Rundown: On Trading Kepler, DRC+, LeMahieu and More
Image courtesy of © Peter G. AikenThe cold, hard reality is Kepler has posted below average offensive numbers the past three seasons. How long until you just accept that’s who he is? That’s an excellent question. Sorry, I don’t have an answer for it.
When you look at all the under the surface numbers, it doesn’t make any sense why Max has failed to post better overall numbers. He hits the ball hard, posting an 89.5 mph average exit velocity, that's in the top 30 percent in the league, but his BABIP was .236, third-worst among qualified hitters.
He’s got breakout written all over him in big, bold letters. Add in the excellent defense he provides, that’s not a player I’m especially motivated to move.
One thing to consider in potentially sending Kepler away, however, is that there are plenty of intriguing outfield replacement options available on the open market. The Twins also already have guys like Jake Cave, Zack Granite, Michael Reed and LaMonte Wade on the 40-man roster, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Alex Kirilloff is pounding at the door by the second half of this upcoming season.
I offered up a potential Kepler trade in my offseason blueprint, which had the Twins changing course and focusing more on a rebuilding effort. I wrote that back before Halloween, and while I still believe that strategy may make sense for this Twins team, the talk of Cleveland potentially selling off more pieces has definitely swayed my preference toward the Twins giving themselves a real chance to win the division in 2019.
Baseball Prospectus rolled out a new hitting metric: DRC+, or Deserved Runs Created. Jonathan Judge wrote both an introduction to the stat and a case that it’s more accurate than other advanced metrics like wOBA, wRC+ and OPS+. Among the things it does a better job of is park adjustments and factoring in quality of opponent. He also whipped together a nice video explaining how it works:
Swinging back to Kepler, he had a 111 DRC+ last season, which was only two points shy of Eddie Rosario and three points less than Eduardo Escobar. Meanwhile, Kepler only had a .727 OPS, Rosie was at .803 and Escobar posted an .824 OPS on the year. BP has also already factored DRC+ into their WARP calculation. Rosario now comes in at 3.8 WARP and Kepler is right on his heels at 3.6 WARP and Escobar had a 2.9 WARP.
In an article for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal noted that one of the biggest beneficiaries of DRC+ is free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu now has a 4.8 WARP from 2018 per B-Pro, that’s the 18th-best in all of baseball.
His home/road splits have been extreme over his career, but in 2018 he actually hit the ball harder on the road than he did at Coors Field. His 90.8 mph average exit velocity was inside the top 10 percent in all of baseball, just behind Mike Trout, but he averaged slightly better (91.1 mph) on the road.
Rhett Bolinger of MLB.com ran through some of the closer options for the Twins. Among the seven options he highlighted, I think Joakim Soria is the guy who aligns with the Twins in terms of need and expected contract. He’s 34, so it’s not like you’ll need to give him a long-term contract, but he does have 220 career saves. Last season he had a 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 (4.69 K:BB ratio) for the White Sox and Brewers. MLB Trade Rumors projected he’d get a two-year, $18 million deal.
The market is starting to move. Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals, Nathan Eovaldi is returning to Boston and Paul Goldschmidt was traded to the Cardinals. That could make things a little more interesting at the upcoming Baseball Winter Meetings, though as Craig Calcaterra noted over at Hardball Talk, things just aren’t what they used to be.
Jayson Stark wrote a well-researched piece about the shift over at The Athletic. He also reported that support for banning the shift is picking up steam. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs provided some more items to consider in a piece titled Banning the Shift Is a Solution in Search of a Problem. If any rule changes were to be implemented for the 2019 season, they would more than likely be agreed upon at the Winter Meetings.
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