Twins 2015 Minor League Hitter Of The Year - Max Kepler
- James Beresford – Rochester Red Wings – 153-498 - .307/.341/.359 (.701) – 21-2B, 1-3B, 1-HR, 50-RBI
- Danny Ortiz – Rochester Red Wings – 120-484 - .248/.295/.430 (.725) – 31-2B, 3-3B, 17-HR, 78-RBI
- Travis Harrison – Chattanooga Lookouts – 95-396 - .240/.363/.356 (.719) – 23-2B, 4-3B, 5-HR, 54-RBI
- Niko Goodrum – Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 96-414 - .232/.331/.367 (.698) – 17-2B, 6-3B, 9-HR, 38-RBI
- Alex Swim – Ft. Myers – 107-344 - .311/.349/.360 (.709) – 13-2B, 2-3B, 0-HR, 38-RBI
- TJ White – Cedar Rapids/Ft. Myers Miracle – 113-450 - .251/.336/.342 (.678) – 23-2B, 6-3B, 2-HR, 54-RBI
- Edgar Corcino – Cedar Rapids Kernels – 90-330 - .273/.340/.376 (.715) – 16-2B, 3-3B, 4-HR, 41-RBI
- Nick Gordon – Cedar Rapids Kernels – 133-481 - .277/.336/.360 (.696) – 23-2B, 7-3B, 1-HR, 58-RBI
Here are the top eight vote-getters for Twins Minor League hitter of the year.
#8 – Jorge Polanco – Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings (139-525 - .288/.339/.386 (.725), with 23 doubles, 3 triples, 6 HR, 53 RBI)
Polanco has had another solid season in the Twins system. As he did in 2014, Polanco moved around frequently. He spent the first half in Chattanooga. He has again had two brief cups of coffee with the big league club. He spent 22 games in Rochester. Following his most recent demotion from the Twins, he went back to the Lookouts. In 95 AA games this year, Polanco hit .289/.346/.393 (.739) with 17 doubles, three triples and six home runs. In 22 AAA games, he hit .284/.309/.352 (.661). Defense has been a much bigger concern for Polanco as he committed 28 errors in the minor leagues. In four games with the Twins, he had two more errors, though he was 3-10 at the plate. Where does he fit in the organization? Can he play enough defense at shortstop to be a big league regular? It will be interesting.
#7 – Kennys Vargas – Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings (69-244 - .283/.414/.496 (.910), with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 13 HR, 46 RBI)
Though there were consistently rumors in spring training that Vargas could begin the season in the minor leagues. However, he was the fifth hitter in the Twins Opening Day lineup. However, he struggled mightily and was sent to Rochester. Weeks later, he returned, but the struggles continued. On July 1st, he was sent down to AA Chattanooga. It was what he needed to jump-start his season again. In 35 games, he hit .287/.417/.516 (.934) with three doubles, two triples and seven homers. He moved back up to AAA. He was the Twins Daily Hitter of the Month in August and returned to the Twins on September 1st. This is obviously not a list that Vargas wanted to be on, but he handled it well and the hope would be that he takes what he learned and take a step forward in his big league career.
#6 – Byron Buxton – Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings (89-292 - .305/.367/.500 (.867), with 10 doubles, 13 triple, 7 HR, 45 RBI)
After missing much of the 2014 season, excitement was high for the Twins (and baseball’s) top prospect. 2015 has been a topsy-turvy year for the phenom. He hit .180 through the first 12 games. Doug Mientkiewicz gave him two straight days off to clear his mind. He responded by hitting .338 (1.056 OPS) over the next 16 games. Then he went 1-21 (.048) over the next five games. However, over the next 25 games, he hit .347/.422/.564 (.987) with 12 extra base hits. He was called up to the Twins and hit .189 in his 11 games with the Twins. However, he missed about six weeks due to a thumb injury. When he returned, he was sent to Rochester. He hit .400 and hit in all 13 games he played in with the Red Wings. At that point, Aaron Hicks was hurt and Buxton returned to the Twins lineup. He had multiple hits in four of his first six games and has hit .282/.326/.378 (.705) in 31 games since his return. More important to the 2015 Twins, his defense is centerfield has been even more impressive than touted. It’s clear in watching him that he has the potential to be great, but he still has work to do.
#5 – Tanner English – Cedar Rapids Kernels (75-243 - .265/.359/.406 (.764), with 22 doubles, 8 triples, 5 HR, 36 RBI)
English was the Twins 11th round pick just last year out of the University of South Carolina. He struggled early in the season, batting ninth for the Kernels and working through some mechanical issues. From July 4 through August 14 (36 games), he went on a tear. He hit .328/.400/518 (.918) with 13 doubles, two triples and three home runs. Looking for a longer sample size, he hit .285/.364/.440 (.805) with 18 doubles, seven triple and four home runs over his final 76 games. Unfortunately, his season came to an abrupt end on August 14th with a collision in left centerfield that ended his season with a thumb injury. English is a tremendous defensive centerfielder with great range and a strong arm. He has good speed and stole 28 bases in 33 attempts this year.
