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Let's talk Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, and what their emergence means for the ceiling of the Twins Offensive Lineup.

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#1 twins1095

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Posted 11 May 2018 - 08:23 AM

Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario have been two of the stars for the Twins thus far this season.It seems that Max Kepler is finally having the breakout season many have predicted him to have and Eddie Rosario is proving that last season's breakout was for real. 

 

Max Kepler

 

Kepler's production during the first 30+ games this season has been more surprising.The most notable thing for me is the improvement in his BB% and K% to about 11.5% and 13% respectively.Kepler seems to have taken a jump forward in terms of his approach at the plate and command of an at bat.This improvement in approach and command has allowed him to be in more positive hitting situations and has meant that he's no longer getting himself out very much at all.He's going deep into at bat's forcing pitcher's to throw him strikes and pitches that he can hit and not swinging if they don't--he's avoiding K's and putting ball's in play at Mauer type rates. 

I'm not sure which way the correlation lies, but either because of this or as a product of this Kepler has seemingly finally figured out how to hit LHP's.In the past Kepler's extreme struggles at hitting LHP caused his overall numbers to really balloon downward.It seems that Kepler's step forward in terms of ability to work an at bat and be a better hitter has allowed him to figure out LHP.Naturally his numbers have followed.

 

Kepler's current 162 game pace is roughly 55 doubles, 5 triples, 25 home runs with a .275/.356/.865 split.

 

Naturally, if he figured out how to hit LHP like he could RHP these types of numbers would follow. 

Kepler's always been an XBH machine because of his line drive swing and ability to drive the ball.His improvement in approach is allowing him to do this more consistently regardless of the handedness of the pitcher. 

It's too optimistic to project those kind of XBH numbers to continue over the rest of the season, but if the approach improvement is real...45 2B's + 3B's and 25 home runs is not an outlandish projection by really any stretch. 

Kepler's been able to be, even with his extreme platoon, a 35ish 2B +3B and low 20 HR guy before this season, an improvement in approach and ability to hit LHP should push those numbers upwards. 

 

Further, even more optimistically...Kepler's BABIP is just .289 meaning that this isn't a streak aided by a high-dose of luck and balls falling in.In fact, he's well below the league average .300 and even further below the BABIP of someone who barrel's the ball and sprays line drives all over the field like Kepler does. 

We'll see if the approach improvement continues, but Kepler is an extremely tough out right now--and if he continues driving the ball like he has the RBIs and runs will follow.

 

Eddie Rosario

 

Eddie Rosario has always been an XBH machine as well from the day he stepped foot in the MLB....last season he was able to put it together, especially in terms of HRs instead of XBH's, in a way that he hadn't been able to before--also coincided with an improvement in approach. 

 

This season he's backing it up and is on a 162 game pace of 50 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 35 HRs, 122 RBIs, 115 runs, and 20 SBs.Rosario is absolutely filling up the stat sheet and producing in a crazy way.Again this kind of production over a full-season is too optimistic to predict, but 45 2Bs+3Bs, 30 HRs, 100 runs, and 100+ RBI's is not too outlandish to predict. 

 

That's an insane amount of production.

 

Miguel Sano

 

Past those two, even with all of the negativity surrounding Sano, the inconsistency, and the lack of ability to consistently stay healthy enough to get in a rhythm.Sano has produced per 162 games at a 100 run, 30 2B, 40 HR, 105 RBI, mid .350 OBP pace. 

Maybe he has to move to DH to stay fully healthy over a full-season, but regardless that Offensive baseline is hard to match on a per game basis. 

 

It's not that hard to argue that there might even be another level of play in those numbers because those are numbers Sano has been able to put up while playing through, missing time, or coming back from injuries without being able to get in a rhythm.Now the flip side of that is, he hasn't been able to do that and there's no guarentee that he will...but that's a lot of Offensive production. 

 

Byron Buxton

 

Past this, you've got Byron Buxton--who's got a lot of the same type of inconsistency and injury factors for different reasons that Sano has. 

However last season, even with Buxton not being anywhere near the type of hitter his potential says he could be....Buxton according to most WAR measures was arguably a top 20 or top 25 position player in the MLB...if not better.  

 

His baserunning ability and speed combined with his XBH hit ability because of his skillset when he does make contact (which isn't always easy) make him an extremely valuable player.He might never be a high average guy who can make a ton of consistent contact or limit strikeouts, but he's so efficient with his opportunities when on base and takes so many extra bases that he still can produce a lot of production.This combined with some of the best defense ever played at the position make another extremely valuable player--maybe the Twins best player even he doesn't improve on last season's offensive numbers. 
 

If the improvement from Kepler is real, which there's a lot to suggest that it might be at least to a good extent, and with Rosario and Sano...that's an extremely dangerous middle of the order. 

