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  • Beyond Buxton

    For all who watched The Byron Buxton Show on Fox Sports North on Monday, there is no question who is the top prospect on the Cedar Rapids roster. Buxton was the clear-cut focus of the broadcast, for good reason. Not only was he 3-4 with a single, a bases-clearing double and a triple, but he made one of the best catches you will see all year. He is also hitting a robust .350/.444/.578 (1.022) with 14 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs 60 runs scored, 47 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He has earned all the attention.

    However, this is much more than a one-man team. I like to see the other guys get some attention as well. This Kernels team is stacked right now.

    Within days, they will claim a playoff spot for the season’s first half and they have eight players on their current roster who were named All-Stars. That doesn’t include Tyler Duffey who was promoted last week after being named to the All-Star team.

    Today, I am going to give a little bit more information on some non-Buxton players to keep on your radar. Here are eight Kernels that ranked in my Top 52 Twins Prospects last week (my organization ranking in parentheses).

    JO Berrios (5)
    – The righthander from Puerto Rico was the Twins supplemental first round pick one year ago. He signed pretty quickly for $1.55 million and pitched great at both the GCL and Elizabethton. Combined, he walked four batters and struck out 49. He is young and he was chosen to play for Puerto Rico in the WBC this spring. Because of that, his regular season was delayed as he built arm strength. However, he earned a spot on the Midwest League All-Star team. In eight starts, he is 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA. He had a bad outing in his most recent start. It was the first time that he had given up more than three runs this year (something he did last year just once as well). In 47.1 innings, he has walked just 12 and struck out 50. He throws a fastball that touches 94. He also has a very good curveball and changeup and knows how to pitch. He turned 19 at the end of May.

    Jorge Polanco (9)
    – Polanco signed with the Twins in July of 2009 as a 16-year-old free agent from the Dominican Republic and is still just 19. He was small and thin. He was known for tremendous defense, and that has proven true in his time with the Twins. However, he spent two years in the GCL and hit .233 and 250. He had an offensive breakout season last year in Elizabethton, but how would it transfer to a full-season league? Well, since opening night when he batted second, he has been the Kernels' number three hitter all season. He has hit .291/.342/.447 (.789) with 17 doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 44 RBI, while playing solid defense at second base. He will also continue to get some time at shortstop throughout the year.

    Travis Harrison (10)
    – When the Twins drafted Harrison out of his California high school as their first supplemental first round pick in 2011, it was thought he would be a very difficult sign. He had a strong commitment to USC but in the end he decided to sign and play. The $1.05 million signing bonus may have factored in as well. Harrison has tremendous power potential. He is very strong and has a good approach at the plate, potentially making him more than just a home run hitter. So far this year, he is hitting .265/.347/.470 (.817) with 17 doubles, nine homers and 32 RBI. He actually had a tenth homer that went over the fence, but he was only given credit for a walk-off single rather than a walk-off grand slam. His glove at third base is a work-in-progress. He works really hard at it and has improved greatly in 2012. It’s important to remember that he too is still young. He won’t turn 21 until after the season.

    Adam Brett Walker (12)
    – Walker’s father (Adam) was a replacement player for the Minnesota Vikings in 1987. He was a great athlete and so is his son. Walker grew up in Milwaukee and chose to go south for college, playing at Jacksonville University. The Twins made him their third round pick a year ago. As the 97th overall pick, he signed for slot value of $490,400. He went to Elizabethton where he hit 14 home runs before hitting some huge homers in the Appalachian League playoffs. Although he doesn’t like to walk and strikes out quite a bit, he has shown great power for the Kernels. He is hitting .272/.325/.525 (.850) with 15 doubles, five triples, ten home runs and 51 RBI. He is a big man at 6-4 and 230 pounds, but he has good speed and plays solid defense in right field.

