Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A game in Cedar Rapids, Part III: The infield

Jorge Polanco, playing shortstop, reacts to a pitch.
Byron Buxton may be the biggest reason for Minnesotans to make the trek to Cedar Rapids to see the Twin's low-A affiliate, but the Kernels have a number of other significant prospects on the roster.

Niko Goodrum tried his
hand at first base Monday.
Not all of them were in the lineup Monday, and some of those who were, were in unusual positions.

D.J. Hicks, the usual first baseman and cleanup hitter in Jake Mauer's lineup, sat out Monday's game. Niko Goodrum is usually the shortstop and No. 2 hitter; on Monday he played first base and hit third. Jorge Polanco, usually the second baseman and No. 3 hitter, played short and hit cleanup. Travis Harrison was at his accustomed third base and hit fifth.

Goodrum, Polanco and Harrison are all significant prospects. Goodrum was a second round selection in the 2010 draft. Polanco, still a teenager (he turns 20 in July) was signed as a free agent out of the Domincan in the same summer as Miguel Sano; Sano's signing overshadowed Polanco's, but Polanco got a $700,000 bonus as a 16-year-old, evidence of his perceived talent. And Harrison was a supplemental first round pick in 2011.

Some observations:

Polanco has hit probably better than anticipated the past two seasons (he was hitting .326 on the season Monday, according to the scoreboard), but his arm has been described as probably too weak for shortstop. I'll buy that critique. He had one play Monday on which he ranged well to his left to scoop the grounder only to make a terrible throw to first base. He had another in which he backhanded the ball but then dropped it trying to hurry his transfer.

The problem for Polanco as a second baseman is that Eddie Rosario, an even better-regarded prospect, is playing well there a level ahead of him. It makes sense for the Twins to try to push Polanco at shortstop.

At the plate Monday, Polanco was 0-for-3 with a walk and a sac fly.
Travis Harrison awaits the pitch he
swatted out of the park in the seventh

Goodrum didn't look like a novice at first base, but he's not likely to have that position be a big part of his future. He's listed as 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and he looks it — long and slender. He was 1-for-4, but what a one — a bases-loaded triple in the sixth that put the Kernels ahead to stay. He's not as fast as Byron Buxton (who is?) but he flew around the bases on that triple.

The big question with Goodrum is whether he's destined to play short, and watching him play first does little to suggest an answer to that question. I'm not sure he has the bat to play a less demanding position.

Harrison can hit, and showed it: 3-for-4 with a home run. But his ability to remain at third base has been questioned, and he didn't look good in the field. Some third basemen can get by with range that amounts to a step and a dive; Harrison didn't show even that Monday.

Like Polanco, Harrison is a level behind a better prospect at his position (in Harrison's case, Sano). I rather suspect one of the two will wind up at first base if they both become regulars with the Twins.

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