That kind of XBH/power potential from those 3 in the middle of the order surrounded by Buxton's speed, value on the bases, and also his ability to hit a lot of XBH's sprinkled in...is the foundation of the kind of lineup the Twins have only fielded a few times in their history.Especially if you put Buxton somewhere near the bottom of the line-up meaning when he is on base, the top of the order is coming up and more than likely to drive him in.  

If Kepler is for real, no matter what the Twins surround that with...and they've got some talent to surround them with...that's an extremely high ceiling for the Offense that's been unlocked largely by Kepler's ability to become a complete hitter--especially if he can keep up the OBP numbers.

 

I would argue that a Kepler/Buxton/Rosario OF, all 24 or 25 years old, is arguably the best 2 way OF group in the league behind maybe the Yankees.

 

1:
2: Kepler or _____
3:Sano
4: Rosario
5: ______ or Kepler
6:
7:
8:
9: Buxton

 

Then you start fiddling around with putting guys like Mauer, Dozier, Escobar, and eventually Polanco and prospects around those guys and it's extremely impressive.

 

What do you guys think about Kepler and Rosario and the ultimate ceiling of their games?  And if you surround those guys with skillsets like Sano and Mauer which are a little bit of 1 trick skillsets, but nonetheless valuable and

 

I'm really really optimistic about that ceiling.

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#2 DocBauer

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Posted 12 May 2018 - 07:14 PM

Always believed in Kepler. He just oizes5talent and looks effortless in most everything he does. I believe he still has untapped potential as a hitter, and I've said for a while I think he will be the Twins best #3 hitter, though it depends on how the manager wants to construct the lineup. I can easily see him hitting .300 at some point and he should be a big doubles producer and consistent 20+ HR guy.

Rosario may always be a bit of a wild card. But again, the pure talent is so obvious. And the production began to match last season and is again this season. I firmly believe we still haven't seen the best of Rosario. And he may always drive us crazy here and there with some things he does. But I will take those lapses with all the great things he does.

Buxton is a thoroughbred athlete who suffers sometimes, not just from the occasional injury, but from expectations. Everyone wants him to be Griffey Jr or Harper. But no matter how talented he is, or how good he may/can be, 19/20 yo phenom only come along so often. He started to show last season what he is capable of. The beginning to this season has been a mess, and then he he had the migraines and the toe. Give him the next few weeks and the rest of the season. If he follows the Rosario and Kepler path and next season is his big coming out party, I'm OK with that. He may never be the dynamic leadoff hitter we thought, but might instead end up being a dynamic power speed guy more in the 5-7 spots with perennial Gold Glove defense. I'm fine with that.

Anyone who wants to give up on Sano is just being silly. No question his offseason has been tumultuous. Personally and professionally, there is growth and maturation that needs to take place. For one thing, he needs to trust his talent and not look for 500 foot HR bombs when 450 will do quite nicely.

You barely mentioned Polanco. And whether he can be a solid SS or an even better 2B is to be determined. But we have seen glimpses of his potential. Unfortunately, this could be a wasted year, or at least a wasted half one. But there is hitting, some semblance of discipline, speed and pop. I see him as a fixture at the top of the order.

Kind of crazy the angst that some have for immediate gratification/production from a collection of 24-26 yo with tremendous talent and potential because they aren't all finished products yet.
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#3 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 02:54 AM

We need to get Sano and Buxton going. I think Sano on the hitting side should do well (eventually). He's show he can hit ML pitching with far more consistency than Buxton... but yeah, someone needs to get Byron righted, and we need to get away from needing to do this every single spring.

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#4 HitInAPinch

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 05:58 AM

I have to wonder how much effect Buxton's migraines have affected his development....

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#5 ttreadway

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 08:23 AM

I wonder what role Escobar could play...because every time he's had an opportunity to fill a need he's stepped up in a huge way. He's been the best hitter on this team since taking over for Sano last august, and I think we've seen enough of him to conclude its not just a fluke. It's hard to envision a scenario where we offer him a free agency deal, but given his production and his popularity in the clubhouse, I'd be more than happy if we offered him a 2-3 year deal worth 10-12 million a year to play third base and bump Sano to full time DH. He could also take over 2nd base for Dozier, but I see that spot more likely going to either Polanco or Gordon. I'd be pretty pumped to see this lineup next year.

 

1b- Mauer

2b/SS- Polanco

RF- Kepler

DH- Sano

LF- Rosario

CF- Buxton

3B- Escobar

SS/2B- Gordon

C- Garver/Castro

 

This would have us offering Mauer a couple of years...2 maybe three to finish out his career here, and not picking up Morrisons option. At this point I think Mauer would be the more valuable first base option. This would give us some serious XBH/HR potential in the 2-7 spots and maybe even down to the 8 spot depending on Gordon. The only reason I have Buxton 6th is to break up the right handers at the bottom of the lineup...and to have his speed in front of Escobars power.

