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For all who watched The Byron Buxton Show on Fox Sports North on Monday, there is no question who the top prospect on the Cedar Rapids roster is. Buxton was the clear-cut focus of the broadcast, and for good reason. Not only was he 3-4 with a single, bases-clearing double and triple, but he made one of the best catches you will see all year. He is also hitting a robust .350/.444/.578 (1.022) with 14 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs 60 runs scored, 47 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He has earned all of the attention.
However, this is much more than a one-man team. I like to see the other guys get some attention as well. This Kernels team is stacked right now. Within days, they will claim a playoff spot for the season’s first half and they have eight players on their current roster who were named All Stars. That doesn’t include Tyler Duffey, who was promoted last week after being named to the team.
Today, I am going to give a little bit more information on some non-Buxton players that you may want to keep on your radar. Here are eight other Kernels that ranked in my Top 52 Twins Prospects last week (my organization ranking in parentheses).
JO Berrios (5) – The righthander from Puerto Rico was the Twins supplemental first round pick just one year ago. He signed pretty quickly for $1.55 million and pitched great at both the GCL and Elizabethton. Combined, he walked four batters and struck out 49. He is young, but he was chosen to play for Puerto Rico in the WBC this spring. Because of that, his regular season was delayed as he built arm strength. However, he earned a spot on the Midwest League All Star team. In eight starts, he is 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA. He had a bad start his most recent start. It was the first time that he had given up more than three runs (something he did just once as well). In 47.1 innings, he was walked just 12 and struck out 50. He throws a fastball that touches 94. He also has a very good curveball and changeup and knows how to pitch. He just turned 19 at the end of May.
Jorge Polanco (9) – Polanco signed with the Twins in July of 2009 as a 16-year-old free agent from the Dominican Republic and is still just 19. He was small, and skinny. He was known for tremendous defense, and that has proven true in his time with the Twins. However, he spent two years in the GCL and hit .233 and 250. He had an offensive breakout season last year in Elizabethton, but how would it transfer to a full-season league? Well, since Opening Night when he batted second, he has been the Kernels number three hitter all season. He has hit .291/.342/.447 (.789) with 17 doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 44 RBI all while playing very well at second base. He will continue to get some time at shortstop throughout the year.
Travis Harrison (10) – When the Twins drafted Harrison out of his California high school as their first supplemental first round pick in 2011, there was a thought that he would be a very difficult sign. He had a strong commitment to USC, but in the end, he decided he wanted to sign and play. The $1.05 million signing bonus may have factored in as well. Harrison has tremendous power potential. He is very strong. He also has a good approach at the plate, making him potentially more than just a home run hitter. So far this year, he is hitting .265/.347/.470 (.817) with 17 doubles, nine homers and 32 RBI. He actually had a tenth hit that went over the fence, but he was only given a walk-off single rather than a walk-off grand slam. His glove at third base is a work-in-progress. He works really hard at it and has improved greatly in 2012. It’s important to remember that he too is still young. He won’t turn 21 until after the season.
Adam Brett Walker (12) – Walker’s father (Adam) was a replacement player for the Minnesota Vikings in 1987. He was a great athlete and so is his son. Walker grew up in Milwaukee and chose to go south for college, playing at Jacksonville University. The Twins made him their third round pick a year ago. As the 97th overall pick, he signed for slot value of $490,400. He went to Elizabethton where he hit 14 home runs before hitting some huge homers in the Appalachian League playoffs. Although he doesn’t like to walk and strikes out quite a bit, he has shown great power for the Kernels. He is hitting .272/.325/.525 (.850) with 15 doubles, five triples, ten home runs and 51 RBI. He is a big man at 6-4 and 230 pounds, but he has good speed and plays a solid defense in right field.
Niko Goodrum (15) – Goodrum was unable to play in the game yesterday because has been on the Disabled List with a concussion. He has resumed baseball activities and hopes to return just before the Midwest League All Star game so that he can play in the game. He has had a very solid season. He is hitting .270/.382/.388 (.770) with 12 doubles, three triples, a homer and 28 RBI. He is very patient at the plate and has good, solid swings from both sides of the plate. He also plays a very good shortstop and has a strong arm. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, Goodrum signed quickly for $514,800. He was a long, lanky kid. He was proud this spring to have reached 200 pounds and has been able to hit the ball with more authority.
Mason Melotakis (23) – The left-hander from Northeastern State was one of the Twins 2nd round picks last June. He signed for $750,000, about $68,500 below slot. The left-hander was clocked as high as 97 on the radar gun as a reliever in college. He will get an opportunity to start, and has done a pretty good job so far in Cedar Rapids. Following his seven shutout innings on Monday, Melotakis is now 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA. In 58.1 innings, he has allowed 57 hits, walked 28 and struck out 44. So, he is walking too many, to be sure. He also is not accumulating a lot of strikeouts. As a starter, his fastball is sitting 90-93 so as to be able to go six or seven innings. He likely has the potential to be a solid #4 starter or a potentially dominant left-handed, late-game reliever.
Hudson Boyd (31) – Boyd was the Twins 2nd supplemental first round pick in 2011. He pitched his high school ball in Ft. Myers and signed at the deadline for $1 million. Through 11 starts this season, Boyd is just 1-3 with a 6.02 ERA. In 55 innings, he has given up 58 hits, 27 walks and 43 strikeouts. So again, too many walks, but not enough strikeouts. Boyd will be 20 years old throughout the season, and I think there’s a chance he could be back in Cedar Rapids in 2014 for more development. However, he has a fastball in the low-90s. He has a very good changeup and a very good curveball, just not all the time. He has the pitches to be successful, but needs to be more consistent.
Dalton (DJ) Hicks (41) – If you saw the game on FSN, you saw that Hicks is a big man. He has a big, long, powerful swing. He has used it to hit .288/.363/.493 (.856) with 20 doubles, nine homers and 51 RBI. He was the Twins 17th round pick a year ago out of Central Florida. It was his walk-off grand slam that won the Appalachian League championship for Elizabethton a year ago. He has already turned 23, so I would guess that he will be moved up to Ft. Myers (with Buxton) after the Kernels clinch the first half title.
JD Williams (NR) – JD Williams is a guy that shows that repeating a level can be good. He was drafted in the 10th round as a great athlete out of high school in Florida. He was pushed to Beloit a year ago and struggled. This season, he has been an on-base machine. Despite hitting just .252, he gets on base 39% of the time and has hit 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs and driven in 31 runs. He has also stolen 12 bases.
There are nine “other” names to know in Cedar Rapids. That doesn’t even include right-handed pitcher Tyler Duffey or left-handed starter Taylor Rogers, who has a sub-2 ERA since joining the Miracle roster as well.
Also, hopefully in the next month, the Kernels will be joined by German outfielder Max Kepler. Luke Bard will hopefully heel up and be make starts for the team soon.
In other words, that four hour drive from the Twin Cities to Cedar Rapids will still be completely with it, even if Byron Buxton is promoted to Ft. Myers.
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