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  • Scouting the Cedar Rapids Kernels Hitters


    Seth Stohs

    I spent last week, Opening Week, in Cedar Rapids watching the first four Kernels games of their season. For today, I'm going to play amateur scout and give some of my observations of the Kernels hitters. 

    Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (all photos throughout the article)

    Let’s take a look at that Cedar Rapids Kernels lineup and pretend I’m a scout.

    (note, I’m not a scout, but I am playing one on the internet today.) 

    Spencer Steer - IF (23) 

    Steer was the Twins third round pick in 2019 from the University of Oregon. He ended that season with the Low-A Kernels. This spring, he was added to the Twins development camp when Chris Williams was injured. In the four games I saw, Steer was the leadoff hitter each game and played second base, shortstop, third base and then shortstop. 

    Steer is a guy who may not do anything that jumps out at a fan at a game, but when you watch him for a while, even just four games (and some online), you begin to see it. His at bats are very professional. He knows the strike zone. He attacks pitches in the zone and is willing to take walks. While he isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs, he gets the barrel to the ball pretty consistently and could develop more power in time. I think ultimately his best position may be second base, but he makes the routine plays at all three spots. 

    It’s never fair to put comps out on players. They’re never really fair. But I do see a lot of Brian Dozier in his prospect days in Speer. That’s not to say that Speer will ever hit 42 homers in a season. It’s more that he just does everything pretty well. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit: 60, Hit for Power: 45, Run: 55, Defense: 60, Arm: 45, Approach: 65. 

    Spencer Steer 230.jpg


    Seth Gray - 3B (22) 

    Gray was the Twins fourth round pick in 2019 from Wright State. He also ended his 2019 with a couple of games in Cedar Rapids. Gray is a third baseman. He is big and strong. While he isn’t swift, he does seem to have good agility at the hot corner and a strong arm. As he develops, he should add significant power. He’s got the strength. He also has a really good approach at the plate. He seems to have a pretty good idea of the strike zone and is willing to take walks. He also stays down on pitches well, which should help him over time, but it may also lead to him getting hit by pitches. He is a joy to watch in batting practice. Also, if you want to root for a guy with a great mullet, Gray is your guy! 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit: 55, Hit for Power: 60, Run: 40, Defense:55, Arm: 55, Approach: 55

    Seth Gray 550.jpg

     

    Matt Wallner - OF (23) 

    You know the Wallner story. Forest Lake grad. Drafted by the Twins in 32nd round as a pitcher. Was set to go to the University of North Dakota. They cut their baseball program. He winds up at Southern Mississippi and becomes a power-hitting, three-time All American outfielder. The Twins selected him in the Competitive Balance Round of the 2019 draft. He also ended the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids. 

    Wallner is a big guy; tall (6-5), and very strong. Powerful. He has the ability to hit the ball a long way. And, frankly, he takes what his manager calls a “violent” swing at the ball. Yes, that means there will be some swing and miss, for sure, but he punishes the ball to all fields. Unlike Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, whose natural power is to the opposite field, Wallner has the ability to pull the ball with authority. That’s not to say that he won’t hit the ball the other way. He will, and with authority. He is a joy to watch in batting practice.

    If I’m being honest, Wallner is also more athletic than I anticipated. While he had some adventures on a couple of plays in right field, he showed good range. He also had a triple and was moving really quickly once he got going. As a former pitcher, including some closing in his first two seasons in college, he hit upper-90s with a fastball, and he isn’t afraid to show off a big arm from right field. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit: 55, Hit for Power: 65, Run: 45, Defense: 50, Arm: 70, Approach: 55. 

    Matt Wallner 302.jpg


    Jair Camargo - C (21) 

    Camargo came to the Twins as part of the Maeda/Graterol deal from the Dodgers. I didn’t know a lot about him so when I saw him hitting clean up in this lineup, it caught my attention. Now, some of that might be to break up the lefties, but Camargo does have some pop in his bat. It may not necessarily be home run power, but he can drive the ball a little. He may be a little pull-happy. Camargo is stocky, and he’s not fast, but he does appear to be a good athlete. He sets up well behind the plate and seems to work with pitchers well. I really didn’t get to see much of his arm, but it seemed fairly strong and accurate. It’s clear he’s still working on framing the ball as a couple of pitches got by him when he was trying to bring it back over the plate. The Colombian should produce and could move slowly up the ladder. He’s still just 21 years old, which may be most encouraging. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:45, Hit for Power: 45, Run: 35, Defense:50, Arm: 55, Approach: 45