 

 

 

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#6 DocBauer

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 09:09 PM

I have to wonder how much effect Buxton's migraines have affected his development....


I have suffered from migraines in the past, though not as severe or debilitating as they can be for some. But IMPO, I doubt it's the migraines, even though can absolutely mess with you when you get them. Those who I have known who have really bad cases can be in bed for 2-3 days and suffer aftereffects for a couple days.

Again, IMO, Buxton suffers from 3 things:

1] He is such an amazing athlete, such a natural talent that things have come to him so very easily in the past. That's not a knock on him, just an observation and opinion. A hitch, a leg kick, etc, that still produced great results in milb may simply not work at the ML level. So you have to make adjustments, and I think we began to see that last season.

2] Overall inexperience and youth. He is still only 24yo until December of this year. He debuted at 21yo, and his first relatively "full" season was 2016 at 22yo with 92 G and 298 AB. As I calculate numbers tonight, he has a grand total of 292 G played and 940 AB in his ML career.

3] Injuries, both at the milb and ML level. Even with time missed due to injury in the minors, be was so successful he still advanced quickly. But he absolutely missed developmental time, possibly hurting his ability to pick up and adjust to pitches, especially when you consider how much better the arms are at the ML level. (I refer back again to point #1). And he's missed time here and there at the ML level as well. Not saying he is injury prone or snakebit, but injuries have happened.

A little more time, a little bit better health to get in and stay in a groove, and I think he's just going to explode one of these days. It could happen yet this season. But if it doesn't fully happen until 2019 in his age 25 season, I would still be OK with that.

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#7 DocBauer

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 09:55 PM

I wonder what role Escobar could play...because every time he's had an opportunity to fill a need he's stepped up in a huge way. He's been the best hitter on this team since taking over for Sano last august, and I think we've seen enough of him to conclude its not just a fluke. It's hard to envision a scenario where we offer him a free agency deal, but given his production and his popularity in the clubhouse, I'd be more than happy if we offered him a 2-3 year deal worth 10-12 million a year to play third base and bump Sano to full time DH. He could also take over 2nd base for Dozier, but I see that spot more likely going to either Polanco or Gordon. I'd be pretty pumped to see this lineup next year.
 
1b- Mauer
2b/SS- Polanco
RF- Kepler
DH- Sano
LF- Rosario
CF- Buxton
3B- Escobar
SS/2B- Gordon
C- Garver/Castro
 
This would have us offering Mauer a couple of years...2 maybe three to finish out his career here, and not picking up Morrisons option. At this point I think Mauer would be the more valuable first base option. This would give us some serious XBH/HR potential in the 2-7 spots and maybe even down to the 8 spot depending on Gordon. The only reason I have Buxton 6th is to break up the right handers at the bottom of the lineup...and to have his speed in front of Escobars power.


I like the way you think and won't argue with you.

But I would throw a couple curveball your way on your proposed lineup. (And there is a TON of baseball to be played yet this year to determine these things!)

1] Morrison has been heating up, and could still be a must sign, even if he doesn't match 2017 numbers.

2] I am a big fan and believer in Polanco, whether he sticks at SS or moves to 2B. I am NOT Gordon, who I believe will be a fine player, but he is not yet a proven player and may need this year, and maybe part of 2019 before making his mark.

3] I play with roster construction, and even payroll, in my head all the time. Payroll is good, and not even at the ML mean. And there is, potentially, a good deal of money coming off the books next season, as well as after 2019, to allow for raises, extensions and the such. Even if the Twins were to re-sign Rodney and Duke, for example, to something similar, or an equivalent player, Lynn's contract is off the books. Hughes is off the books after 2019, and even if the Twins would decide to bring back Santana for 2019, he's probably gone after that. A Mauer and Dozier re-sign, in theory, so should cost no more than $26-27M. That would STILL be a savings of $6-7M plus the Lynn savings of $12M approximately. There is room to do this if the Dozier years aren't out of whack. Further, there is still room to bring back Escobar and allow for raises without blowing up payroll, (Again, assuming Santana is back as well as Rodney and Duke or equivalent signers, and nine of that may happen.)

So while I agree with all you stated, I still feel the team will be in the financial position to keep this roster intact, mostly intact, if it wants to for 2019. They can keep developing Gordon, other "coming to a ballpark near you" prospects while using the remainder of this season to promote Gonsalves, bring back May, get ready for Pineada, continue to promote the young RP that seem so close, and prepare for 2019.

I am so damn excited for this team and what 2019 holds!

"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

 

--Lou Brown


#8 twins1095

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 01:09 AM

 

I like the way you think and won't argue with you.

