At The Half – Cedar Rapids

Chris Pettit hit .346 in the first half with 9 HR and a .429 OBP.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels finished 38-31 in the first half, good enough for a post-season slot in most leagues, but not in the Midwest League Western Division which has eight teams and two teams that finished ahead of the Kernels.

The Kernels lost one game due to weather, although many other games were postponed due to bad weather and made up as doubleheaders. How much of a toll that took is only speculation, but in any case the team showed enough talent to think their core prospects will move through the system similar to the famous group selected in the 2001 draft.

Topping the list is outfielder Chris Pettit, selected in the 19th round of the June 2006 draft. At age 22 (he turns 23 on August 15), Pettit is definitely old for the Midwest League, but you can’t argue his numbers — an AVG/OBP/SLG of .346/.429/.579, 9 HR, 24 SB, 17 SB in 21 attempts and a Midwest League All-Star berth. If anyone deserves to move up to Rancho Cucamonga after this week’s All-Star break, it’s Pettit, who lives in nearby San Dimas.

First baseman Mark Trumbo, who was in danger of dropping off the top prospect radar after starting the year repeating the Midwest League, got off to a slow start but has started to step it up after the Kernels coaching staff reportedly rebuilt his hitting mechanics. Trumbo’s AVG/OBP/SLG by month:

  • April: .204/.245/286
  • May: .252/.302/.421
  • June: .319/.351/.507

Trumbo is only 21, so it’s way too early to write him off as some people have on fan boards.

Catcher Hank Conger, the Angels’ #1 pick in the June 2006 draft, finished with a first-half line of .282/.336/.469. Conger, 19, was expected by me to show limited power in a pitcher’s league, and in April his SLG was only .426. But he improved to a .500 SLG in May and is at .472 to date for June. His OBP has steadily progressed — .306 in April, .320 in May, and .400 in June.

Third baseman Matt Sweeney, 19, has a line of .272/.329/.460. His 15 errors have to be taken in the context of a league where not all infields are created equal. Although the Cedar Rapids infield is one of the best in the league, Sweeney has 11 errors at home and four on the road. Go figure. Sweeney has 5 HR in June but his AVG for the month is only .232 and his OBP is .274, suggesting he’s become a bit homer-happy and needs to get back to basics, but that’s only speculation based on reading a line of numbers.

Tim Schoeninger has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 64:6 in 81 IP.

Looking at the pitching staff, Tim Schoeninger may not be a “name” prospect but like Pettit he’s an All-Star. Schoeninger, who turns 23 in September, has a 2.67 ERA, an opponents’ average of .265, and a mind-boggling SO:BB ratio of 64:6 in 81 IP. His ERA and OBA by month have actually dropped — he’s at 2.25 and .216 for June to date. Schoeninger, like Pettit, is the top pitching candidate to move up to Rancho after the break.

RHP Sean O’Sullivan was probably the best-performing pitching prospect in the rotation until he went on the disabled list June 4 with a back injury. O’Sullivan’s ERA was 2.82 in 71 IP with a .272 OBA and a 49:17 SO:BB ratio in 67 IP. He turns 20 in September.

RHP Trevor Bell, the Angels’ #1 pick in 2005, struggled with an injury and has pitched only 41.2 IP. His ERA is 3.46 with a 30:4 SO:BB ratio and a .297 OBA. He turns 21 in October.

In the bullpen, I’m intrigued by submariner Aaron Cook. In 19 relief appearances (26 IP), Aaron has a 1.04 ERA, a 17:1 SO:BB ratio, and a .253 OBA. Cook turns 24 so he’s obviously too old for this league, and his submarine delivery will confuse young and inexperienced hitters. Another submariner, Darren O’Day, is ahead of him in Rancho Cucamonga but there’s no law that says a team can’t have two submariners.

I continue to watch Warner Madrigal, the former slugger who was converted to the mound in 2006 after a series of hand injuries pretty much put an end to his hitting career. Madrigal, 23, has a 3.64 ERA in 29.2 relief innings, a 31:17 SO:BB ratio and a .265 OBA. Patience is usually a virtue when it comes to relievers, especially those converted from another position. Ask Troy Percival.

Next time … we look at Rancho Cucamonga’s first half.

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