    Niko Goodrum (15)
    – Goodrum was unable to play in the game yesterday because has been on the DL with a concussion. He has resumed baseball activities and hopes to return just before the Midwest League All-Star game so he would be able play in the game. He has had a very solid season. He is hitting .270/.382/.388 (.770) with 12 doubles, three triples, a homer and 28 RBI. He is very patient at the plate and takes good, solid swings from both sides of the plate. He also plays a very good shortstop and has a strong arm. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, Goodrum signed quickly for $514,800. He was a long, lanky kid. He was proud this spring to have reached 200 pounds and has been able to hit the ball with more authority.

    Mason Melotakis (23)
    – The left-hander from Northeastern State was one of the Twins' 2nd round picks last June. He signed for $750,000, about $68,500 below slot. The left-hander was clocked as high as 97 on the radar gun as a reliever in college. He has gotten an opportunity to be a starter and has done a pretty good job so far in Cedar Rapids. Following his seven shutout innings on Monday, Melotakis is now 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA. In 58.1 innings, he has allowed 57 hits, walked 28 and struck out 44. So, he is walking too many, to be sure. He also is not accumulating a lot of strikeouts. As a starter, his fastball is sitting 90-93, enabling him to be able to go six or seven innings. He has the potential to be a solid #4 starter or a potentially dominant left-handed, late-game reliever.

    Hudson Boyd (31)
    – Boyd was the Twins 2nd supplemental first round pick in 2011. He pitched his high school ball in Ft. Myers and signed at the deadline for $1 million. Through 11 starts this season, Boyd is just 1-3 with a 6.02 ERA. In 55 innings, he has given up 58 hits, 27 walks and 43 strikeouts. So again, too many walks and not enough strikeouts. Boyd will be 20 years old throughout the season, and I think there’s a chance he could be back in Cedar Rapids in 2014 for more development. However, he has a fastball in the low-90s. He has a very good changeup and a very good curveball, just not all the time. He has the pitches to be successful, but needs to be more consistent.

    Dalton (DJ) Hicks (41)
    – If you saw the game on FSN, you saw that Hicks is a big man. He has a big, long, powerful swing. He has used it to hit .288/.363/.493 (.856) with 20 doubles, nine homers and 51 RBI. He was the Twins 17th round pick a year ago out of Central Florida. It was his walk-off grand slam that won the Appalachian League championship for Elizabethton last year. He has already turned 23, so I think he will be moved up to Ft. Myers (with Buxton) after the Kernels clinch the first half title.

    JD Williams (NR)
    – JD Williams is a guy who shows that repeating a level can be good. He was drafted in the 10th round as a great athlete out of high school in Florida. He was pushed to Beloit a year ago and struggled. This season, he has been an on-base machine. Despite hitting just .252, he gets on base 39% of the time and has hit 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs and driven in 31 runs. He has also stolen 12 bases.

    There are nine “other” names to know in Cedar Rapids. That doesn’t even include right-handed pitcher Tyler Duffey or left-handed starter Taylor Rogers, who has a sub-2 ERA since joining the Miracle roster as well.

    Also in the next month the Kernels will likely be joined by German outfielder Max Kepler. Too, we hope Luke Bard will heal and soon be making starts for the team.