#3 (Tie) – Reynaldo Rodriguez – Rochester Red Wings (113-401 - .255/.307/.446 (.753), with 34 doubles, 7 triples, 16 HR, 80 RBI)
Rodriguez just finished his third season in the Twins organization. Although he has been good and productive in his first two seasons, 2015 was his best. The 29-year-old from Colombia originally signed with the Yankees in 2005. He played some independent league ball and also spent four years in the Red Sox organization. He spent the entire 2013 season in New Britain. He spent most of 2014 with the Rock Cats, though he did play ten games with the Red Wings. Rodriguez punished left-handed pitching to the tune of a .882 OPS compared with a .707 OPS against right-handers.
#3 (Tie) – Miguel Sano – Chattanooga Lookouts (.274/.374/.544 (.918), with 18 doubles, 1 triple, 15 HR, 48 RBI)
As we all know, Sano missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. As one would expect after not playing a meaningful game for nearly 17 months, Sano struggled early, shaking off rust. After an 0-3 on May 1st, Sano was hitting .152/.300/.364 (.664) in 19 games. At that point, he took off. Over his next 47 games, he hit .320/.403/.611 (1.014). That was through June 29th. His next game was with the Twins on June 2nd, and he has continued to rake, hit home runs, drive in runs, walk, and strikeout with strong regularity.
#2 – Adam Brett Walker – Chattanooga Lookouts (100-356 - .239/.309/.498 (807), with 31 doubles, 3 triples, 31 HR, 106 RBI)
Walker was the Twins 3rd round pick in 2012. He put together a very interesting 2015 season. His batting average dipped a little, and yet his walk rate improved. He also led minor league baseball in strikeouts with 195. However, it’s hard to ignore the productivity, and the consistent productivity. He led his league in home runs for the third straight season. He drove in over 100 runs for the second time in three seasons. He continued to surprise people with some sneaky stolen bases. He moved from right field to left field. The strikeouts, of course, remain a huge concern in the short and long term. However, few minor leaguers have as much raw power as Walker. His power is on par with Miguel Sano’s. Still just 23-years-old, the hard-working Walker will be added to the Twins 40-man roster following the season.
Hitter of the Year – Max Kepler – Chattanooga Lookouts (131-407 - .322/.416/.531 (.947), with 32 doubles, 13 triples, 9 HR, 71 RBI)
Kepler’s spring training ended a little early due to a minor injury. He started his season with six games with the Ft. Myers Miracle. But that was just a tune up. He was promoted to Chattanooga and after that, he didn’t stop hitting.
He was the Twins Daily minor league hitter of the month in May when he hit .359/.400/.583 (.983) with 13 doubles, two triples and two home runs. He was the runner up for Twins Daily hitter of the month in June and July (though the Minnesota Twins named him their top minor league hitter both of those months. In June, he hit .364/.472/.580 (1.052) with five doubles, two triples and three homers. In July, he hit .306/.412/.556 (.967) with five doubles, two triples and three homers. In August, he finished fourth in Twins Daily hitter of the month voting, but he still hit .301/.405/.495.
In his career, he had struggled against left-handed pitching. In 2015, he hit .322/.394/.478 (.872) against southpaws.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Kepler should continue to develop power. For now, he has a lot of doubles power and his speed turns some of them into triples. He even stole 19 bases in 23 attempts in 2015.
Last month, Parker wrote about Kepler’s continued improvement. In it, Lookouts hitting coach talked about the incorporation of a leg kick and how they made him more aggressive.
It worked. Kepler put up numbers that aren’t seen often. He was named the Southern League MVP. Baseball America and MLB.com put them on their 2015 Minor League All Star teams. He has led the Lookouts to the Southern League playoffs.
Many were worried about his overall numbers the last couple of years. However, he is still just 22-years-old. In 2013, he turned his remarkable tools into skills.
So there you have it. There were some really terrific offensively performances by Twins minor leaguers in 2015.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Adam Brett Walker, 3.) Reynaldo Rodriguez, 4.) Miguel Sano, 5.) Kennys Vargas, 6.) Byron Buxton, 7.) Tanner English, 8.) James Beresford
- Jeremy Nygaard – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Aaron Hicks, 3.) Kennys Vargas, 4.) Miguel Sano, 5.) Byron Buxton, 6.) James Beresford, 7.) Adam Brett Walker, 8.) Reynaldo Rodriguez
- Cody Christie – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Adam Brett Walker, 3.) Tanner English, 4.) Jorge Polanco, 5.) Reynaldo Rodriguez, 6.) Mitch Garver, 7.) Danny Ortiz, 8.) Travis Harrison
- Steve Lien – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Adam Brett Walker, 3.) Miguel Sano, 4.) Byron Buxton, 5.) Reynaldo Rodriguez, 6.) Nick Gordon, 7.) Danny Ortiz, 8.) Travis Harrison
- Eric Pleiss – 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Adam Brett Walker, 3.) Tanner English, 4.) Travis Harrison, 5.) Jorge Polanco, 6.) TJ White, 7.) Mitch Garver, 8.) Reynaldo Rodriguez.
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