But I would throw a couple curveball your way on your proposed lineup. (And there is a TON of baseball to be played yet this year to determine these things!)

1] Morrison has been heating up, and could still be a must sign, even if he doesn't match 2017 numbers.

2] I am a big fan and believer in Polanco, whether he sticks at SS or moves to 2B. I am NOT Gordon, who I believe will be a fine player, but he is not yet a proven player and may need this year, and maybe part of 2019 before making his mark.

3] I play with roster construction, and even payroll, in my head all the time. Payroll is good, and not even at the ML mean. And there is, potentially, a good deal of money coming off the books next season, as well as after 2019, to allow for raises, extensions and the such. Even if the Twins were to re-sign Rodney and Duke, for example, to something similar, or an equivalent player, Lynn's contract is off the books. Hughes is off the books after 2019, and even if the Twins would decide to bring back Santana for 2019, he's probably gone after that. A Mauer and Dozier re-sign, in theory, so should cost no more than $26-27M. That would STILL be a savings of $6-7M plus the Lynn savings of $12M approximately. There is room to do this if the Dozier years aren't out of whack. Further, there is still room to bring back Escobar and allow for raises without blowing up payroll, (Again, assuming Santana is back as well as Rodney and Duke or equivalent signers, and nine of that may happen.)

So while I agree with all you stated, I still feel the team will be in the financial position to keep this roster intact, mostly intact, if it wants to for 2019. They can keep developing Gordon, other "coming to a ballpark near you" prospects while using the remainder of this season to promote Gonsalves, bring back May, get ready for Pineada, continue to promote the young RP that seem so close, and prepare for 2019.

I am so damn excited for this team and what 2019 holds!

 

Really good post.I pretty much 100% agree.My lineups were just meant to get discussion going and I fully expect things to change as more baseball gets played and new trends emerge--sample sizes are still small.As that information changes, the Twins strategy on future roster construction should change too.

 

Regarding your points 1 and 2--I am very high on both Morrison and Polanco as well. I'll share my thoughts 

 

1] Morrison has been heating up, and could still be a must sign, even if he doesn't match 2017 numbers.

 

In Morrison's first 12 games and 39 ABs he was 3-39 posting a 0.68-.180-.270 slash line.Despite his struggles to put the ball in play, Morrison largely maintained his approach at the plate drawing 5 walks and only striking out 12 times.

 

For a power hitter, a strikeout a game is actually very good, and his 162 game pace last year put him at 162 strikeouts or the same mark--so despite hitting so poorly he wasn't striking out at a higher rate than his successful year last year.Besides the power, last season Morrison showed an amazing ability to draw walks and get on base.His 88 walk pace per 162 games put him somewhere in the 10-15 range among MLB hitters in terms of walks drawn per game last season.

 

This season, that number is a little bit down, but not significantly so at least to any degree in which it should cause concern or worry.Morrison's 5 walks in 12 games would put him around 70 per 162 games and put him near the 35th spot or so in the MLB for walks drawn--despite the struggles he was still maintaining his approach and getting on base which should have been a big sign that Morrison would turn things around.

 

In 72 ABs since, Morrison has gone 20-72 for a .278 average.He's also drawn 8 walks in 21 games, which would put him at about 60 walks for the season--his walk numbers are still down, but it's likely that last year could have been a bit of a career year in this department.19 strikeouts means he's not striking out an alarming amount either. 

 

He's also hit 3 doubles, 3 HRs, and 11 RBIs in that span, or a 162 game pace of 24 HRs, 24 2Bs, and 85 RBIs. 

 

Morrison's overall slash line during that period paced to 162 games is roughly:

 

.280/.335/.785 with 85 runs - 24 2B - 24 HR - 85 RBI

 

That's not quite what the Twins hoped for based on last season's performance, but it's also not negative production especially for the price the Twins got him at this offseason.

 

Further, there's reason to believe that further positive regression could be coming... his BABIP is extremely low at .220 and well below the MLB league average of .300.A fly ball hitter like Morrison will likely have a low BABIP, but it's still below the .270 or .280 BABIP he had in the last two seasons.

 

Some of this is because, as the eye test suggests, he's not hitting as many balls hard.His LD rate (20.5-->18.6) is slightly down as is his soft contact percentage (17.5 --> 23.3).As a result his hard contact percentage (37.4 --> 33.5) and HR/FB (22.5-->11.5) are also down.Even if Morrison can't repeat his breakout last season, he's still below his HR/FB rate of two seasons ago before changing his launch angle which was around 15%. 

 

The biggest reason for this is that Morrison's IFFB% (in-field fly ball percentage) is up big time from 8.9% to 19.5%.For a guy with the type of loft on his swing that Morrison has, during periods of struggle, he's going to get under balls and pop them up.This seems to be the biggest indicator behind the decreases in HRs, linedrives, hard contact, and power percentage. 