    In other words, that four hour drive from the Twin Cities to Cedar Rapids will still be completely with it, even after Byron Buxton is promoted to Ft. Myers.
    This article was originally published in blog: Beyond Buxton started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. B Richard's Avatar
      B Richard -
      Thanks a lot for this Seth, glad some of the other talent is getting attention. I personally cannot wait for Kepler to return
    1. SD Buhr's Avatar
      SD Buhr -
      Very timely post, Seth, thank you. Like everyone, I love watching Buxton play baseball, but you're absolutely right about there being many, many reasons to continue watching this team. Thanks for taking the time to list them.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Enjoyed reading this. And a reminder of just how young some of these players are is always a good thing.
    1. E. Andrew's Avatar
      E. Andrew -
      Great primer for a trip to CR, thanks Seth!
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Seth, when was the last time that the end-of-the-season A+ squad was made up of 6-8 players that started in A-??? I have to think Buxton, Hicks, Williams, and Walker are almost guaranteed to end in Fort Myers. Melotakis probably should eventually. And there are likely a few other pitchers as well.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I really liked Walker in the game yesterday. He made an acrobatic catch near the end of the game, and he stole a base comfortably. I'm really intrigued by someone with his power who's actually an athlete to go with it.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Very nice read - thank you Seth.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I have not read great things (little snippets here and there) that suggest Polanco isn't a great defender that he was considered when he signed. He will stick at 2B but he doesn't sound like the plus defender that his reputation suggests. These are just whisperings here and there so it will be interesting if the end of season scouting reports say this also.
    1. strumdatjag's Avatar
      strumdatjag -
      Amazing game for Buxton last night. My wife and I took the trek to Cedar Rapids for the Saturday and Sunday games on Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday was rained out. On Saturday, Berrios had a pretty good game, but Matt Tomshaw, lefty in relief, was downright impressive in his last game before promotion to the Miracle. I was most impressed, in this very small one-day sample, with Jorge Polanco. By the way if you go to Cedar Rapids, stop at the Suzy Q café in Mason City for their Spic and Span Pork Tenderloin (no relation to Denard). Great sandwich at a classic place that makes Mickey's diner look like a palace.
    1. BaseballDad's Avatar
      BaseballDad -
      I was in CR Friday-Sunday this past weekend. Adam Walker (3rd rd 2012) was the player who surprised me the most. He is an incredible athlete who smoked the ball every time at the plate. He is surprisingly quick for a big man. The Twins have another potential star in Walker. Hudson Boyd shows flashes of greatness at times. He had Cougar batters helpless in at bats where he could get his breaking pitches over for strikes. His fastball consistently sat in the low 90's. His poor stats so far are deceiving as to his potential if he can remain consistent with his command. Travis Harrison is the unsung hero of the group and probably the nicest guy on the team. His play and approach reminded me of Michael Cuddyer who wasn't a slouch by any means for the Twins. Twins fans will love him if he can harness his potential.

      Cedar Rapids is an easy trip for Twins fans and where else can you get the best seats in the house for $11 while seeing the Twins' future up close and personal. Sunday games are especially sweet since the players go into right field for 30 minutes after the game while fans are allowed onto the field to chat with them and get autographs and pictures. Really nice move by the Kernals!
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I liked Polanco a lot. Defensively, it was just three games at 2B, but I thought he looked very good with the glove most of the time. Some question if he has the arm strength to make all the throws from SS, but he can catch it.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Good read. Thanks Seth
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      When I first saw the title I read "Batman Beyond" (a animated show in 2000) in my head. Hope Buxton is as good baseball as Batman is at crime fighting- LOL!
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      Any updates on Niko's health?
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Another great article. Let's hope that all these guys succeed.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Seth, when was the last time that the end-of-the-season A+ squad was made up of 6-8 players that started in A-??? I have to think Buxton, Hicks, Williams, and Walker are almost guaranteed to end in Fort Myers. Melotakis probably should eventually. And there are likely a few other pitchers as well.
      Including their best pitcher, Steve Gruver...
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pitz View Post
      Any updates on Niko's health?
      Got an update from him yesterday. He's doing some running and feeling pretty good. The hope is that he can play one game before the All-Star game and then play in the All-Star game. That's a good goal.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Including their best pitcher, Steve Gruver...
      Yeah, in my mind, the "givens" are Buxton, Hicks and Gruver... I think Melotakis moves up at some point, and probably Walker. I'd like to see JD move up too.

      I also would ahve no problem with Harrison, Goodrum, and Polanco spending the full year there. I think that's the right level or them.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I liked Polanco a lot. Defensively, it was just three games at 2B, but I thought he looked very good with the glove most of the time. Some question if he has the arm strength to make all the throws from SS, but he can catch it.
      Very good is possible but I no longer get the feeling that he's the slick fielding int'l signee that he was considered or that you wrote up. My understanding is that he's getting stockier and has lost some of the quickness (before his 20th birthday) and he has a solid but not great arm. This sounds more like an average (or a little above average) defender at 2B depending on how well he executes the fundamentals.
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