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Appreciating Max Kepler

Time and patience are two key aspects when it comes to developing prospects. Max Kepler fits this mold more than a lot of other young players. When the Twins signed him as a teenager out of Germany, the club knew of his athletic ability but Europe hasn’t exactly been a hot-bed for MLB prospects.

Kepler has played just over 200 games at the MLB level and he has found a way to provide value through all aspects of his game. There are areas that could still improve but Kepler is on a course to be an above average big leaguer for years to come.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Only two short seasons ago, Kepler exploded at Double-A on his way to winning Southern League MVP honors. He hit .322/.416/.531 with 56 extra-base hits across 431 at-bats. These numbers were an improvement from his career totals in the minor leagues (.281/.363/.446) and many prospect followers believed he had put it all together.

Following a brief September call-up in 2015, Kepler became a mainstay in the Twins line-up during 2016. He struggled through his rookie campaign by hitting .235/.309/.424 with 17 home runs and 20 doubles. Hitting isn't the only part of his game as he provided 4.4 runs on the bases according to BsR (FanGraphs' base running statistic and the base running component of their WAR) and six defensive runs saved.

Kepler has made measurable strides in his second full MLB season. Compared to 2016, he's raised his batting average over 30 points and this has helped him to get on base almost 34% of the time. He has improved his wRC+ from 93 in 2016 to 108 in 2017. According to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, the only Twins position player worth more WAR this season is Miguel Sano.

He's hitting the ball hard as well. Last season, Kepler hit the ball at an average exit velocity of 89.4 mph. He ranked 81st among 225 hitters with a minimum of 250 balls in play which ranked him higher than the likes of Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado. This season, his average exit velocity has dipped to 88.4 but he ranks 64th among 147 playerswith 200 at-bats. He's hitting the ball harder than Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, and Evan Longoria.
Posted Image


Earlier this season, I identified Kepler as one of a trio of players who was helping to spur Minnesota's defensive turnaround. He ranks in the top-12 among AL outfielders in defensive runs saved. This spring MLB Advanced Media introduced a new Statcast metric called Catch Probability, which measures how likely a fielder is to catch a given ball in play based on its distance and hang time. Kepler leads MLB in "three-star outs" as he has gone 15-for-17 in those opportunities. Three-star outs have a 51-75% chance of being caught.

To stay in the hunt for a division title, the Twins need young core players to perform at a high level. Jacque Jones was one of those players for the Twins in the early 2000s. He didn't have a season worth more than 2.0 WAR until he was 27-years old. Kepler has managed that in each of his first two seasons and he won't be 25 until next February.

Kepler may never be an all-star like Miguel Sano or track down fly-balls as well as Byron Buxton but he is slowly improving. His offense and defense continue to improve and he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans should appreciate the value he has brought to the 2017 version of the Twins.

Show your appreciation for Kepler in the COMMENTS.

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30 Comments

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IndianaTwin
Jul 17 2017 09:55 PM

I'm with you. He had several nice plays again tonight.

 

AND Der Schlagger has moved into fourth on the Career Homers by a Player Born in Germany list. He's on pace to catch Mike Blowers in either late 2019 or early 2020. 

    • Mike Frasier Law, snepp, Oldgoat_MN and 1 other like this
Kepler had an amazing run last summer, that showed that he could be someone special, I think he will put up great numbers that will continue to improve for the next 4 - 5 years.
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Bill Brown69
Jul 18 2017 05:15 AM

I get your use of the word maybe but I would plunk down a $100 on Max making 2 all star teams if I had 2-1 odds.

 

I never bought in on Kepler until he came up to the Twins and then I became a fan. If he stays healthy I could see him have 750 xbh and I think he will be a fringe gold glove candidate. I would not bet on him winning one but he might be in the discussion as the best fielding corner outfielder a few years.

    • Mike Frasier Law, Oldgoat_MN, CUtomorrownight and 1 other like this
OK, how does the internet know to have an ad for "Rhine River Cruises" on this spot about Kepler? Hmmmmh!
    • Oldgoat_MN and Hosken Bombo Disco like this

Did anyone know his parents were ballerinas?

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

 

Did anyone know his parents were ballerinas?

I had heard that, and technically I think, his dad is a ballerino... ;-)

    • ashburyjohn, bizaff, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this

 

Did anyone know his parents were ballerinas?

It seems to be mentioned by practically every visiting team radio broadcast when playing the Twins.

I believe it was either the KC or Cleveland broadcasters who recently asked Kepler what to call a male ballet dancer, and Max replied with "soloist".

    • Mike Sixel, drbob524, spanman2 and 2 others like this

 

It seems to be mentioned by practically every visiting team radio broadcast when playing the Twins.

