Jorge in 2014. Terrible for the first 5-6 weeks in CR, went back down. Went back in 2015 and was terrific and has stayed terrific.

 

From what I've seen, I think he can stay at SS. 




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