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Thread: Max Kepler

  1. #1

    Max Kepler

    I've been intrigued by Max Kepler ever since the Twins signed him almost four years ago as a 16 year old out of Germany. He has raw tools that make the scouts rave and a very unique background as the son of two professional ballet dancers. According to the Washington Post, he was considered possibly the best European prospect ever when he was signed in 2009.

    With that, here is some key info:

    Name: Maximilian Kepler
    Position: OF
    Bats: Left
    Throws: Left
    Born: 2/10/93
    Signed: July 2009 (International - Germany)
    Height: 6'4"
    Weight: 180 on Baseball Reference, 220 according to Ashley Marshall's article this past January

    Kepler should be spending this year with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, but is currently in extended spring training rehabbing an elbow injury. According to Mister-Baseball.com, he will be joining the Kernals around the end of April.

    There's been a lot of great articles written about Kepler, here are links to a few:

    Articles from 2009:


    Article from 2012:


    Articles from 2013:


    Over the next couple of weeks, I plan on posting some stats, video, and my own analysis of his breakout 2012 season.
    Last edited by Sssuperdave; 04-17-2013 at 10:23 AM.

  2. #2

    Video

    As promised, here is some video of Kepler.

    First, there are two videos from the WBC qualifying round on his mlb.com page:
    Max Kepler Stats, Video Highlights, Photos, Bio | MLB.com: Team

    Next, here's a video from 2010 in the Gulf Coast League:

    The biggest thing that jumps out to me from these three videos is how awesome his swing looks. I'm not a scout by any stretch, but there are a few players whose swings just look great to me - no excess movement, smooth and strong. Kepler is definitely one of those.

  3. #3

    Another Video

    Here is a video of Kepler taking batting practice that was uploaded this past December:

  4. #4

    One More Video

    And lastly... here is an interview with Kepler by MLB Europe during the qualifying round of the WBC:


  5. #5
    Senior Member Triple-A raindog's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this. I'm such a fan of this guy. Like you said, I'm no scout either, but I love his swing.

  6. #6
    Senior Member All-Star
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    He's still lean but you can see how much he has filled out since 2010.

    It looks like the one knock on Kepler is still there. He has a nice swing that should result in a high BA with a lot of line drives but there might not be enough loft to hit many HR's. I'm still pretty excited about him but I'm concerned that there will be some that are disappointed if he only hits 15 HR's as a LF/RF'er.

  7. #7

    Stats and 2012

    Kepler's stats from his three years as a professional are below:
    Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
    Twins GULF Rk MIN 37 153 140 15 40 6 1 11 6 1 13 27 0.286 0.346 0.343 0.689
    Elizabethton APPY Rk MIN 50 221 191 29 50 11 3 1 24 1 1 23 54 0.262 0.347 0.366 0.714
    Elizabethton APPY Rk MIN 59 269 232 40 69 16 5 10 49 7 27 33 0.297 0.387 0.539 0.925

    As you can see, 2012 was quite a breakout year for Kepler. OBP was up 40 points, Slugging up 160, resulting in OPS up 200. He hit 10 homeruns vs 1 in the prior two seasons, and increased his walks while reducing strikeouts. As a result of all of these improvements Kepler jumped multiple spots on pretty much everyones top prospects list.

    However, a closer examination of his 2012 season reveals that he may have made some intriguing changes to his approach mid-season. I followed him closely last year, and was getting discouraged by mid July that he hadn't hit any homeruns. Then, starting with a grandslam on July 16th, he went on a tear, hitting 7 home runs in two weeks. Then, his power seemed to cool off a bit the rest of the year.

    To follow up on what I thought I saw last year, I analyzed his 2012 season by breaking it into three segments. Here they are:

    Segment G AB HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
    1. June 19 - July 15 22 81 18 8 .296 .452 .407 .859
    2. July 16 - July 27 11 45 7 2 8 .267 .313 .778 1.090
    3. July 28 - Aug 28 26 106 3 7 16 .311 .354 .538 .892

    The drastic difference between segemts 1 and 2 jumps out at me. In the last two weeks of July, his average was 30 points lower and his OBP was over 100 points lower than the first month of the season, but his SLG and OPS were dramatically higher, obviously driven by his new-found homerun swing. His walks dropped precipitously and he had as many strikeouts in 2 weeks as the previous 4. This suggests to me that his homeruns were not just a matter of some additional strength and fly balls carrying a bit further (which I think Mauer's 09 season was), rather a wholesale change of approach at the plate.

    The third segment (the last month of the season) seems to be a compromise between the first two. He still hit some home runs, though not at such a torrid pace, and his AVG and OBP came back up a bit, with average actually higher than the first month, and OBP not as high but still strong at .354.

    This approach change is supported by something Kepler is quoted as saying in an article by Ashley Marshall earlier this year:

    "I came into the league an oppo [opposite-field] hitter, being fairly slim at 180 and being a pretty fast guy for my size. I'm 220 now -- I gained like 40 pounds -- and I've really learned to pull the ball this last season."

    "I'd say the long ball is my thing now. It used to be slapping the ball, getting on base, stealing bases. But I've changed that around and I will keep growing if I stay healthy. I just love running and stealing bases and I hope I don't lose my speed because of my size. I want to be big and fast."
    So, what do we make of all this? To me, it is nothing but encouraging. He's now shown he can hit for power, average, and exercise plate discipline. The question is whether he will move even further in the power-hitter direction, or try to balance things out to become a more well-rounded threat. That last month of 2012 is actually the most encouraging stretch to me. He had the best average of the season and brought his OBP back up while still hitting a few home runs.
    Last edited by Sssuperdave; 04-22-2013 at 09:36 AM.

