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Article: 2016 Cedar Rapids Kernels Opening Day Roster Revealed


On Sunday, the Cedar Rapids Kernels announced their 2016 Opening Day roster. Last year, the Kernels qualified for the Midwest League playoffs thanks to a 41-29 first-half record. They finished with a 77-63 record and swept their opponents in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals. The run stopped there as the Kernels bowed out to West Michigan 3-2 in the MWL Championship Round. The Kernels had two chances to capture the crown and fell short by one run in both games.

 

THE COACHING STAFF

 

Jake Mauer returns for this fourth season as the Kernels manager. Over his eight years as a minor-league manager, Mauer has accumulated a record of 434-373 (.538) and made the playoffs five times, including all three seasons he’s managed the Kernels. Mauer, who played minor league ball in the Twins system, will be joined by former Twin Brian Dinkelman and another former farmhand, J.P. Martinez. Both Dinkelman (hitting coach) and Martinez (pitching coach) will be in the first year with Cedar Rapids after spending their first professional coaching season with the GCL Twins.

 

THE ROSTER

*Spent time with Kernels in 2015

 

Cedar Rapids will return many players who played with them in last year’s playoffs. They’ll also welcome in a handful of players who had successful years in rookie ball.

 

PROJECTED ROTATION (listed alphabetically):

 

P Michael Cederoth*

LP Sam Clay*

P Andro Cutura

P Sam Gibbons*

P Randy LeBlanc*

P Dereck Rodriguez*

 

Michael Cederoth, who Fangraphs ranks at the Twins #22 prospect, returns to the Kernels rotation after missing an extended period of time last season with an undisclosed illness. Cederoth has recently been dealing with a strained oblique, so his status as the season opens is in question. Andro Cutura will join Cedar Rapids after pitching for Elizabethton. Cutura made an impressive spot start for Fort Myers, a game that was wiped out by rain. After making 15 low-A starts last season, Sam Gibbons could be the first option to be promoted if Fort Myers has a need. Randy LeBlanc led the Kernels in wins (9) last season despite pitching primarily out of the bullpen. Dereck Rodriguez, who made two starts for the Kernels, was named Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in 2015.

 

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

 

P Nick Anderson*

P John Curtiss*

P CK Irby*

P Kuo-hua Lo

P Logan Lombana

LP Mike Theofanopolous*

P Zach Tillery*

 

The Kernels return a lot of low-A experience to their bullpen, with only two new members. Expect some of these arms to get a few starts. Zach Tillery (13) and John Curtiss (7) both made a number of starts for last year’s Kernels.

 

PROJECTED LINEUP:

 

SS Jermaine Palacios

2B Luis Arreaz

CF LaMonte Wade*

3B Chris Paul*

1B Zander Wiel

RF Max Murphy*

DH Jorge Fernandez*

C AJ Murray

LF Chris Cavaness

 

PROJECTED BENCH:

C Bryant Hayman

C Rafael Valera*

INF Sean Miller*

 

On the heels of a season that saw him hit .370 with an OPS of .939, Jermaine Palacios is the highest-rated position player on the team, checking into the Top 20s of both Fangraphs (#17) and Baseball America (#18) and just missing MLB.com’s (#21). LaMonte Wade missed most Top 30s, but Fangraphs ranked him #12. Chris Paul (#39) made Aaron Gleeman’s Top 40. Zander Wiel, who missed some time after getting hit by a pitch shortly after signing last season, is an advanced hitter who could open some eyes. Max Murphy was the Appalachian League Player of the Year in 2014. At 19, Luis Arreaz will be the youngest player on the roster after skipping Elizabethton. Rafael Valera played around the infield for the Kernels last year, but is transitioning to behind the dish.

 

THE PROSPECTS

 

Here is a quick look at which Kernels found their names in a variety of Twins Prospect Rankings. No Kernels made any national Top 100s.

