Children of the Corn

In his first three starts with Cedar Rapids, Garrett Richards has 20 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.


The current issue of Baseball America has an extensive article on the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ prospect-laden roster. This is the only place I can find it online; BA places some articles in their print version, some online, a strategy intended for you to subscribe to both. (Subscribe to the BA print version and you get the online content for free.)

Five of their Top 10 Angels prospects are on the Kernels roster — #3 Mike Trout, #5 Garrett Richards, #6 Fabio Martinez, #7 Randal Grichuk, and #8 Tyler Skaggs.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported on April 16 that 11 of Trout’s first 13 hits were infield hits. I wrote in the 2009 Top 10 Prospects report last November, “Although he has power, he probably won’t be a true power hitter; if he can learn to bunt for hits, it may evolve him into a leadoff hitter role.”

Beyond the Fab Five, there are other players of interest on the Kernels’ roster.

The first six of the Angels’ 2009 draft picks are on the roster. Five were taken in the first round, regular or supplemental phase — Grichuk, Trout, Skaggs, Richards and Tyler Kehrer. Pat Corbin was selected in the second round.

Jon Bachanov, selected by the Angels in the supplemental round of the June 2007 draft, is in the Kernels’ bullpen after “Tommy John” surgery. If you’re looking for a sleeper, there’s 6’9″ John Hellweg, a Tom Kotchman find selected in the 16th round of the June 2008 draft. And there’s C.J. Bressoud, a former Braves minor league catcher converted to the mound in 2009 by the Angels.

Catcher Carlos Ramirez, selected in the 8th round last year, has drawn rave reviews. He reminds me of Bengie Molina, who wasn’t exactly a gazelle like Jeff Mathis, but excelled behind the plate and hit well enough to become a big-league regular.

On the infield, second baseman Jean Segura has drawn comparisons to Erick Aybar, although the arm isn’t quite as strong. First baseman Casey Haerther hit .350 last year for Rookie-A Orem.

One player who’s flown under the radar is third baseman Luis Jimenez. “Lucho” missed all of 2009 with a right shoulder injury. That led BA to drop him from their Top 30 list, which I think is a big mistake. If my top prospects list had gone beyond ten, “Lucho” certainly would have been in the Top 20 and maybe the Top 15. He’s playing nearly every day at third base, so the shoulder seems fine, and once he shakes the rust he should start cranking out dingers again.

I’ll be in Cedar Rapids April 30 – May 3 for the Kane County series. Whether this becomes a team for the ages remains to be seen, but this group reminds me of two other “bubbles” that started back with Tom Kotchman in Utah. The 2001 Provo Angels team had future major leaguers Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Nick Gorneault, Ervin Santana, Steve Andrade, Pedro Liriano, Steven Shell and Jake Woods. The 2005 Orem Owlz had Brad Coon, Hainley Statia, Mark Trumbo, Nick Adenhart, Jose Arredondo, Stephen Marek, Robert Mosebach and Kevin Lynch. Obviously the latter group isn’t as distinguished as the first, but it had significant talent and some of those (Marek, Statia, Trumbo) may yet emerge as big leaguers.

Reading Angels fan sites, it’s clear a lot of them are following the Kernels, and that can only be good for Angels minor league baseball.

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