 

Lots of time to kill between pitches in a baseball broadcast!

Max had been my favorite prospect to follow ever since watching him play with the roster of the Beloit Snappers during Spring Training of 2012. He was far and away the best player on the diamond in the week I was there watching, on a team that also included Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Kennys Vargas.

 

I was astonished he did not play in the Midwest League at all that season after that, but injuries may have had something to do with that.

 

Just for fun, some links from that Spring Training:

 

-http://twitpic.com/8zswq4 (opposite field double)

 

-https://twitter.com/...841800942292992 (on deck getting ready)

 

(edit: I meant Kennys Vargas, not the topic of the post Max Kepler, for the other top hitters that were playing on that roster) 

    • bluechipper likes this

My favorite Twin!

 

I appreciate Max Kepler. 

    • Miles Tones likes this

Of course.... 'Merica!

 

but in honor of Der Max...Fur das vaterland, Deutschland uber alles!

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strumdatjaguar
Jul 18 2017 09:45 AM

Every season, the Twins should have at least one "Max Kepler Dollar Brat Night". Get Sheboygan to sponsor it.  Replace the regular lame walk-up music wiith Polka Music and "Wock Me Like a Huwhickane" by the German Band Scorpions (maybe the German language versions of songs recorded by The Beatles and Peter Gabriel). Maybe Bring Back Nickel "Bier" Night.  Max Schnell!!!!!

    • Tibs likes this
He is this generation's Micheal Cuddyer with more speed and less magic.
I believe he's just scratching the surface of his potential. And while I won't compare him to the powerful and dangerous Sano, or the uber talented Buxton, I wouldn't be surprised in a year or two if he isn't the Twins most complete hitter; factoring in AVG, OB, SLG, total bases, etc.
    • Steve Lein, Mike Frasier Law, bluechipper and 2 others like this

Loving Kepler. He's a great fit in RF and looks very comfortable over there. With him and Buxton in the lineup you can actually get away with playing someone like Grossman in the OF because they cover so much territory.

 

I hope he continues to improve the BA and the OBP. I don't think he needs to become a 30 HR guy to have a great, all-star career but he'll be a bigger weapon in the lineup if he's ripping doubles all day and hitting .280.

I would absolutely offer Kepler a long contract extension between now and next season. 

    • bluechipper, Miles Tones and Bill Brown69 like this
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Bill Brown69
Jul 18 2017 01:11 PM

 

Loving Kepler. He's a great fit in RF and looks very comfortable over there. With him and Buxton in the lineup you can actually get away with playing someone like Grossman in the OF because they cover so much territory.

 

I hope he continues to improve the BA and the OBP. I don't think he needs to become a 30 HR guy to have a great, all-star career but he'll be a bigger weapon in the lineup if he's ripping doubles all day and hitting .280.

 

Max looking like a doubles machine is why I think long term he is a perfect #2 hitter. 1/3 of the time they are at the plate with nobody on and 1 out. In that situation your job is to get into scoring position. Being left handed also shield the catcher a bit on attempted steals by the leadoff guy.

 

Yes, I agree with Trevor, give him a 10 year contract!!

    • Miles Tones likes this
Comp of Josh Reddick?

Max looking like a doubles machine is why I think long term he is a perfect #2 hitter. 1/3 of the time they are at the plate with nobody on and 1 out. In that situation your job is to get into scoring position. Being left handed also shield the catcher a bit on attempted steals by the leadoff guy.

Yes, I agree with Trevor, give him a 10 year contract!!


I've wondered about him hitting 3rd with Sano moving down to cleanup.
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Tom Froemming
Jul 18 2017 01:47 PM

Max ranks third among right fielders in both defensive runs above average and UZR/150, trailing only Mookie Betts and Yasiel Puig. 

 

That zone profile is pretty impressive. Nice to have some hot spots both up and down in the zone, inside and outside too.

    • Danchat likes this
I wonder what the structure would look like on a long term extension for Max.

I too think he has only begun to realize his full potential…

 

He is showing this year that he can readjust after pitchers adjusted to him (this is by far the biggest step that a hitter can make).

I will go a step further to predict that he will develop into a major threat and find himself in the #3 slot in the batting order in the next two years.

 

There is also a chance (20%) that he ends up with a better career than Sano.

Fun to speculate.  He certainly has shown the drive to improve and continues to show that he has more potential.  I am not wise enough to know if that is star level, but certainly a vital clog - like Bob Allison from the sixties. 

https://www.baseball...allisbo01.shtml

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yarnivek1972
Jul 18 2017 03:45 PM
I don't think this is an original take (meaning I probably saw it somewhere), but he has Paul O'Neil upside IMO.
    • USAFChief likes this

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