Saturday, July 12, 2014

Minor league trip: Additional observations

Engelb Vielma was limited to
coaching first base during my visit.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels take their home field to a song whose lyrics promise: And the world's gonna know your name.

In truth, even if Kohl Stewart matures into Jim Palmer, there will be millions of people who won't know the difference. And the bulk of the players in the Midwest League will never even  reach the major leagues, much less become stars.

This is particularly true of  the 2014 Cedar Rapids Kernels, a sub-.500 team in a low A league. As I said in an earlier post, there's aren't a lot of prime prospects among the position players. This team is all about the pitching.

There are a few guys of interest. "Jim Crikket," the CR blogger whose Knuckleballs blog is linked to on the siderail, is very impressed with Engelb Vielma, a scrawny 20-year-old shortstop who sustained a concussion in a collision with an outfielder a few days before I arrived.

I did notice Vielma in spring training, particularly as the second base partner to Jorge Polanco when Tom Kelly and roving instructor Sam Perlozzo were working Polanco as a shortstop on a side field. I figured at the time that Vielma was just there to give Polanco a second baseman to work around and with on double play drills.

It's entirely possible that the Kernels have some bats bigger than Vielma, but Crikket loves his defensive range and says Vielma, after not hitting at all in April, has started squaring some balls up.

There's not a lot of evidence in the stats to suggest that Vielma will hit, but Crikket tells me the Twins brain trust thinks very highly of the kid.

Mitch Garver is probably a
better hitter than receiver right now.
Mitch Garver, a catcher, was one of three backstops the Twins took in the first nine rounds of the 2013 draft. Stuart Turner, the third-rounder, is playing for high-A Fort Myers and sixth rounder Brian Navarreto is at Rookie ball Elizabethton. Garver, the ninth-rounder, is in between.

Garver hit cleanup in all three full games I saw, and he's hit quite well. His defense behind the dish apparently leaves something to be desired, however.

There are probably good things to be said about Chad Christensen, a first baseman-corner outfielder, and Alex Swim, another catcher who's getting considerable time in the outfield, but both are a bit old for the Midwest League. So is Garver, for that matter. All of them are 23.

This team has a lot of college guys for a Midwest League team, and several of them -- Christensen and Swim fit this description -- were signed after their senior seasons, not their junior seasons, as is common among collegians.

It's not a promising sign to have a lineup whose most productive hitters are old for the league and still be sub-.500.

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