  8. #8
    I had an email exchange with Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette yesterday and asked him if he had heard anything about when Kepler might join the team. Here was his response...

    Talked to Brad Steil about Kepler this week, actually, and he just mentioned the elbow injury and that it improved and then he had a setback. They donít think itís anything serious.

    No timetable for a return to playing.
    Good to hear they don't think it's serious, but it's too bad that he's missing so much time. I was looking forward to seeing how he would fare in his first full season.

  9. #9
    Does anyone have an update on Kepler?

  10. #10
    Banned Triple-A
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    I'm seriously high on this kid. Can't wait to watch him at Target Field in a couple years.

  11. #11
    Terry Ryan was on Reusse and Mackey this afternoon and Reusse asked him about Kepler. Ryan said a lot of very complimentary things including that Kepler was a "big, strong kid," that he was definitely ready for low-A ball if not for the injury, and that he was "the real deal." However, Ryan confirmed that Kepler is still out with the elbow issue but didn't say anything very specific. All he said was that Kepler had a "sore elbow" and hadn't been able to play. He said Kepler was supposed to play today in EST for the first time in a while and that he would be checking the box score carefully to make sure he did. (Side note - does anyone know if EST boxscores are online anywhere???)

    I'm probably reading too much into this, but Ryan sounded pretty frustrated when he was talking about Kepler's elbow. This seems to me like one of those classic Twins injury situations we've seen over and over again in the past few years. Someone looks like they'll be out for a few games and end up out for a couple months with no clear injury other than something that is bruised, sore, etc. I imagine this happens to all teams, but it sure is frustrating! As frustrating as it is for us as fans, I have to think it is countless times more frustrating for the players themselves.

    I'm hoping for the best for Kepler as he gets into games in EST, hopefully we will see him in Cedar Rapids soon!

  12. #12
    What is going on with Kepler? When is he coming back?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer Steve Lein's Avatar
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    I hope it's soon! He's also one of my favorite prospects we have down in the system. I too like his swing. The year before this I got to watch quite a bit of him at Spring Training, where he was playing with the Beloit roster (that included Sano, Vargas, Rosario), and he was the best in-game hitter without a doubt. You tend to notice when everything he hit was a line drive somewhere. This one was especially well-struck: Max Kepler lines a double down the opposite field line (video) on Twitpic

    Never like to hear the injury questions when it comes to Twins players like this though, hasn't boded well for them in recent times...
    Scouting Report: Tools - Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 40, Speed: 40. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but can sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)
    Spring Training Regular since 2011.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer
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    Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is reporting that Kepler is headed to Cedar Rapids. In a follow-up Tweet, however, he also added that he's heard Kepler's elbow is "still not good enough to throw."

    Jake Mauer had previously told the media that Kepler would not be sent up to the Kernels until he could play in the field. Should be interesting to see what's up when he gets to CR.

    Covering the Cedar Rapids Kernels for
    MetroSportsReport.comwhile my alter-ego, Jim Crikket, opines about the Twins and Kernels at Knuckleballsblog.com.

    ~You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant~

  15. #15

    Game On!

    As other folks have noted, Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has posted that Kepler will be joining the Kernels starting Thursday after their all-star break. According to the blog post below Jake Mauer said over the weekend that Kepler's elbow was still preventing him from playing in the field. Perhaps he'll be the DH for a while? Either way, I am certainly excited to hear he'll be back in action soon.

    Kepler headed to Kernels; end of line for Buxton? | TheGazette

  16. #16

    Week 1

    Kepler saw his first action of the year this week playing in 4 games for Cedar Rapids. He played LF on his first day back so evidentally they felt his elbow was ready for the test. On the week Kepler had 5 hits (3 of the doubles), 2 walks, 3 RBI, and 4 strikeouts, resulting a 4-day slash line of .278/.350/.444, which is a .794 OPS.

    It will be interesting to see how much time he gets in CF now that Buxton has been promoted to Fort Meyers. Last week he played 2 games in LF and was the DH twice.

  17. #17
    SD Buhr posted a great article today than includes an interview with Kepler. Check it out!

    Kernels Post-Buxton Era Begins: Welcome Max Kepler - Blogs - Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum

    Here's my favorite quote:

    SDB: Do you have a particular hitting philosophy? Do you see yourself as a power hitter or are you just concerned about driving the ball and if it goes over the fence, fine?

    Kepler: I used to strictly see myself as a contact hitter. I came to the Twins as a contact hitter, just going (opposite field) all the time.


    Now, basically, itís just a start to a new season, first couple games, just see the ball right now and hit it. But when Iím in a groove, I like it to go far, the ball to go deep.
    SDB also asks lots of great questions about Kepler's parents and growing up in Germany playing baseball.

  18. #18
    Big day for Kepler today with a homerun and a double. In addition, he played centerfield due to the Buxton promotion.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer
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    Glad you enjoyed the article, Sssuperdave. I really enjoyed talking to Kepler Sunday.

    Then again, I've enjoyed interviewing all of the Kernels I've had a chance to sit down with this season. They've all been fun to talk to and obviously a terrific team to watch play ball.

    Covering the Cedar Rapids Kernels for
    MetroSportsReport.comwhile my alter-ego, Jim Crikket, opines about the Twins and Kernels at Knuckleballsblog.com.

    ~You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant~

  20. #20
    Senior Member Triple-A goulik's Avatar
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    First CR Kernels game and Max really helped me get over missing the Buxton era...was supposed to see them April 17th but was rained out. Kepler looks like the real deal but with his size does he really project as CF prospect? I thought he looks more like a corner outfield long term.

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