 

Twins Prospect Rankings

Twins Daily Top 10: None

Seth Stohs Top 30: Palacios (21)

Jeremy Nygaard Top 30: Palacios (10), Wade (27)

Cody Christie Top 30: None

Nick Nelson Top 10: None

Steve Buhr Top 15: None

Baseball America Top 31: Palacios (19)

FanGraphs Top 25: Wade (12), Palacios (17), Cederoth (22)

Keith Law Top 20: Rodriguez (14)

John Sickels Top 20: Palacios (12), Wade (20)

Aaron Gleeman Top 40: Palacios (16), Cederoth (19), Wad (29), Paul (39)

Ted Schwerzler Top 15: None

MLB.com Top 30: Palacios (21), Wade (28)

Baseball Essentials Top 20: None

 

PREDICTIONS

 

First Hitter Promoted to Fort Myers: 1.) Zander Wiel, 2.) LaMonte Wade

First Starting Pitcher Promoted to Fort Myers: 1.) Dereck Rodriguez, 2.) Sam Gibbons

First Relief Pitcher Promoted to Fort Myers: 1.) Mike Theofanopolous, 2.) Zach Tillery

 

TWITTER FOLLOWS

 

Rochester Red Wings: @CRKernels

Radio Voice: @Morgan_Hawk

Beat Writer - The Gazette: @jeje66

Retired Super Fan: @jimcrikket

 

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Logan Lombana is one of the new guys in the bullpen. Drafted last year in the 25th round from Long Beach State. Baseball America, in their review of the draft, listed Lombana's above average 85-87 mph slider with Jay's slider as the best secondary pitch drafter by the Twins. They also listed him as the best Twins late round pick crediting his lower slot and quality secondary stuff.

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I'm curious to see who takes Cederoth's spot if he goes on the DL as expected. I was surprised to see neither Alex Robinson nor Francisco Romero (though letting it warm up before sending him north makes sense) make the rotation.

 

I would be shocked (OK, surprised) if it isn't Romero. He's been tossing heat of late... His arm is strong. I learned recently that he had a meniscus surgery last July which is what delayed his return. 

 

I don't think it'll be Robinson just because of where he was to start spring... 

 

Then it could be any of those 4-year college senior types too. 

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Wade = underrated.

 

Chatted with Mike Radcliff about Wade one day while watching players work out. Asked about Wade... Radcliff talked about how he doesn't have any great tools. Nothing stands out about him... but he does everything well. Doesn't have a weakness... So the upside isn't real high, but it would appear that the floor would be higher than most. Radcliff also talked about him having "elite" character. That is a big thing to the Twins. In talking with Wade several times and a few times down there, that would appear to be very true.

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Both Blakenhorn and Cabbage are starting in Extend Spring?  And Paul is playing 3B?  He only played 3 games at 3rd last year.

 

I wonder what the twins are thinking here.  

 

Also this will be Murphy's 3rd full at cedar rapids.  He is on his last gasp, is that right?

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Both Blakenhorn and Cabbage are starting in Extend Spring?  And Paul is playing 3B?  He only played 3 games at 3rd last year.

 

I wonder what the twins are thinking here.  

If I was a betting man, money is on Blankenhorn to start in E-town and maybe see time in CR.  Cabbage looks to start in EXST and GCL with a possible callup to E-town.  Both have been working on their defense at 3B, Cabbage looks like the better athletic fielder that's for sure but appears to still be adjusting at the plate.  Cabbage just played 3B for the AA team on Friday.  Blankenhorn has been moved all around this spring - LF, 3B, 1B - he has a pretty stroke although it gets long at times.

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If I was a betting man, money is on Blankenhorn to start in E-town and maybe see time in CR.  Cabbage looks to start in EXST and GCL with a possible callup to E-town.  Both have been working on their defense at 3B, Cabbage looks like the better athletic fielder that's for sure but appears to still be adjusting at the plate.  Cabbage just played 3B for the AA team on Friday.  Blankenhorn has been moved all around this spring - LF, 3B, 1B - he has a pretty stroke although it gets long at times.

 

Thats a bit disappointing.  Agewise its fine to keep them in EST and the rookie leagues - they are both still teenagers .  But both are high round draft picks so I was hoping one of them would be ready to be pushed up.

 

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Both Blakenhorn and Cabbage are starting in Extend Spring?  And Paul is playing 3B?  He only played 3 games at 3rd last year.

 

I wonder what the twins are thinking here.  

 

Also this will be Murphy's 3rd full at cedar rapids.  He is on his last gasp, is that right?

 

Paul played a lot of 3B in college. He'll maybe play some at 1B too but there are other guys there. He could move up quickly too. My guess is that Blankenhorn moves up to CR before the ET season. IF not, doesn't hurt him to go to Tennessee again. Cabbage will go to Elizabethton for the season. I'd be more surprised if he went to Cedar Rapids, but it's possible. Doubt he'd stay in the GCL. 

 

Yup, Murphy had a disappointing year last year. He's got a lot to prove this year. I think he'll be the first one promoted to FM when needed. 

