Kernels second baseman Alexi Amarista will play in Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Game. He’s batting .310 and has 22 stolen bases.
The first half for most full-season minor leagues ends this weekend. I’ll wait until then to take a mid-season look at the players listed last November in my 2008 Top 10 Prospects report.
Let’s take a look at guys who might have made my list had I possessed a working crystal ball:
RHP Matt Palmer was a journeyman pitcher signed by the Angels over the winter as a six-year minor league free agent from the Giants’ system. Palmer found himself in the big leagues only because of a rash of injuries to the Angels’ starting rotation. The Angels lost John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux, and worst of all the death of Nick Adenhart. At age 30, Palmer is no one’s idea of a future Hall of Famer, but he provided quality innings at the back of the rotation when it was desperately needed. As of this writing, he has a 6-0 record and a 4.13 ERA in 56.2 innings.
LHP Trevor Reckling appeared on many Top 10 lists. He almost made mine — if there’d been a #11, it would have been him — but I wanted to see how his mechanics held up over another full season before I gave him Top 10 status. Trevor began 2009 at age 19 with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He made only three starts before Nick Adenhart’s death rippled through the organization. Sean O’Sullivan moved up from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake, and Reck moved up to fill Sully’s spot. He’s responded beyond all expectations, becoming one of six Travelers named to the Texas League All-Star Game. He turned 20 on May 22, one of the youngest pitchers in the league. Reckling has been shaky in his last three starts, walking 15 in 17.1 innings, which could be mechanical issues, fatigue or just the league catching up with him. It’s also important to note that Dickey-Stephens Park is very pitcher-friendly; it you look at his home/road splits, his home ERA is 1.72 (36.2 IP) but his road ERA is 4.57 (21.2 IP). The second half will be key, to see if fatigue catches up to him and if the extreme home/road split continues.
RHP Trevor Bell, a supplemental draft pick after the first round in June 2005, was generally considered to be a disappointment coming into 2009. Last season found him demoted from Rancho Cucamonga to Cedar Rapids as a disciplinary action, and when he returned to the Quakes he was in the bullpen. There was little reason to think he’d step it up in 2009, join Double-A Arkansas in the starting rotation, be named to the Texas League All-Star Game and be promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake before mid-season. Bell posted a 2.23 ERA in 11 starts (68.2 IP) with 51 strikeouts and 20 walks. But how’s about that home/away split we talked about? Good news. His home ERA was 2.25 (44.0 IP), his road ERA was 2.19 (24.2 IP). He gave up only one homer in the first half, and that was at home. In his first Triple-A start on June 16, Bell went the distance at home against Colorado Springs, pitching a two-hit shutout in hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Ballpark.
2B Alexi Amarista is charitably listed at 5’8″ 150 lbs., but the 20-year old Venezuelan has hit his way into the Midwest League All-Star Game for the Kernels. His glove got him named the Angels’ defensive player of the month for April, committing no errors in 77 chances (although he’s committed nine since then). Amarista has fallen back to earth in June, batting .261 to date. A left-handed batter, he generally lacks power with no homers and a .424 SLG, but he makes up for it with speed, notching 22 stolen bases to date in 32 attempts. His SO:BB ratio is nearly 1:1 (33:27 in 245 AB) and fits well into the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play, striking out once every 7.4 at-bats.
OF Chris Pettit roared out of the gate with an AVG/OBP/SLG of .424/.451/.636 in April for the Salt Lake Bees. The 24-year old outfielder was an unknown when he was selected as a college senior in the 19th round of the 2006 draft, but he’s hit well at each level and was well on his way to establishing himself as a legit prospect when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand on June 4 and may be out for the year. Although he’s seen action at all three outfield positions in his career, he’s best suited for the corners and played mostly LF for the Bees. I’ve written many times here about the importance of splitting out the PCL’s five hitter-friendly parks (Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Reno) from the rest to get an accurate picture of a hitter’s performance; when we do that with Chris, his AVG/OBP/SLG in hitter-friendly parks were .393/.442/.580 (150 AB) and in the rest were .283/.306/.478 (46 AB). Those numbers suggest his offense was largely due to the parks, but we’ll have to wait and see after he returns from the injury if he can retain his prospect status.