 

We'll see how much positive regression happens, but I would argue that there's going to be some in that department in all likelikihood.Further, no matter the result I would argue that Morrison is closer to the hitter that he's been in his last 72 plate ABs (65% of his at bats this season) than the guy he was in the first 39 ABs (35% of his at bats this season.)

 

If Morrison can find some consistent production at the level he's been producing for his last 65% of his at bats this season or even better...it'll be an interesting conversation that the Twins will have to think about on which guy between him and Mauer they end up keeping. (Or both). 

Edited by twins1095, 15 May 2018 - 01:24 AM.


#9 twins1095

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 02:21 AM

 

I like the way you think and won't argue with you.

But I would throw a couple curveball your way on your proposed lineup. (And there is a TON of baseball to be played yet this year to determine these things!)

1] Morrison has been heating up, and could still be a must sign, even if he doesn't match 2017 numbers.

2] I am a big fan and believer in Polanco, whether he sticks at SS or moves to 2B. I am NOT Gordon, who I believe will be a fine player, but he is not yet a proven player and may need this year, and maybe part of 2019 before making his mark.

3] I play with roster construction, and even payroll, in my head all the time. Payroll is good, and not even at the ML mean. And there is, potentially, a good deal of money coming off the books next season, as well as after 2019, to allow for raises, extensions and the such. Even if the Twins were to re-sign Rodney and Duke, for example, to something similar, or an equivalent player, Lynn's contract is off the books. Hughes is off the books after 2019, and even if the Twins would decide to bring back Santana for 2019, he's probably gone after that. A Mauer and Dozier re-sign, in theory, so should cost no more than $26-27M. That would STILL be a savings of $6-7M plus the Lynn savings of $12M approximately. There is room to do this if the Dozier years aren't out of whack. Further, there is still room to bring back Escobar and allow for raises without blowing up payroll, (Again, assuming Santana is back as well as Rodney and Duke or equivalent signers, and nine of that may happen.)

So while I agree with all you stated, I still feel the team will be in the financial position to keep this roster intact, mostly intact, if it wants to for 2019. They can keep developing Gordon, other "coming to a ballpark near you" prospects while using the remainder of this season to promote Gonsalves, bring back May, get ready for Pineada, continue to promote the young RP that seem so close, and prepare for 2019.

I am so damn excited for this team and what 2019 holds!

 

2] I am a big fan and believer in Polanco, whether he sticks at SS or moves to 2B. I am NOT Gordon, who I believe will be a fine player, but he is not yet a proven player and may need this year, and maybe part of 2019 before making his mark.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Prelude

________________________________________________________________________________

 

I too am a big believer in Jorge Polanco, more so before the suspension for the positive PED test.However, I generally believe that in recent years we've seen inconclusive evidence that a player's success before getting caught for PEDs can't be repeated to at least some extent upon returning.  

 

Guys like Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera have been able to relatively closely match their numbers post-ban with only marginal degrees of drop-off.I believe that the edge players get from PEDs is in their ability to remain healthier, recover faster from nagging injuries, and stay fresher over the course of a long season.It's probably also true that PEDs are a shortcut to gaining muscle mass--but I think it's just that, a shortcut. 

 

Most importantly, I don't think PEDs have much, if any correlation, to the most important skill in baseball...that is...the ability to square up and hit a baseball.Polanco is an extremely talented hitter with a very strong pedigree and track record of production offensively.The guy has great hands, hand-eye, and good bat-speed and is just simply a natural hitter--or at least that's been his strength coming up through the minors and when he's on in the majors. 

 

I would be a lot more worried about a positive test if Polanco was a pure power guy such as a Logan Morrison or Miguel Sano...I think a power hitter that relies on that skill largely to differentiate themselves as a hitter faces a ton more questions than a guy who's a smaller-in-stature-line drive/gap/pull it to the corner HR guy like Polanco.In my mind, the positive PED test raises questions about his ultimate future power potential in terms of HRs, not his ability to be an above average MLB hitter. 

 

Polanco hit 10 HRs, 15 2Bs, and 2 3Bs in 63 second half games last season for per 162 game paces of 39 2Bs, 26 HRs, and 5 3Bs.The positive PED test puts into question whether he continues to show the surprising mid-to-high 20 HR power he did in last year's second half...instead of the mid-to-high teens HR guy he was thought of prior to last season's power explosion. 

 

2 seasons ago, in 53 second half games, Polanco hit 12 doubles, 4 3Bs, and 3 HRs for 162 game paces of 37 doubles, 12 3Bs, 10 HRs.I think it's much more likely his per game production is something more similar to this kind of line-drive/gaps/XBH power than the over-the-fence/HR power he showed last season--especially after the positive PED test. 

