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  • Kepler Impressed in Spring, Stays Positive

    Max Kepler got the news this morning that he was likely dreading, but expecting. He was optioned by the Twins and will report to minor league camp on Tuesday. He had gone 5-11 in his limited plate appearances in his first big league camp. Not a bad showing for a 21-year-old who played ball in Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2013.

    Though it was a short stint, Kepler did make an impression. Rob Antony said, “I think Max Kepler handled himself extremely well and had a good spring.”

    As you would expect given that Kepler was signed as a 16-year-old from Germany, it has taken him some time to move through the system. He spent a year in the GCL followed by two years in Elizabethton. Last year, he missed the first half of the season with an elbow injury. In 61 games, he hit just .237/.312/.424, but he displayed the tools that made him sought after as an amateur.



    He got an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League last year and enjoyed the experience despite its challenges.

    “It was awesome. It was a real honor. But, the pitching was a lot more challenging out there. Maybe it’s because of the jump from A-ball to Fall League. Pitching was mind-blowing at first, just seeing how good they were. It was awesome being out there with players, as good as they are.”

    Over the winter, Kepler was able to spend two months in Germany with his family around the holidays. Otherwise, he spent his time in San Francisco working out.

    He went there with a plan. “Running, lifting in my legs. Didn’t do a lot of upper body like I had in the past. I felt too heavy on top.”

    In the past, Kepler has played around the outfield and at first base. In the Fall League, he played almost solely at first base. He thought that might be where he would spend a lot of time this spring, but he hasn’t.

    “Wherever they need me. They told me I was going to get a lot of work (at 1B) this spring, but I’ve been in the outfield every game. I love it out there, and I’m up for whatever.”

    Asked what his strengths were, Kepler has a very interesting response.

    “Thinking positive, right now. I’ve learned to think positive. I used to get frustrated at everything back when I was younger. If you think positive, everything will come. It’s a big thing in this game.”

    He understood that the answer might create follow-up, so he continued.

    “(I) get that question a lot. ‘What do you think your strengths are?’ Immediately you think of physicality; hitting, throwing. I’m just trying to balance all of that. Just trying to think positive and do the best I can.”

    When it comes to others, it’s understandable they would jump to the physical. Kepler stands 6-4 (at least) and 220 pounds (at least). He’s got quick hands, strength and power. He has decent speed for his size and plays solid defense.

    These are all things that aren’t lost on Rob Antony or the rest of the front office.
    Some people have looked past guys like Max Kepler, who has developed well. He’s got a tremendous body. He’s got a good swing. He’s athletic. He can play 1st or the OF.”

    Kepler has said, and did so again this morning, that he has been told that he will move up another level this year and play in Ft. Myers.

    Kepler had a strong showing in big league camp which will only bode well for him going forward. He has the tools and the projection. Now he’s had some exposure. It will be a big year for Kepler to start putting up some numbers as well, even in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Thanks for the great update.

      As I read the posts this spring about various Twins players and saw a few of the games on TV, Kepler was one who jumped out. I was surprised at how well he did at the plate and with his maturity overall.

      Berardino did a nice piece about Kepler's rehab last year: http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_...ect-max-kepler

      Something to keep in mind for the Sano rehab.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Have a roster question Seth. Picked up my copy of the Media Guide this morning. As always, spent some time reading the minor league section. I do that especially to see who is gone and who some of the new 17 year olds are down in the DSL.

      My question is that no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find Jose Berrios anywhere in the guide. Not in the back with the organizational players. Not up front with the spring training invites. I assume he is still in the organization and this is just one of the couple mistakes they make every year.

      Will appreciate your confirmation that he is still around so that I can stop taking double doses of my blood pressure medicine. Thanks Seth!
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I think this year Kepler catapults back into high regard in this system. No basis for that other than my infatuation with his build/skillset.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I think this year Kepler catapults back into high regard in this system. No basis for that other than my infatuation with his build/skillset.
      I'm infatuated, too ... plus he is still young. Seems like AFL was really meaningful for him.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by roger View Post
      My question is that no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find Jose Berrios anywhere in the guide. Not in the back with the organizational players. Not up front with the spring training invites. I assume he is still in the organization and this is just one of the couple mistakes they make every year.

