I’ve never been someone that pays an enormous amount of attention to the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Most years, I would glance at a few writers focusing on who the Twins might draft in the first round, but the draft itself just held little interest for me.
I suppose, like many people, it just seemed to me that it was going to be several years before I would ever see any of the young players drafted in a given year put on a Twins uniform, so there was little point in spending much of my time on the draft.
I’m coming around, though, and, yes, it has a lot to do with the Twins now being affiliated with my local minor league team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
During their last several years as an Angels affiliate, it just seemed to me that the parent organization seldom sent many of their top prospects to Cedar Rapids right away (if at all). That may be unfair, I don’t know. I honestly never looked up whether my perception of things was backed up by facts.
But I do know this: Players drafted by the Twins in the 2012 First-Year Draft have played critical roles in putting the Kernels atop the Midwest League Western Division Standings with less than two weeks before the end of the first half of the season.
How critical? I”m glad you asked.
Infielder Joel Licon, who joined the team from extended spring training just this week, and pitcher Christian Powell, who is expected to join the Kernels Wednesday from extended spring training, are the ninth and tenth players drafted last summer to suit up for the Kernels this season. While Kernels fans haven’t had a chance to get to know Licon and Powell yet, the other eight members of the 2012 draft class have made significant impacts. Consider:
Byron Buxton (1st round)): .333/.435/.545 (.980) 11 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 7 HRs
Adam Brett Walker (3rd): .270/.321/.530 (.851) 12 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 10 HRs
Dalton Hicks (17th): .299/.376/.485 (.861) 17 2Bs, 7 HRs
I’m not sure where the Kernels would be without those bats this season, but they’d have been a lot less fun to watch. But if that’s impressive, check out these pitchers:
Jose Berrios (Supp 1st round): 4-2, 39 IP, 2.54 ERA, 44 Ks, 1.28 WHIP
Mason Melotakis (2nd): 5-2, 51.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 42 Ks, 1.52 WHIP
Tyler Duffey (5th): 3-2, 58.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 47 Ks, 0.94 WHIP
Taylor Rogers (11th): 0-1, 10 IP, 7.20 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.80 WHIP
Alex Muren (12th): 3-0, 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.21 WHIP
Clearly, anyone who might want a sneak peek at who is likely to be playing big roles for the 2014 Cedar Rapids Kernels should pay close attention to who the Twins pick with the 4th overall pick in the first round of the draft on Thursday and any college age players drafted in the following 15 rounds or so.
Of the ten players listed above, only first round picks Buxton and Berrios were selected following their senior seasons of high school baseball. The others all had at least some amount of college experience prior to being selected and signed by the Twins.
The Twins’ brass have their work cut out for them to replace that kind of productivity with the Kernels from the draft class of 2012.
Of course, most players drafted this week won’t wear a Kernels uniform next year. More will likely arrive in Cedar Rapids the following year during the 2015 campaign.
Eleven of this year’s Kernels were selected by the Twins in the 2011 draft. That list includes third baseman Travis Harrison, catcher Tyler Grimes and eight pitchers who have toed the rubber at some point during the season as a member of the Kernels pitching staff.
With the addition of Powell, 21 of the 33 players who will have worn a Kernels uniform this season were drafted by the Twins in the past two years and several more could still arrive in Cedar Rapids this summer as promotions and injuries create roster openings.
Of course, Kernels fans may not have to wait until 2014 to get a look at some of this year’s draft talent. Under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, players with college eligibility remaining must be signed by July 15. That’s much earlier than under the agreement in place before last year, which makes protracted contract negotiations almost impossible.
As a result, some of the players selected in this week’s draft may have an opportunity to be assigned to Cedar Rapids before the end of this season. Last year, the Twins sent a handful of pitchers from their 2012 draft class to their Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, to help the Snappers during their playoff run.
The first and second rounds of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft will be broadcast on the MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com Thursday evening, beginning at 6:00 CT. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed on MLB.com beginning Friday afternoon and rounds 11-40 will be streamed on MLB.com beginning Saturday afternoon. – JC