 

So while the positive PED test muddies the waters to some extent about Polanco's production upon his return and his ultimate ceiling--especially power-wise, I don't think it bars Polanco from the Twins future plans should he prove to have the work ethic to get himself into shape and stay off the PEDs in the future. 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Prior to Polanco's suspension this offseason, I wrote an analysis that's partially my own, but als gathering some analysis written by fangraphs writer Brandon Warne and others regarding Polanco's potential and their excitement for the young player.I'm going to copy and paste that reddit post following this:

________________________________________________________________________________

 

I'm a huge Polanco believer. He advanced through the minors so quickly with a lot of success, it's not surprising he's been a little inconsistent at the major league level. The dude is just a downright solid hitter.

 

I'm a big analytics junkie especially in baseball--so I'm a big Fangraphs guy. Fangraphs is absolutely massive on Polanco.

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

Here's there projections for this year:

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

Polanco won't wow you with any individual attributes, but instead of flash, he's just downright solid. His season numbers in 2017 aren't terribly impressive -- .256/.313/.410 -- but he ended the year blazing hot after an early-season stretch where he faltered badly at the plate, and perhaps not inconsequentially, lost his grandfather. When Polanco woke up on Aug. 1, his season line was .213/.265/.305; from that point on – 55 games – he hit a blistering .316/.377/.553 with 10 homers, 15 doubles and seven steals. Those are 162-game paces of 30 homers, 45 doubles and 21 steals! He won't post a .900-plus OPS, but this is a guy you should be targeting after the studs at shortstop.

 

Polanco had a horrible start to last season, but he also was horribly unlucky. Even after his crazy stretch in August/September, his BABIP was only .278. This is from a guy who's BABIP in the minors was in the .310-.330 range consistently.

 

Polanco has a great command of the strike-zone and an elite ability to make solid contact and drive balls. It's not a surprise he's such an XBH machine.

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

Fangraph's writers across the board love Polanco and his contact skills, here's another article written about Polanco in early January: https://www.fangraph...-watch-in-2018/

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

Here's another writers Polanco analysis:

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

In his pre-season player profile last year I wrote the following of Polanco:

 

Polanco doesn’t have a lot of power, but he actually led all MLB shortstops in line drive percentage (30%), and already shows he can pull the ball effectively (41%), so it wouldn’t be surprising to see just enough pop in 2017 to make Polanco a cheap middle infield source of slightly above average power/speed (think 20 HR+SB).

 

The switch-hitting Polanco made good on that analysis, combining for 26 HR + SB and a .253/.313/.410 line in 133 games.

 

What I didn’t expect was that he’d accomplish almost all of it in just half a season, hitting 10 of his 13 home runs in August/September and swiping 7 bases in that timeframe in six less games. Polanco’s effort to change his approach clearly paid off, (.293/.359/.511), and he’s young enough (just 24) that it’s not unreasonable to expect many of those gains to stick around for 2018.

 

Polanco finished the 2017 season with career marks in contact rate (86.5%), swinging strike rate (5.8%), and hard hit rate (27.7%). I’m excited to see what might be next for this MIN post-hype prospect.

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Here's one last article from November that has the punchline I'm getting to in it...

Article: https://www.fangraph...ospects-part-1/

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Polanco Player Analysis #3

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I remember reading and hearing about Polanco on Twins prospect lists for several years, but then once he came up to the majors… nothing! I’m not talking about 2014-15 when his two sips of coffee combined for 20 PA, but even in 2016 when he played 69 (nice!) games there wasn’t any real chatter surrounding him. Then this past season he slogged through 78 games with a .570 OPS before rallying to the finish line with a fantastic .931 OPS in 55 games including 10 HR and 7 SB. Only then did he get a little buzz, but even that was muted by fellow second tier prospect Eddie Rosario (.889 2H OPS). Perhaps Polanco could be on something of a Jose Ramirez track.

 

It’s not a perfect comparison as I think Polanco trades some of the contact and speed of Ramirez for more ready-made power, but both are switch-hitting power/speed middle infielders who were up at 20 years old logging MLB time. Again, Polanco tallied just 20 total PA in 2014-15 while Ramirez had 280 through his age-21 season, but Polanco turned around his struggles quicker than Ramirez had through age-22 (78 wRC+ in 625 PA) so he may not need as many reps to make the leap. The beauty with Polanco is that his first half overshadows his final two months on the bottom line so there won’t be a ton of attention on him come draft day. Scoop him up on the cheap!

 

The writer loosely compares Polanco to Jose Ramirez and while Polanco likely isn't quite that good...he's still really good.

