|Miguel Sano takes a rip during a May game before|
a typically sparse crowd in Beloit.
It was fairly obvious all year that the Twins would look for a new affiliation in the Midwest League. Beloit is said to have the worst facilities in the league, and as I noted during my visit there in May, the Snappers didn't draw. The Twins had three expiring affiliations this year, and they kept the two they wanted to retain (Rochester in Triple A, New Britain in Double A) and found an upgrade in the one they wanted to swap out.
Cedar Rapids is the closest affiliated minor league team to Mankato, so this is a welcome shift for me. I used to have an annual minor league pilgrimage to Iowa, and fell out of that habit some time ago; having a Twins affiliate in C.R. makes it very likely that I'll head that way in future summers.
Taking a quick look at the Elizabethton roster -- because the Cedar Rapids roster next year will have many of those players -- makes it all the more enticing to point the vehicle south to see some baseball next summer. Max Kepler, an outfielder with a fascinating backstory (his parents were world-class ballet artists in Berlin, and he signed with the Twins as a 16-year-old three years ago), had a wonderful season for E-town; he'll certainly move up. Byron Buxton and Jose Barrios, the Twins top two draftees last summer, ended their season with Elizabethton; I wouldn't be surprised if either opened in Cedar Rapids, and certainly expect them to get there at some point.
There will always be intriguing, and certainly unproven, talent there; that's what Low-A ball is about.
I should note here that Jim Crikket of the Knuckleballs blog, who broke the news of the Cedar Rapids affiliation agreement on Monday night, said in a comment on this blog last summer that he expected the Twins affiliation to move there. He's a Twins fan who lives in C.R., and I rather expect he'll be passing on insights to the Kernels players. One of the things I expect to do this winter when I update the siderail to this blog is create a section of blogs on the minor league system. I know Knuckleballs and Twins Fan from Afar (New Britain) will be two of them; feel free to tell me of others worth keeping track of.