• Projecting the 2013 Kernels - The Middle Infielders

    In preparation for the first season of the new affiliation between the Twins and my hometown Cedar Rapids Kernels, I’ve embarked on a series of “Get To Know Them” posts. The intention is to give my fellow Kernels fans a little bit of information about the Twins prospects we may be seeing in Kernels uniforms over the course of the summer, understanding full well that it’s impossible to know exactly who will fill the Kernels’ roster several months before Opening Day.

    In Part 1 of the series, I looked at catchers and in Part 2, I covered corner infielders. In this post, we’ll look at middle infielders that could spend all or part of their summer in Cedar Rapids.

    While I had a little trouble identifying corner infielders likely to wear Kernels uniforms in 2013, I had almost exactly the opposite problem when I looked over the list of potential middle infielders. If anything, I found too many guys who could see time in Cedar Rapids this season.
    (This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.)


    (Image: Kernels.com)

    Adam (A.J.) Pettersen – Age 24 – Bats R/Throws R
    2012: Beloit (Class A – MWL)
    G
    PA
    BA
    OPS
    K
    BB
    2B
    3B
    HR
    93
    368
    .248
    .632
    53
    28
    13
    2
    2

    AJ Pettersen

    My first thought was that Pettersen should move up to high-A Fort Myers to start the season and I still think that’s the most likely scenario. However, when I started to look at all of the other middle infielders who could/should play at the high-A level, it occurred to me that, depending on what happens with all of those guys, there simply may not be room for Pettersen with the Miracle.

    AJ was drafted in the 25th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Minnesota and after just a few games with Elizabethton at the end of the 2011 season, Pettersen spent the entire 2012 season in Beloit. He was the epitome of a “utility player” with the Snappers, playing 2B, 3B, SS, LF and DH. In fact, he even pitched an inning. His offensive stat line would indicate to me that spending a few more weeks at Class A while he waits for things to shake out a bit in the middle infield further up the organizational ladder wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Pettersen (though I suspect he might not agree).

    If Pettersen does start the season in Cedar Rapids, get to know him quickly because his versatility and experience could make him among the first position players promoted to Fort Myers during the season.


    Stephen Wickens
    – Age 23 – Bats R/Throws R
    2012: Beloit (Class A – MWL) and Elizabethton (Rookie – Appy)
    G
    PA
    BA
    OPS
    K
    BB
    2B
    3B
    HR
    59
    252
    .307
    .841
    32
    34
    12
    2
    2
    Wickens was drafted a few rounds behind Pettersen in the 2011 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University and will turn 24 years old before Opening Day. Unlike Pettersen, Wickens stayed behind in extended spring training to start the 2012 season and played 10 games with Elizabethton before getting a promotion to Beloit. While in E’town, Wickens hit .424 and put up a 1.106 OPS (small sample size warning).

    Wickens found the MWL to be more of a challenge, though he still hit .286 at that level and got on base at a .411 clip while serving as the Snappers’ primary shortstop through the second half of their season. He made 11 errors in 159 chances at that position. He also played several games at second base.
    If Wickens impresses early, his age would also make him a candidate for promotion by mid year.


    Niko Goodrum
    – Age 20 – Bats: Both/Throws R
    2012: Elizabethton (Rookie – Appy)
    G
    PA
    BA
    OPS
    K
    BB
    2B
    3B
    HR
    58
    269
    .242
    .768
    56
    38
    12
    8
    4
    Goodrum was the Twins’ 2nd round draft choice in 2010 out of his Georgia high school. He got time in the GCL the summer he was drafted and has spent the past two seasons with Elizabethton. His batting average dipped a bit this past season, compared to 2011, but he apparently found more gaps as he increased his extra-base hits across the board. He also increased his number of walks, though he continued to strike out as often as he hit safely, which is something to work on.

    At 6’3″, there’s been some question whether shortstop will ultimately remain Niko’s primary position, but he played 50 games at that position in 2012, as opposed to just 7 at third base, so the Twins appear to be giving him every chance to stick at shortstop. He cut his errors at short almost in half, compared to 2011, so there seems to be every reason for the Twins to keep sending him out to that position.