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Polanco's 2017/18 162 Game Pace/Production Per Game Stats

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Polanco's stats last year on 162 game pace were roughly(with slight embellishment):

 

.260/.315/.410/.725 with 75 runs - 36 2B - 4 3B - 16 HR - 90 RBI - 16 SB and a .280 BABIP that suggests even more positive regression in that line.

 

Like the articles have pointed out, Polanco has reached the majors at the age of 20 and while he hasn't quite consistently established himself...players like Polanco who rise that quickly and face development levels way past their age-group can get slightly soured by groups of fans who don't understand that most of Polanco's peers were still in the low-minors. Polanco shouldn't be penalized for that.

 

His career 162 game average isn't bad either and are just under:

 

.270/.325/.420/.765 with 70 runs - 35 2B - 5 3B - 15 HR - 80 RBI - 15 SB

 

Projections have him pretty close to that line(162 game pace):

 

.275/.330/.425/.755 with 83 runs - 35 2B - 5 3B - 17 HR - 83 RBI - 17 SB

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I think that's roughly a pretty fair over under for Polanco, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Polanco take an Eddie Rosario type jump and approach .290 or even higher with 40+ combined 2B/3B's and approaching 20 HRs. His run and rbi totals will depend on his lineup spot.

 

Regardless, if Polanco can put up numbers somewhere between those two lines...holy moly should Twins fans have a lot to be excited about. I really think he can. His hitting skills, ability to make hard contact, and ability to command the strike zone are all legit. I'd be really disappointed if Polanco can't establish himself this season.

 

Defensively, I think Polanco's best position long-term is probably 2B. But I was pleasantly surprised with his ability at SS last season and while he'll likely never be a guy with a glove that is a real plus his ability to not be a huge minus defensively and play both MI spots will allow his bat to play.

 

Guys, Polanco is ONLY 24.

 

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Who knows if Polanco will reach his potential, but I really think he's he's got a make-up that suggests he could be a good one. The biggest concern for me is the lower exit velocity, that stat seems to contradict a lot of the other metrics in his profile. Some of that could be because he's not a big guy or a huge power guy in terms of mammoth home runs. I'm not sure...we'll see. I'm optimistic. Having his kind of bat at 2B/SS could be a huge luxury.

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Post Analysis Post Thoughts

 

 

Some of this will be reiterating what was written in those paragraphs, but Polanco's great really good hit tools.He's got a really good approach at the plate, a great command for the strike zone, and elite elite ability to make contact.His 86.5% contact rate and 5.8% meaning that he's got absolutely elite bat control and almost never misses, especially on balls inside the zone.His 8ish% walk rate puts him very solidly above average, he's no Rosario and this rate shows that he can both make contact as well as get on base at an above average level.Further, his 14.3% strikeout rate was near Mauer-esque in terms of limiting strikeouts.

 

Many guys who make a lot of contact do so while protecting the plate and making weak/singles type of contact.Polanco mashes the ball and led all MLB shortstops in line drive% with 30%.Basically, Polanco is a switch-hitting extra base machine that makes a ton of really solid contact driving the ball in gaps all over the field.He's tries to yank and pull balls over the fence at times if he gets one in his wheelhouse, but generally spreads the ball really well to all fields.  

 

It remains to be seen how he can perform after returning from the suspension, but Polanco is just 24 and the same age as Buxton and has had 2 stints of extremely successful seasons at the MLB level at age 22 and 23 after reaching the majors for the first time at just 20 years old. I was most excited for Polanco this offseason and I really hope he can regain form.

 

Polanco regaining his form would be one of the most positive things I can think of for the Twins potential future offensively.When healthy, him, Rosario, Sano, Kepler would form a pretty solid foundation for the lineup of guys who are all 24/25 tears old: #2 (Polanco - SS), #3 (Sano - 3B/DH), #4 (Rosario - RF) #5 (Kepler - LF)Aside from whatever Buxton can or can't produce...

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One last caveat--Interesting that you're high on Polanco, but low on Gordon

 

With that being said, it's really interesting that you don't like Nick Gordon because Gordon and Polanco are very similar prospects.Defensively, both are SS's who've had to deal with questions about their ability to stay at the position and not move to 2B (Polanco answered them well last season).  

 

Neither are big guys, Polanco is 5'11 200 and Gordon 6' 165, neither project to be big HR guys, but should hit a bunch of extra base hits...both of their best skills are their ability to make a lot of pretty good contact.Polanco probably has a little more power while Gordon has a little bit more speed.  

 

It's interesting that you're bullish on Polanco, but boarish on Gordon.Curious why that is?


#10 DocBauer

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:15 PM

Actually, I had a typo on Gordon. I meant to say I am NOT down on him, I simply view him as an unproven prospect at this point, who us arguably not yet ready for MLB while Polanco, Dozier and Escobar ARE. (Or somewhat proven in the case of Polanco).