OF Jeremy Moore is the quintessential “project,” a potential five-tool player if he can ever harness his raw talents. Last year at Cedar Rapids, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .240/.284/.478, the latter number reflecting an explosion of power (11 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers). He stole 28 bases in 38 attempts, but his frightening 125:21 SO:BB (5.9:1) ratio suggested problems at higher levels. This year at Rancho Cucamonga, Moore has improved his AVG and OBP; his numbers are now .309/.352/.458. His SO:BB ratio of 70:14 (5.0:1) is better than 2008, but his strikeouts have increased with his walks. The Cal League is a notorious hitter’s league, so that should also be taken into consideration. His stolen bases are down too, with only seven in 18 attempts. The left-handed hitting Moore is batting .384 against southpaw pitchers (73 AB), .276 against righties (163 AB). He turns 22 on June 29 (Happy Birthday, J-Mo).
The Cedar Rapids Kernels bullpen deserves a lot of credit for the team qualifying for the post-season by finishing first or second in the first half (that’ll be decided this weekend). ERA isn’t always the best number to measure a relief pitcher’s success, so let’s go with WHIP (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). LHP Drew Taylor has a WHIP of 0.93 and AVG against of .132, RHP Michael Kohn has 0.89 and .165, RHP Jeremy Thorne has 1.12 and .226, and RHP Vladimir Veras has 0.96 and .163. Kohn and Veras close most of the time; Kohn has 11 saves and Veras has 10. Taylor is averaging 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings, Kohn 14.2 and Veras 10.5. Taylor, a 34th round pick, might move up fastest due to his age (23 in August) and the fact that he’s left-handed, but he struggled with Rancho in April when he had a 2.82 WHIP in five relief appearances before returning to C.R. Orem manager Tom Kotchman told me last year that Taylor was a great scouting job by Chris McAlpin, and may project as a situation lefty with 87-91 MPH velocity and a slider.
It’s no surprise that an organization that values pitching so highly should be so deep in pitching. Yes, there’s a lack of power hitters, but if the parent club ever sees the need to make a trade they certainly have a lot of pitching to offer in return, and baseball professionals will tell you that pitching is the coin of the realm.
UPDATE 2:30 PM PDT — I wanted to add a comment about Salt Lake outfielder Terry Evans. Terry made the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list after making his major league debut that year, but he missed most of 2008 after suffering a torn right labrum in a slide at home plate on May 6. Evans fell off the prospect radar but is trying to play his way back into the Angels’ plans. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .284/.330/.521, but as with Pettit we need to split his numbers into hitter-friendly and other parks. His hitter-friendly numbers are .292/.344/.536 (192 AB), and in other parks .261/.288/.478 (69 AB). This mirrored what I saw in 2007; Terry was never one to take many walks, but almost all of them were in hitter-friendly parks. Why he takes almost no walks in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks, I can’t explain. In any case, the “neutral” numbers along with his high strikeout rate (once every 3.4 AB) suggest he’s not quite ready for prime time prospect status just yet, and at age 27 he may be about out of time.
Back on April 3, I wrote about Sugar, a remarkable film about the minor league career of a Dominican pitcher.
It was a delight for those of us who know Iowa baseball locations, and today’s Burlington Hawk Eye has an article about Burlington locations used in the film along with a general overview of the story. I’m glad they didn’t give away the ending, because it’s not what you expect.
Press release from the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Kernels release 2009 Opening Day Roster
April 6, 2009 – The 2009 Cedar Rapids Kernels have broken Spring Training camp and are on their way to Cedar Rapids! The 25-player roster includes two of the LA Angels Top 30 Prospects, as ranked by Baseball America, in RHP Will Smith (#12) and RHP Manuarys Correa (#19).
The roster includes nine members of the 2008 MWL playoff team as pitchers Chris Armstrong and Michael Davitt; catchers Anel De Los Santos and C.J. Bressoud; infielders Alexi Amarista, Hector Estrella and Gabe Jacobo; and outfielders Angel Castillo and Carlos Colmenares return to Cedar Rapids. RHP Vladimir Veras, who played in Cedar Rapids in 2007 but was injured last season, also is a member of the 2009 team.
Pitching will once again be the Kernels’ strong suit as the projected starting rotation features RHP Manuarys Correa, RHP Michael Davitt, LHP Manuel Flores, LHP Jayson Miller and RHP Will Smith. The bullpen looks strong too with two closers: LHP Andrew Taylor (5 saves) and RHP Jeremy Thorne (8 saves – .121 BA against).
The Kernels’ offense should feature lots of speed as OF Robert Auer and INF Alexi Amarista both had over 20 stolen bases in short-season play. Gabe Jacobo (10 HR/56 RBI) and Angel Castillo (14 HR/47 RBI) should supply some power and RBI production.
The 2009 Kernels are scheduled to arrive in Cedar Rapids at 4 pm tonight (Monday) and are scheduled to play an exhibition game against Kirkwood Community College at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, April 7th as part of ‘Meet the Kernels Night’.