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Both Blakenhorn and Cabbage are starting in Extend Spring?  And Paul is playing 3B?  He only played 3 games at 3rd last year.

 

I wonder what the twins are thinking here.  

 

Also this will be Murphy's 3rd full at cedar rapids.  He is on his last gasp, is that right?

 

This will only be Murphy's second full season in CR. He was promoted from E-town at the end of his draft season. 

 

Paul will be a serviceable third baseman, but I'd guess Blankenhorn sees a lot of corn fields this summer.

 

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There are a few surprises for me.  Chris Cavaness and Bryant Hayman were both undrafted college kids last year who are making the jump to Cedar Rapids.  I thought that Brian Olson (34th round pick last year) might make this roster after hitting well at both rookie levels last year.  In the outfield, I thought that Daniel Kihle, Brad Hartong, or Austin Diemer would be ahead of Cavaness.  Congrats to both of those guys for earning their roster spots.

 

Even though he didn't hit all that well at Elizabethton last year, I had assumed that Alex Perez would make this roster in the infield ahead of the youngster Arraez.  I expected Arraez to jump one level to Elizabethton this year.

 

Randy LeBlanc pitched well out of the bullpen for the Kernels last year before getting a few starts late in the season.  I was expecting him to start this year in the Miracle bullpen.  I wonder if he is just holding the spot until Romero is ready to go, or if the Twins see him as a starter long term.  I also thought that Miles Nordgren would land somewhere on this staff after pitching well at Elizabethton last year.

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There are a few surprises for me.  Chris Cavaness and Bryant Hayman were both undrafted college kids last year who are making the jump to Cedar Rapids.  I thought that Brian Olson (34th round pick last year) might make this roster after hitting well at both rookie levels last year.  In the outfield, I thought that Daniel Kihle, Brad Hartong, or Austin Diemer would be ahead of Cavaness.  Congrats to both of those guys for earning their roster spots.

 

Even though he didn't hit all that well at Elizabethton last year, I had assumed that Alex Perez would make this roster in the infield ahead of the youngster Arraez.  I expected Arraez to jump one level to Elizabethton this year.

 

Randy LeBlanc pitched well out of the bullpen for the Kernels last year before getting a few starts late in the season.  I was expecting him to start this year in the Miracle bullpen.  I wonder if he is just holding the spot until Romero is ready to go, or if the Twins see him as a starter long term.  I also thought that Miles Nordgren would land somewhere on this staff after pitching well at Elizabethton last year.

 

I was surprised that Kihle starts in EST, but watching Cavaness, it was clear he was going to CR. I thought Brian Olson would go to CR too, probably over Hayman, but a lot of those catchers are very close.

 

Diemer is in Ft. Myers. 

 

Alex Perez worked out with the EST group all of spring training, so he had no shot at Cedar Rapids. I was surprised Arraez is there over Manuel Guzman who was very impressive to me.

 

LeBlanc started in the CR bullpen last year, but then he made a few starts. They're giving him a chance to start, and now we've seen that Ft. Myers starting rotation. Spots hard to come by. He's good. 

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Chatted with Mike Radcliff about Wade one day while watching players work out. Asked about Wade... Radcliff talked about how he doesn't have any great tools. Nothing stands out about him... but he does everything well. Doesn't have a weakness... So the upside isn't real high, but it would appear that the floor would be higher than most. Radcliff also talked about him having "elite" character. That is a big thing to the Twins. In talking with Wade several times and a few times down there, that would appear to be very true.

 

Based on his BB/K last year, I'd say his plate discipline is a pretty great "tool".

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Problem with discipline is that pitches get a lot better at the higher levels.  It's easy to take a pitch that's a foot outside the plate, but as they get better, those pitches get a lot closer to the corners.  Hopefully Wade continues to excel there, but this will be more of  challenge as his competition improves.  I wouldn't be shocked if that's a big reason why a lot of players struggle more as they hit full season ball.

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Glad to see Hayman up in Cedar Rapids, I know there was talk from his host family at the end of GCL/Instructs that he might not be back with the organization.  Kid definitely has power potential, it's the contact rate (especially lefties) and staying behind the plate that are his weaknesses at this point. 

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Thats a bit disappointing.  Agewise its fine to keep them in EST and the rookie leagues - they are both still teenagers .  But both are high round draft picks so I was hoping one of them would be ready to be pushed up.

 

This is the kind of thing that makes me (and some national people) say the Twins are slow to promote people, and that they sometimes start guys at way too low a level......

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