      Will appreciate your confirmation that he is still around so that I can stop taking double doses of my blood pressure medicine. Thanks Seth!
      Rest assured. JO Berrios is still with the Twins. If you go to my facebook photos, I have at least one of him from practice on Saturday. In fact... let's keep that heart rate down...

      Attachment 6711
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I think this year Kepler catapults back into high regard in this system. No basis for that other than my infatuation with his build/skillset.
      I think more than anything last season Kepler was hurt by his BABIP, which at .254, was well below both his career and the league norm. Both his K% and his BB% were still very strong.

      I also expect that this season his "stats" will look better because that BABIP should bounce back up. Despite moving to a harder league I predict he will OPS somewhere in the mid-.800's.
    1. blindeke's Avatar
      blindeke -
      why do quotes about Kepler always sounds like the draft room scene from Moneyball?
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I kind of thought Keplers spring numbers would more like Buxtons and vice versa so he definitely surprised me. It will be very interesting to keep an eye on several guys in the minors this year. I hope Kepler starts to move faster.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Rest assured. JO Berrios is still with the Twins. If you go to my facebook photos, I have at least one of him from practice on Saturday. In fact... let's keep that heart rate down...

      Attachment 6711
      Thanks Seth, normally the media guide mistakes aren't about any of their better prospects. Would be curious to the response you would get from some of the people related to the Twins?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by blindeke View Post
      why do quotes about Kepler always sounds like the draft room scene from Moneyball?
      Because those things matter more than the numbers for guys in the lower levels of the minors.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
      I kind of thought Keplers spring numbers would more like Buxtons and vice versa so he definitely surprised me. It will be very interesting to keep an eye on several guys in the minors this year. I hope Kepler starts to move faster.
      He's either going to start moving faster or never amount to much. By adding him to the 40 man roster his clock has started ticking. He can't afford to be a one level a year kind of guy anymore if the Twins want to see him in MLB.

      That was my argument (combined with the extreme unlikelihood that he would be drafted in the Rule 5 draft) against adding him to the 40 man this year.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      He's either going to start moving faster or never amount to much. By adding him to the 40 man roster his clock has started ticking. He can't afford to be a one level a year kind of guy anymore if the Twins want to see him in MLB.

      That was my argument (combined with the extreme unlikelihood that he would be drafted in the Rule 5 draft) against adding him to the 40 man this year.
      The fact that he'd get a fourth option year kind of minimizes that first concern though.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      The fact that he'd get a fourth option year kind of minimizes that first concern though.
      I had forgotten you dug that information out a while back. It does change things a bit. I think he still needs to have at least 1 season that he goes 2 levels, or skips AAA altogether perhaps. If he takes a year at each A+, AA, AAA that would leave only a single season at the major league level before the Twins have to make a decision. We have seen that 1 season is often not enough to make a call on prospects. Imagine if Hicks had used up all his option years and the Twins had to make a decision on his future. That would be hard to do.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      I think more than anything last season Kepler was hurt by his BABIP, which at .254, was well below both his career and the league norm. Both his K% and his BB% were still very strong.

      I also expect that this season his "stats" will look better because that BABIP should bounce back up. Despite moving to a harder league I predict he will OPS somewhere in the mid-.800's.
      Well now I have a sound basis! Sweet - thanks!
    1. Parise11's Avatar
      Parise11 -
      What's this guys upside? I've heard a lot about him but is he a 20-25 HR guy?
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I think this year Kepler catapults back into high regard in this system. No basis for that other than my infatuation with his build/skillset.
      My infatuation with him is equally baseless, but I hang my hat on the fact that they threw him into the AFL and then gave him a 40-man spot.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      My infatuation with him is equally baseless, but I hang my hat on the fact that they threw him into the AFL and then gave him a 40-man spot.
      Baseless no more sir....just read Oxtung's remarks above. Now your crush has meaning just like mine!
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