Opening Day at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium is scheduled for Thursday, April 9th when the Kernels take on the Beloit Snappers at 6:35 pm. Tickets are on sale online at http://www.kernels.com, or by calling the Kernels Ticket Office at (319) 896-7560. Ticket Office hours are 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday.
Angels minor leaguer Chris Rosenbaum comments on “Odd Man Out” in his latest blog entry.
Angels minor league catcher Chris Rosenbaum kept a blog journal last year during his season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. It was widely acknowledged by fans of the Angels’ minor league system as a humble yet honest insight into the life of a minor leaguer.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Chris would comment on Odd Man Out, the book published by former Angels minor leaguer Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read Chris’s comments on the book.
This paragraph pretty much sums up his sentiment:
I have not read the book, and have no intentions of reading it. However, I have read excerpts and spoken to individuals surrounding the stories told within the covers, and have formed my opinion that this work was an attempt to hurt people for personal gain. Many things discussed in this book, whether true or not (and much evidence is piling up suggesting the latter), occurred in the inner sanctum of a clubhouse or related team functions.
Strictly my opinion, those on the Internet defending this book want to see athletes knocked off their pedestal. Never mind the athletes never asked to be placed on that pedestal. But there will always be those who are jealous of people who are successful in life. A “tell-all” book, accurate or not, that claims to reveal the foibles of athletes might give comfort to those who feel inferior and insecure about their own lives.
Unfortunately, that goes with the territory on the Internet. People can hide behind the anonymity of their modem and attack others with behavior that would get a punch in the nose if they tried it in public.
Come to think of it, McCarthy may have thought he could embellish his book without consequences, because he’d never run across the people whose integrity he attacked in the book. It remains to be seen if any of the people named in the book will take legal action.
This letter came in e-mail today from Kernels Foundation president Gary Keoppel:
On behalf of The Kernels Foundation, I would like to thank you for your support of Cedar Rapids as we recover from the record floods of 2008. The Kernels Foundation received $1,595 from you and FutureAngels.com followers and that money was donated to the Taylor Elementary School Tiger Cub Club. Taylor Elementary, a partner school of the Kernels, was severely damaged and will not reopen until the 2009-2010 school year. The Tiger Cub Club will use the money to build a walking track around the school campus and the Cedar Rapids Kernels ground crew will help rebuild their baseball field. The children from this neighborhood school are attending other schools around the city this year and the track and field will allow them to use the school property while they are waiting for the school to be reopened next year.
In addition, The Kernels Foundation received a $25,000 donation from Minor League Baseball and the entire amount was donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids (BGCCR). The BGCCR was housed in a former YMCA building and water reached the second floor ruining not only the facility but also everything in it. The Angels donated nine laptop computers to the BGCCR to replace those destroyed in the flood. BGCCR is continuing their programs in a separate facility as they determine what they can do to replace their main facility.
The Kernels Foundation also held a raffle this summer and gave away a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Proceeds of the raffle went to the YMCA of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area resulting in a $3,000 donation. The Angels donated six laptop computers to the YMCA to replace the ones they lost in the flood. The YMCA was recently reopened to serve the community.
Jack Roeder of the Kernels can give you more details, but the Kernels helped raise over $67,000 for flood relief this summer and used the ball park for distributing school supplies to students, preparing food for the Meals on Wheels program and many other activities. Veterans Memorial Stadium was indeed a multi-purpose facility this summer.
Thanks again to you and your FutureAngels.com readers for your help. Cedar Rapids is working hard to recover and make CR an even better place to live, work, play and cheer on the Kernels. I enjoy checking your website and look forward to meeting you during your next visit to CR.
The Kernels Foundation
I just wanted to say I’m very proud of all of you, including BeesGal, the Quakes and Owlz Booster Club for stepping up to the plate to help the people of Cedar Rapids when it mattered most. You did good.
Quakes manager Ever Magallanes has left the Angels organization to manage Double-A for the White Sox in 2009.
Travs’ manager Bobby Magallanes was on the Angels’ pre-game radio show today. Interviewer Rory Markas brought up that his brother Ever, who managed the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2008, has left the Angels organization to manage Double-A for the Chicago White Sox in 2009.
Like Bobby, Ever is a class act. Ever was the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ manager in 2007. After a devastating flood struck Cedar Rapids in 2008, Ever helped me put together a video for Kernels fans that played on their scoreboard to let them know the players in Rancho Cucamonga — most of whom played for the Kernels in 2007 — were thinking of them.
The Angels don’t usually announce their minor league coaching assignments until December or January, so we’ll have to wait and see who manages the Quakes in 2009.