    Jair Camargo 51.jpg


    Gabe Snyder - 1B (26) 

    Snyder was a four-year college guy, so he is a little bit older than the other guys (turned 26 in March), but he’s intriguing. He put up power numbers with the Low-A Kernels in 2019, and he’s begun this season with some power. Let’s start with the defense. Snyder is a pretty solid first baseman. He is pretty agile, showed some range, scoops well. He looks like he’s been playing the position for a long time, and as a tall, left-hander, he probably has. He pitched in one game last week and threw most of his fastballs at 77 mph. He wasn’t totally airing it out, but clearly that’s plenty of arm for the position. Offensively, he shows a good approach and has a good eye. He isn’t afraid to use the whole field, and he also is a little more athletic than I had thought. On a triple on Opening Night, he was moving really well. But his tool that will need to be prevalent as he moves up will need to be his power. He’s got plenty of power, but will he be able to continue to hit for power as he moves up? He is a joy to watch in batting practice. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:45, Hit for Power: 55, Run: 40, Defense:50, Arm: 50, Approach: 50

    Gabe Snyder 280.jpg


    Wander Javier - SS (22) 

    We have been hearing and reading about Javier since he signed a big signing bonus with the Twins in 2015. Unfortunately, he played just nine games in 2016 before getting hurt. He missed the 2018 injury with a shoulder injury. He struggled in Cedar Rapids in a half-season in 2019. And, of course, he missed the 2020 season. All that, and Javier is still just 22 years old. He has gained a lot of strength. He is a great athlete with good speed. He is a good defender at shortstop with a strong arm. He has shown glimpses of power. He has just struggled in terms of batting average and contact. It almost looks like he is guessing at times. But he’s young. He does work hard. He is all those things that mean you don’t give up on him. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:40, Hit for Power: 45, Run: 50, Defense:55, Arm: 55, Approach: 40

    Wander Javier 302.jpg


    Trey Cabbage - OF (24) 

    Cabbage was the Twins 4th round pick in 2015 out of high school in Tennessee. Yes, this is his fourth season in Cedar Rapids, but that stat is a little (or more than a little) misleading. He spent the final six weeks of the 2017 season with the Kernels. He then spent the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. Then he spent April in Cedar Rapids in 2019 before being promoted to High-A Ft. Myers. Of course, no one played in 2020, and Cedar Rapids became the High-A affiliate of the Twins. And, I would guess that he’s a candidate for a quick promotion to Wichita this year. 

    Cabbage was drafted as a third baseman and played between there and third base most of his early years. He has primarily played in the corner outfield the last couple of seasons, though he still has that first baseman’s glove. Cabbage is big and strong, and takes a big cut. He rarely gets cheated and has the ability to hit the ball hard and far. When he makes contact, good things happen. That tends to be the issue, and there is quite a bit of swing-and-miss. He’s not a burner, but like Michael Cuddyer, once he gets going, he is pretty quick. By the way, he is a joy to watch in batting practice. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:45, Hit for Power: 60, Run: 50, Defense:45, Arm: 50, Approach: 45

    Trey Cabbage 540.jpg


    Gabriel Maciel - OF (22) 

    Maciel is a native of Brazil. He came to the Twins from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Eduardo Escobar trade. Maciel is a quiet player. In the outfield, he just makes all the plays. He’s got good range and can play all three positions pretty well. He’s got a good, probably average arm. Offensively, he is a switch hitter. While I didn’t see enough of him either right or left-handed, he takes pitches, seems to know the strike zone pretty well. He knows himself well. He takes walks, sprays line drives and then steals some bases. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:45, Hit for Power: 30, Run: 60, Defense:55, Arm: 45, Approach: 50

    Gabriel Maciel 424.jpg


    DaShawn Keirsey, Jr. - OF (24)

