Fourth section in the series. The Midwest League Kernels had some interesting talent this season, and performed well despite flooding issues in their area of residence.
Finally out of rookie ball and into the "real" minor leagues. The Midwest League is the first big test a potential minor leaguer faces on their way up the ladder. Guys who previously hung tough or muddled through are typically exposed. The things to remember:
- Hitting-suppressive. Not so much a pitcher's league as just a nasty place to try and hit. Cedar Rapids can be brutal. If you manage even an .800 OPS, you are ahead of the curve. Do better significantly better than that over a full season, and you're either way too old to be there or top-prospect material.
- Age range. 20-21 is okay, 19 is great. 22 is high-side, and 23 is too old to still be hanging around A-Ball if you want to make the bigs and stick.
- A-Ball. Guys here are typically 3-4 years away.
- I am not a professional scout, though I have watched these players in person a few times.
Trevor Reckling- LHSP Born 05/22/89 (19) - 3.37 ERA, 152.1 IP, 1.29 WHIP, 59 BB, 128 K
Reckling came mostly unheralded out of the AZL after a fairly good performance there in limited time. For the first half of the season, Reckling managed to match hyped prospect Jordan Walden in production. However, after Walden was promoted Reckling started to fall off the table, which isn't much of a surprise given that last year he only threw 36 innings vs 150+ this season. His K/9 and BB rates actually improved post-break though, so it seems that while he was getting beat up to a certain extent, he was also learning how to pitch. Reckling also bosts a fairly high ground-ball slant which should serve him well in years to come.
As far as comparables, Reckling is some distance behind Sean O'Sullivan and Nick Adenhart, both of whom walked in to Cedar Rapids at age 19 and totally dominated. However, that's not saying much, as a lot of guys would be ranked behind those two, being as young as they were. Reckling's BB rates improved substantially as the year went on which is a good sign, so his high season BB totals are less worrisom.
Reckling is another solid pitching prospect produced by our system, and after putting up a good year here, he'll be put through the gauntlet at Rancho next year.
Clay Fuller- CF Born 06/17/1987 (21) - .260/.379/.425/.806, 125 G, 438 AB, 19 2B, 13 3B, 9 HR, 68 BB, 128 K, 36 SB, 10 CS
Fuller is pretty border-line as far as top prospects go, but for most of the season he was the best hitter Cedar Rapids had. Plus, he walks a lot, which is always a plus. Fuller has good speed and his 13 triples shouldn't be over looked. That combination of power and speed is normally hard to find; the Midwest League doesn't have particularly spacious parks and typically the fielders have become pretty consistent at taking good routes once they hit this level. Fuller is also a switch hitter, for whatever it's worth.
Comparables? Well, he boasts a pretty high OPS for this level, beating out guys like Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Sean Rodriguez when they played here (S-Rod was WAY younger though). His walk-rate is excellent, but he strikes out a ton. This tends to suggest that he's taking a bunch of border-line pitches to try and get deeper in counts, which is laudable, but he needs to either learn how to protect a bit more, or make better contact when he does protect, if he wants to continue to succeed as he moves up. The other big concern with Fuller is that his high OPS was mostly the product of one month where he absolutely lit up (1.000+OPS in July). Every other month his OPS hovered around .750, so take that into consideration.
Gabriel Jacobo- 1B Born 04/14/1987 (21) - .320/.338/.504/.842, 36 G, 125 AB, 12 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 2 BB, 25 K, 5 SB, 0 CS
Jacobo only got limited time with Cedar Rapids, but our 7th round pick mashed down at Orem and was deservedly given a chance to show what he could do with the Kernels. He didn't disappoint, putting up solid numbers across the board even after the move. The one caveat with Jacobo is that he doesn't walk hardly at all, but at the same time he also doesn't strike out all that often.
His limited action doesn't allow me to get too high on him, but he could probably start at Rancho next season if the Angels felt like allowing him to.
Also worth a mention...
Jose Perez- RHSP Born 09/14/1987 (20)
Julio Perez- OF Born 09/28/1985 (22)
Jeremy Moore- OF Born 06/29/1987 (21)
Andrew Romine- SS Born 12/24/1985 (22)
Jose Perez had great peripherals at Orem and nearly made the prospect list here in Cedar Rapids, but 5 starts just didn't seem like enough to go off of. Julio Perez has lots of power and put up consistently good numbers June-August, but his dismal May and giant K-BB disparity kept him off the list. Moore has even more power than Perez and some pretty good wheels, but has serious discipline and contact issues.
Romine has good discipline, surprisingly lacks power despite a decently large frame, but his best trait by far is his speed. 62 steals vs 18 times caught is Ricky Henderson-level.
A lot of the guys here were kind of old-side this year, and while they did well enough to make the playoffs, this group is pretty lackluster offensively. The next class is looking a lot better. If you're wondering what happened to Walden, he had enough starts at High-A that I included him up there. Rancho Cucamonga is up next.