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Gonsalves Gets the Call

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:36 AM
He will be taking Erv's spot in the rotation and starting on Monday. Good luck!

Article: DET 7, MIN 5: Stewart Bombs Second Audition

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Kohl Stewart made his second big league start Saturday night at Target Field. It didn’t go so well. The lineup flexed its muscles, sockin...

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Waiting around to march in a parade, i see a lack of game thread... So for old time's sake: Things to think about. 1. Winning. Don't alwa...

Kohl Stewart: An idea very few will like

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I felt bad for the kid. His major league career just hasn't started very well and it sure looked like a severe case of nerves. ...

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It was a very busy Saturday. The Vikings played. The Twins honored Jack Morris pre-game and played the Tigers. All six Twins stateside af...

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Kepler's Breakout Still In Progress

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 21 May 2018 · 715 views

minnesota twins max kepler
One of the most logical candidates to have a breakout season for the Minnesota Twins in 2018 was right fielder Max Kepler. The talented German had flashed ability to do it all down on the farm, and despite being a solid regular for Minnesota, didn't yet seem to have put it all together at the highest level. Now just under two months into the regular season, we've seen the start of the breakout, but rest assured that there's more to come.

In early April, I wrote about Kepler's approach at the plate. He's been relatively vocal about not intending to increase his launch angle, and instead hit the ball hard on the ground. Thankfully he hasn't followed through with that practice, and he's benefited from elevating the baseball in 2018. Getting more loft on the ball, while continuing to hit it hard, is absolutely a strong blueprint for success. What's even more encouraging for the Minnesota right-fielder is that we haven't seen the results indicative of just how good the approach has been thus far.

On the season, Kepler has posted a career best .803 OPS. He has 19 extra base hits through his first 169 plate appearances, and he's already tallied six longballs. The .250 average is just a slight bump from his .243 resting spot a year ago, but the .337 OBP is indicative of an approach that has yielded an incredible 22/20 K/BB ratio. After struggling to hit lefties last season, even to the point of being platooned against them, he's flipped the script entirely. Kepler owns a 1.120 OPS vs LHP in 2018, while posting a .694 OPS against RHP. The expectation should have always been that he'd hit both types of pitchers given his minor league track record, but this level of production is a very nice surprise.

As good as Kepler has been for Paul Molitor though, the best part is that we're probably just scratching the surface. In 2018 thus far, Max owns just a .256 BABIP to go with his .250 average. That number seems unsustainably low given the numbers surrounding it.

With as well as Kepler is elevating the ball, more impressively yet is how hard he's hitting it. The 44.1% hard hit rate is a career best by over 10%, and he'd putting the ball on the ground a career low 37.8% of the time. Despite those factors working in his favor, his 10.5% HR/FB rate suggests there's plenty of room for growth.
On top of the quality generated behind contact, Kepler isn't getting cheated at the dish either. His 7.7% swinging strike rate is a career best, and he's chasing pitches just 26.5% of the time, a career low. He's also setting another career high with an 83.5% contact rating. If anything, Kepler could be a bit more choosy in an effort to boost his pitchers per plate appearance above 4.0 (currently 3.91) in an effort to see something more juicy.

Trying to tie a bow on what the numbers are telling us, Max Kepler has basically put the big leagues on notice. He's driving the ball with authority, and creating the best contact numbers of his career. On top of that, he's doing it against pitchers who attack him from both sides of the plate, and he's created a blueprint that should only help his counting stats to further balloon from here on out. While Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar have paced the Twins in the early going, a blistering stretch from Max could very well be right around the corner.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • beckmt likes this



Kepler is playing his way into a long term piece here if he wants to be.I am hoping that is the case.

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Ted Schwerzler
May 21 2018 09:37 AM

 

Kepler is playing his way into a long term piece here if he wants to be.I am hoping that is the case.

As good as Eddie has been thus far in 2018, I'm still more confident in Max long term.

I argued vehemently against any of the proposed trades involving Kepler because if his talent/potential. And I felt he would start to break out this season. He has, but I also agree we haven't seen the best of him yet.

Despite some struggles, the fact is Buxton is the singularly most athletically gifted player on the roster. Rosario and Kepler aren't that far behind. (Personally, I don't think Polanco is all that far behind in #4). But if you look at the total package, I believe Kepler ranks only slightly behind Buxton overall, with pure speed being the biggest difference.
    • h2oface likes this
I agree about Polanco, Doc!!

Last year, I was all for Kepler getting more at bats against southpaws. I never believed he couldn't hit them, but just needed more opportunities. Even though his OPS against righties is only .694 this year, I hope the same people don't call for him to be benched against them. ;-)

 

I just wish he would breakout with a higher average, now, too.

So what is Keplers launch angle this year comparative to other years. Hitting less ground balls definitely improves the number, but there is a difference between GB's, high flys, and hard hit liners. (Using ancient terminology here). Also, I know I am an outlier on this opinion, but trying to reach some mythical number of pitchers per PA seems non productive, unless you are Robbie G. Even Mauer has better success when ahead in the count. Dozier recognized this early. He feasted on early in the count get em over FB's. It took three years for them to stop throwing them to him. If you get your pitch to hit, you better hit it, no matter the count. If you continually work yourself into two strike counts, you end up hitting what the pitcher wants you to hit. This takes plate discipline, something Kepler seems to have. My point being that if you are raking at avout 4.0 pitches per AB, you don't need to see more pitches. Taking strikes doesn't get you more juicy pitches, it gets you less.
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Ted Schwerzler
May 22 2018 09:09 AM

 

So what is Keplers launch angle this year comparative to other years. Hitting less ground balls definitely improves the number, but there is a difference between GB's, high flys, and hard hit liners. (Using ancient terminology here). Also, I know I am an outlier on this opinion, but trying to reach some mythical number of pitchers per PA seems non productive, unless you are Robbie G. Even Mauer has better success when ahead in the count. Dozier recognized this early. He feasted on early in the count get em over FB's. It took three years for them to stop throwing them to him. If you get your pitch to hit, you better hit it, no matter the count. If you continually work yourself into two strike counts, you end up hitting what the pitcher wants you to hit. This takes plate discipline, something Kepler seems to have. My point being that if you are raking at avout 4.0 pitches per AB, you don't need to see more pitches. Taking strikes doesn't get you more juicy pitches, it gets you less.

In regards to launch angle, this piece is linked above: http://offthebaggy.b...not-all-in.html

 

In regards to P/PA, I too agree that there isn't some magic formula. I don't think guys need to necessarily see more pitches over the course of the season to feast on them. The suggestion was more in line with the idea that if you're doing everything right but aren't quite seeing the results, waiting for a bit juicier pitch, being more choosy, or developing a bit more patient pitch recognition could spark something in the short term.