CEDAR RAPIDS Let's start with the guys who aren't here you thought might be.
Pitcher Nick Maronde, first baseman C.J. Cron and second baseman Taylor Lindsey are three of the top 10 prospects in the Los Angeles Angels farm system and are being double-jumped from Rookie-ball to high-Class A. They're skipping past the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Kernels Manager Jamie Burke didn't even see them in spring training.
"No, I didn't, actually," Burke said. "They did start up in high-A, and they did have good spring training stats. They played very well, so they deserved it. That's what happened with a couple of guys here. They didn't know they were coming here, but they had good springs."
Now will they have good summers? Five months and 140 games will answer that question.
The Kernels conducted their annual "Meet The Players Night" Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, scrimmaging for fans as they prepare for the 2012 season. It opens Thursday night at Wisconsin, and the home opener is Monday night at 6:35 against Clinton to start a seven-game homestand.
"These kids, they're young, but they went out there and they battled (in spring training)," said Burke, a former Seattle Mariners catcher making his professional coaching/managing debut. "They played the game hard, and they did it right. They go about their business. I saw a group of guys who improved every day. As a ballclub, overall, I think we're going to compete. I think we've got a great pitching staff, and I think we've got some guys who can play the game. I look forward to seeing what happens."
Burke said his most-days lineup will include Kaleb Cowart at third base and Chevy Clarke in center field. They were taken 12 picks apart in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Georgia high schools.
Cowart is the Angels' No. 6 prospect, according to Baseball America, a switch hitter who was looked at by scouts as a pitcher. Clarke is making the leap from the Arizona Rookie League.
Joining Clarke in the outfield will be Ryan Jones (left) and Andy Workman (right), who spent time last season in Cedar Rapids. Joining Cowart on the infield most days will be Frazier Hall (first), Kevin Moesquit (second) and Wendell Soto (shortstop).
Hall had a monster season at Rookie-level Orem in 2011, hitting .355 with 19 doubles, nine home runs and 46 RBIs in 62 games, although he's a college player (Southern) who will have to prove in low-Class A that those numbers were legit.
The opening-night starting pitcher is scheduled to be right-hander Austin Wood, a hard thrower who is considered raw. The rotation includes righties Mike Clevinger and Jairo Diaz and lefties Michael Johnson and Ryan Crowley.
"There's a lot of stuff going on," Burke said of his first spring as an instructor. "It's from 5:30 in the morning until 5:30 at night. You have all these kids who you are trying to remember their names. You know, what's going to happen with them? Where are we going to put these guys? A lot of meetings. I didn't expect it.
"It was an eye-opener for me, but I also enjoyed it. I learned a lot. For me, it's that transition of going from player to manager. For me, right now, I kind of relate to these guys kind of like a player explaining things. Once I get the verbiage down, I'll be able to teach them. That's just how I communicate with them, as a player, since (2010) was my last year."