    Keirsey was the team’s fourth-round pick in 2018 out of the University of Utah. He spent 2019 in Cedar Rapids but was hurt much of the season. He has played in four games at the start of this season because he is nursing a hamstring strain. However, he was the team’s starting centerfielder in four of their first five games. Keirsey is really good in centerfield. He’s got very good instincts, speed and first step. He’s got a good arm. Offensively, he isn’t going to hit for a lot of power. He will (or should) hit for average and get some doubles and triples because of his speed and he can be a gap-to-gap hitter. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:40, Hit for Power: 35, Run: 60, Defense:60, Arm: 50, Approach: 50

    DaShawn Keirsey 522.jpg


    Alex Isola - C (22)

    Isola was the Twins 29th round pick in 2019 out of TCU. He finished that season with the Kernels. This spring, he was invited to the Twins development camp for his work behind the plate. He is solid behind the plate with a strong, accurate arm. He sets up well behind the plate, blocks pretty well and continues to work on framing. Offensively, he has a good approach at the plate and seems to know the strike zone well. While he won’t hit a lot of homers, he is strong and should get some extra base hits. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:40, Hit for Power: 40, Run: 35, Defense:55, Arm: 55, Approach: 50

    Alex Isola 515.jpg


    Chris Williams - C/1B (24)

    Williams was the Twins eighth round pick in 2018 out of Clemson. He was a catcher in college, though he played a lot at first base after a shoulder injury. This spring, he was invited to big-league camp as a catcher. He hurt his shoulder while playing in his first game with the Twins. Williams has got himself in really good shape over the past year, and he did so without giving up any of his power. That will be his calling card. He does have a good eye and is willing to take a walk too. For the Kernels, he will mostly DH and play first base, but he will also get some time behind the plate. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:45, Hit for Power: 55, Run: 40, Defense:40, Arm: 40, Approach: 50

    Chris Williams 315.jpg


    Michael Helman - IF/OF (24)

    Helman was the Twins 11th round pick in 2018 out of Texas A&M. He had a strong showing that year including at Cedar Rapids. He moved up to Ft. Myers in 2019 and struggled before getting hurt. He returns to the High-A level this year with the Kernels. Now, he hasn’t hit muhc, but he has a really good approach at the plate. He knows the strike zone well and could be a leadoff hitter if needed. Defensively, he has mostly played in the middle infield and is a good defender with range. This year, he is going to get time in the outfield as well. He did a nice job in left field in a game last week and threw out a runner at home. In just watching him play and practice, I think he could be a really good center fielder too. He profiles as a utility guy who gets on base. 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit:40, Hit for Power: 40, Run: 55, Defense:55, Arm: 50, Approach: 60

    Michael Helman 256.jpg


    Yeltsin Encarnacion - IF (22)

    I tweeted earlier this week that Encarnacion embodies probably my favorite type of baseball player. Encarnacion can play all three infield positions well, though he’s best in the middle infield where he has good range and a strong arm. Hey, he pitched one inning when I was in Cedar Rapids and he was hitting 86 and didn’t look like he was even trying to overthrow. Offensively, he’s a switch hitter who sprays the ball all over the field. He isn’t going to hit for much power, but he will hit a lot of line drives and turn singles into doubles either literally or with a stolen base. He knows the zone well, and he isn’t afraid to take a big swing. He also just has a presence of confidence, so it’s not surprising when the Triple-A Saints needed an infielder Encarnacion got the call and was thrown into their starting lineup. Ultimately, he’s a reliable utility player 

    Seth’s Scouting Stuff (20/80 scale):

    Hit: 45, Hit for Power: 35, Run: 55, Defense:55, Arm: 60, Approach: 55

    Yeltsin Encarnacion 312.jpg


    Listen, I’m not a scout, so maybe I’m off, but I have watched most of these guys play in person here, or in spring training or on milb dot tv. I’d be very curious to hear what the Twins scouts and player evaluators would think about my Scouting stuff. Consider them one person’s opinion, mine, and I encourage you to agree or disagree with them. 

    The Cedar Rapids lineup is fun. They do have some really solid hitters. They have quite a few hitters with power. Several of them can generally be relied upon for a quality plate appearance. And yes, there will be some players who will prove to be very versatile over the course of the year and their career, and that is valuable. I definitely recommend Twins fans to make that 4 ½ to five hour trek south to watch some Kernels games this summer!

     


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    That was fun.  I always enjoy seeing your reports, but always wonder how many of the players on any minor league team will ever see the majors.  For fun I took Scout Seth's scout scores and added them up for each player.  Here is there rank by highest accumulated scout scores - when you look at it this way does it mirror what you see as the prospects most likely to graduate to the bigs eventually?

