Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Game Thread: Twins vs. Yankees 5:10 pm PST (7:10 pm CST)...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:40 AM
After the exciting win yesterday, and after perusing the game thread yesterday, I came to the conclusion some of theTwins faithful needed...

Article: Series Preview: Bronx Bombers Come Knocking

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:24 AM
Fresh off a series split against the Oakland Athletics the Minnesota Twins welcome the New York Yankees to Target Field. If there’s a fra...

Article: Buyer Beware: Avoiding a Chris Archer Trade

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:32 AM
Amid one of the toughest parts of their schedule, Minnesota fans are clamoring for the Twins to make a trade. With just over a week until...

Article: Leading Off Podcast With Cooper & Matt: Obje...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:15 PM
It seems like the Indians are gaining ground on the Twins every day with their surge during the Twins slump. Should we be worried?The tra...

Article: Twins Minor League Report (7/22): Contreras Prov...

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:09 PM
Twins v. Yankees… Always entertaining and always fun to see the Twins win! Rochester wasn’t scheduled to play on Monday, and Ft. Myers an...


Making the Most of Max

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 02 January 2019 · 1,048 views

minnesota twins max kepler
Expecting somewhat of a breakout campaign for Max Kepler in 2018 was a relatively accepted possibility going into last season. When the dust settled, his .727 OPS was the lowest of his career and there was no denying his performance left plenty to be desired. Rectifying the ability to hit left-handed pitchers, he fell off against righties and the offense tanked. 2019 represents new opportunity, and according to at least one project system, there’s some reason to get excited.

Steamer projections have the Twins outfielder pegged for 2.6 fWAR in 2019, a mark that would replicate his 2018 season. Although the result is similar, the path to get there is a new one. A .779 OPS with a .336 OBP is suggested for the German native and those would both be massive boosts to career .730 and .313 marks respectively. So, in other words, the bat arrives.

Last season Kepler’s value was heavily tied to his defensive presence. With Byron Buxton shelved due to ineffectiveness and injury, Max was called to take on a more demanding presence in the outfield. He tallied 390 innings in center after having played 90 total in the two years prior. His 10 DRS and 10.8 UZR both blew previous tallies out of the water, and even the eye test suggested that the mainstay in the Minnesota outfield was a great glove.

I’ve previously discussed some of the reasons that Kepler appeared to be hampered in 2018. He has consistently vocalized a desire to put the ball on the ground, and while his hit profile suggested he was accomplishing lifting the ball more last season, it wasn’t at an optimal level. His launch angle increased, and the hard-hit rate was a career high, but a lack of line drives held him back given the ground ball outputs and failed HR/FB ratio.

On top of how he was putting the ball in play, Kepler shifted his platoon splits drastically year over year. After struggling mightily with lefties in 2017, his .745 OPS was a drastic improvement. Posting an .828 OPS against righties in 2017 kept his head above water, but that mark dipped all the way down to .720 last season. Settling in more of a middle ground would give Rocco Baldelli a greater assurance that Kepler is capable of being deployed daily and expecting a high level of value no matter who is on the bump.

Looking ahead to what Steamer sees of Kepler in the season ahead, it’s hard not to draw loose comparisons to some of the realities Byron Buxton faces. Kepler has elevated his defensive profile to be a real asset on its own and pushing his OPS anywhere near the .800 mark would genuinely elevate him to a star player level. I’ve found myself bullish on Max believing him to be better than the likes of Eddie Rosario going forward, and it’s this all-encompassing ability that would drive that notion. Max doesn’t have to be a world beater at the plate to take the next step, but if a couple of tweaks are made, this is a guy we’re talking about for years to come.

There’s long been a notion that defense doesn’t slump, so maybe the Steamer projections shouldn’t come as a surprise. If Kepler is in fact the second-most valuable Twins player in 2019, I’m not sure that’s anything but positive. Needing a handful of former top prospects to hit on all cylinders this season, Minnesota will be successful as a sum of its greater parts. With the calendar now turned over, Kepler has an opportunity to be the guy everything indicates he’s capable of. Now we wait and see what happens.

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

  • mikelink45 and MN_ExPat like this

Jan 02 2019 04:21 PM

Check and double check!

Nicely done, I am still skeptical and think Kepler has been over rated because we all hoped so much that he would turn in to a really solid player - Bob Allison was my hope.

    • sloopjont likes this
I'm with you! There is just so much potential there, and we've seen a mixed bag of flashes of what he can do and what he could be. We're I another team calling the Twins about trade possibilities, he'd be at the top of my list because what he might become in the next year to year and a half with experience and a more even, "locked in" approach.
    • MN_ExPat likes this

The biggest value of Max is that he is a viable CF option if Buxton flames out. Twins have a number of 1B/OF coming and Buxton needs to put it together before Twins have to make a decision on whether Bryon's ceiling is that of a 4th outfielder.Think Max will beat the 2.6 WAR only because if Buxton gets off to another very slow start, Twins FO will have some difficult decisions to make. I agree with the poster above who feels long term Max will be better than Eddie, but the next two years should tell.

    • ChrisKnutson, caninatl04 and MN_ExPat like this
Jan 03 2019 08:27 AM
I am encouraged by both the reduction in strike out rate and increase in walk rate in 2018.
    • TNTwinsFan likes this
"if a couple of tweaks are made, this is a guy we’re talking about for years to come."

From the movie "Other People's Money"

Amen. And amen. And amen.... Where I come from, you always say "Amen" after you hear a prayer. Because that's what you just heard - a prayer. … [E]ven if the prayers were answered, and a miracle occurred, and the yen did this, and the dollar did that, and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead."

Replace yen, dollar and infrastructure for Kepler, Sano and Buxton
and replace dead for "out of the playoffs" and you have my attitude for the 2019 Twins.