    Many Twins fans already talk about Goodrum potentially being one shortstop in the organization with a chance of providing some long term stability at that position for the Twins in the future. That kind of optimism is evident as Goodrum’s name appears high on most published “Top Twins Prospects” lists for 2013. That makes him certainly a player for Kernels fans to watch closely during his time in Cedar Rapids.


    Jorge Polanco
    – Age 19 – Bats: Both/Throws: R
    2012: Elizabethton (Rookie – Appy)
    G
    PA
    BA
    OPS
    K
    BB
    2B
    3B
    HR
    51
    204
    .318
    .903
    26
    20
    15
    2
    5
    Polanco was signed to a $700,000 bonus as a Dominican 16-year-old back in 2009. He played several games in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 before moving up to the GCL Twins to finish the year. By then, he was already projected to be a top-tier defensive infielder that could also contribute offensively. He repeated the GCL in 2011 and then moved up to Elizabethton for 2012. Jorge showed steady improvement in his offensive game during his first couple of professional seasons, but really took a major leap offensively in 2012 as he showed some power for the first time.

    Polanco played 35 games at shortstop and 15 at second base for Elizabethton, committing just eight errors in 233 chances. That’s not bad at all, especially considering that he’s reported to have excellent range and therefore gets to a lot of balls lesser infielders won’t.


    Candido Pimentel
    – Age 22 – Bats: Both/Throws: R
    2012: Elizabethton (Rookie – Appy)
    G
    PA
    BA
    OPS
    K
    BB
    2B
    3B
    HR
    56
    247
    .330
    .824
    42
    26
    10
    3
    1
    Pimentel was signed as a free agent outfielder out of the Dominican Republic. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 2009, for the GCL Twins in 2010 and 2011 and for Elizabethon in the Appalachian League last summer. After being exclusively an outfielder for his first three years with the Twins organization, Pimentel actually played a few more games at second base for E’town than he did in the outfield.

    That kind of flexibility could serve Pimentel well in Cedar Rapids, especially since learning the new position didn’t seem to negatively impact his bat skills. In fact, after seeing his offensive stats dip in 2011, he turned things around again a bit in 2012. In addition to hitting .330, Pimentel got on base at a .405 pace. That’s important, because once he gets on base, he’s a threat to steal. He also found more gap power in 2012.

    It certainly looks like the players listed above will be more than enough to adequately handle the middle infield for the Kernels in 2012, especially if Pettersen does start the season in Cedar Rapids.

    The one other name that I believe bears mentioning is probably Aderlin Mejia. I covered Mejia in Part 2 when we looked at corner infielders and because the Twins organization appears to be a bit deeper at this level in the middle infield, I would imagine that if Mejia finds himself in Cedar Rapids at some point in 2013, it would be primarily at third base. That said, if a need for middle infield help does arise later in the season, Mejia could just as easily get a call to fill that role, too.

    Next week, we’re going to look at the outfielders and pitchers… I think we’ll really like what we see!

    - JC
    This article was originally published in blog: Prospects and Projects – Projecting the 2013 Kernels, Part 3 started by Jim Crikket
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. TwinsFanInPhilly's Avatar
      TwinsFanInPhilly -
      Good series - I like Polanco a lot and am looking forward to see what he can do in '13.

      Oh, and how old is Mejia? I couldn't find it in Part 2. Thanks.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Mejia is 20. He'll turn 21 in May.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Although few, if any, of us know where players are scheduled to be each spring, it is my understanding the Twins have a good idea where players will play. That would seem to indicate that A.J. has been told he will very likely be in Fort Myers. If he hadn't, I don't see his new wife leaving her nurses job in Rochester, MN for a new job in Naples, FLA.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I wondered about that, too, Roger, and you're probably right. On the other hand, I figure a number of players decide to make their "home" in the Ft Myers area rather than move family around every time they get moved to a new Class. If I were him, I'd have my wife get her new job in Ft Myers even if I didn't know for sure I'd be starting the season there. It's obviously his next step, even if he gets assigned to CR to start the season.
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