    340 - Wallner

    330 - Steer

    320 - Gray

    305 - Encarnacion

    300 - Helman

    295 - Cabbage and Keirsey

    290 - Snyder

    285 - Javier, Maciel, Isola

    275 - Carmago

    270 Williams

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    Thanks for this, Seth.  After a year with no minor league ball, so many of these names seem new to me.

    Really want Javier to finally figure it out and become the player the Twins hoped they were getting when they signed him to the highest International bonus ever...that still is, isn't it?

    Reading your report, seems like there are several players who could become solid major league players several years down the road.  The bigger question is can any of them become top line starters for the Twins?  You know who knows they sure as heck need more than a couple of stars.  Do you see any of this group having that potential?

     

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    I think your grades are more than fair.  Probably higher than I have for some of those players.  I have primarily been watching Steer and Wallner and both have started the season off well.  Wallner does K a ton though.  Not having good contact skills generally is a liability as you move up.  I am sure he will improve but it is concerning.

     

    I want to believe in Gray and Snyder but I am not sold on them just yet.  They both have nice OPS's to start the season but again they could stand to make more contact and move that average up a little.  It is very early in the season so not much to go on.  I agree they are interesting prospects but need to improve to move up.

     

    Cabbage is a bit of an enigma as well.   Like Wallner a ton of K's but when he gets a hold of one look out.  Cabbage has been a pretty streaky hitter and about the time you think he has things figured out he will go into a prolonged slump.  Maybe this is the year he makes the leap?  If he does make more and better contact he looks like a major league player to me but he needs to be more consistent and a tougher out than he has been in the past.

     

    I don't know much about Carmargo either but what I read said he had the exit velocities the Twins covet.  At 21 in high A he seems to be holding his own so that is good.  I hope he turns out to be a good catcher as you can't have enough of those.

    Cedar Rapids has a good group of guys.  It would be nice to have more elite hitters instead of several projects and older project's to boot but still plenty to be exited about.

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    Great job Seth, hope to make a few Kernels games this year. Baseball America had a good article a couple of months ago on how many minor league players make the bigs. Each team this year control 180 minor league players, according to the article only 11-12 will have at least a 3 year career in MLB, only 33 will even make an appearance in MLB.

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    8 minutes ago, 4twinsJA said:

    Great job Seth, hope to make a few Kernels games this year. Baseball America had a good article a couple of months ago on how many minor league players make the bigs. Each team this year control 180 minor league players, according to the article only 11-12 will have at least a 3 year career in MLB, only 33 will even make an appearance in MLB.

    That is the reality. Baseball is really hard, and there are so many levels to "conquer" just to get a sniff of the big leagues. And, as they always say, it's hard to get to the big leagues. It's harder to stay in the big leagues.

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    Great article.  I am heading down to Davenport this weekend to see the Kernels.  This will be helpful to keep in mind when watching.  One of the weird things when you first look at it is the relatively high ages for the players compared to 2019.  I have to keep remembering, there was no 2020 and the Kernels are now high A.

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    43 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    That was fun.  I always enjoy seeing your reports, but always wonder how many of the players on any minor league team will ever see the majors.  For fun I took Scout Seth's scout scores and added them up for each player.  Here is there rank by highest accumulated scout scores - when you look at it this way does it mirror what you see as the prospects most likely to graduate to the bigs eventually?

    340 - Wallner

    330 - Steer

    320 - Gray

    305 - Encarnacion

    300 - Helman

    295 - Cabbage and Keirsey

    290 - Snyder

    285 - Javier, Maciel, Isola

    275 - Carmago

    270 Williams

     

    This is an interesting way to look at this. I hadn't done this, but I would think most would agree that the top three are the top three prospects. After that, you could move several around. 

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    16 minutes ago, nicholas Anderson said:

    Great article.  I am heading down to Davenport this weekend to see the Kernels.  This will be helpful to keep in mind when watching.  One of the weird things when you first look at it is the relatively high ages for the players compared to 2019.  I have to keep remembering, there was no 2020 and the Kernels are now high A.

    That is an important thing. Also, early in the year, teams keep those minor league veterans that they sign, but as the season goes on, those guys get released and there are injuries, so people will move up. 

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