I think Gordon will be a really nice player. But push come to shove, I'm interested in keeping a good team and good lineup intact as much as possible.

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#11 yarnivek1972

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 02:13 PM

Kepler’s career BABIP is under .270 in well over 1000 PA. At some point, that becomes less about “bad luck” and more about defenses able to project his tendencies.

That is the next stage of his development IMO. To be a guy that truly is dangerous to all fields in any situation. That will increase his BABIP and the rest of the numbers will jump as a result.

On a related note, I suspect we may see a drifting down of the average BABIP as shifting and defensive analytics come even more into play than they already do. “Historically” it has been about .300. Is there data that that is what it actually was last year? Last 5? It would be interesting to see the trend over the last 5-10 years.
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#12 ashburyjohn

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 03:27 PM

 

“Historically” it has been about .300. Is there data that that is what it actually was last year? Last 5? It would be interesting to see the trend over the last 5-10 years.

Since 2000 MLB BABIP has been fluctuating between .293 and .303. Last year was .300; this year sits at .295. Nothing to see here. Yet.

 

You can look through, year by year, on b-r.com. Start at:

https://www.baseball...d-batting.shtml

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#13 twins1095

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 08:16 PM

Kepler’s career BABIP is under .270 in well over 1000 PA. At some point, that becomes less about “bad luck” and more about defenses able to project his tendencies.

That is the next stage of his development IMO. To be a guy that truly is dangerous to all fields in any situation. That will increase his BABIP and the rest of the numbers will jump as a result.

On a related note, I suspect we may see a drifting down of the average BABIP as shifting and defensive analytics come even more into play than they already do. “Historically” it has been about .300. Is there data that that is what it actually was last year? Last 5? It would be interesting to see the trend over the last 5-10 years.


I think this low BABIP for someone who hits as many balls hard as Kepler does is probably going to be pretty much entirely explained by his platoon splits and his inability (pre-2018 at least) to hit lefties. I would guess if you looked at his BABIP by pitcher handedness Kepler’s BABIP against RHP’s will be somewhere in the neighborhood of .300 or better while against LHP’s it will be much worse...dragging down his overall BABIP.

Looking at fangraphs this is exactly the case, Kepler’s BABIP against RHP was .296 and .203 against LHP.

When you’re hitting .150-.210-.450 against lefties with a 5 BB% and 30%, you aren’t making hard contact and your babip is gonna be really low—dragging down your overall BABIP.

This is the same phenomena that affects all of his stats and make it so impressive that he’s able to put up pretty respectable numbers despite this split. The key to Kepler unlocking his potential is in him hitting lefties, if not at the same level he hits righties, something passable.

For example, Kepler last year against righties hit:

Slash: .272-345-.830 - 9.5BB% -17K%

162/pace: 105 run -50 2B - 30 HR - 100 RBI

#14 nytwinsfan

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 08:55 PM

Kepler's BABIP continues to dip. He hits it hard. Dude is just getting ridiculously unlucky. 


#15 nytwinsfan

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 09:03 PM

 

I think this low BABIP for someone who hits as many balls hard as Kepler does is probably going to be pretty much entirely explained by his platoon splits and his inability (pre-2018 at least) to hit lefties. I would guess if you looked at his BABIP by pitcher handedness Kepler’s BABIP against RHP’s will be somewhere in the neighborhood of .300 or better while against LHP’s it will be much worse...dragging down his overall BABIP.

Looking at fangraphs this is exactly the case, Kepler’s BABIP against RHP was .296 and .203 against LHP.

When you’re hitting .150-.210-.450 against lefties with a 5 BB% and 30%, you aren’t making hard contact and your babip is gonna be really low—dragging down your overall BABIP.

This is the same phenomena that affects all of his stats and make it so impressive that he’s able to put up pretty respectable numbers despite this split. The key to Kepler unlocking his potential is in him hitting lefties, if not at the same level he hits righties, something passable.

For example, Kepler last year against righties hit:

Slash: .272-345-.830 - 9.5BB% -17K%

162/pace: 105 run -50 2B - 30 HR - 100 RBI

But i'm pretty sure if you look at his batted ball profile overall it doesn't suggest he should have a low BABIP. 

 

This year league average BABIP is .295 and batted ball profile is 18.3% soft, 46.9% Medium and 34.8% hard.

 

This year (before tonight's 0-4, zero K game) Kepler's BABIP is .259, and he's hitting 15% soft, 41.6%, and 43.4% hard. And his infield fly ball rate (8.2%) is also lower than league average (10.5%). So according to his batted ball profile he should have a higher BABIP, not a lower one. Whatever he is losing against lefties, he should be more than making up for against righties. He's not. 

 

Kepler is just getting really unlucky. 

 

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#16 twins1095

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 10:13 PM

 

But i'm pretty sure if you look at his batted ball profile overall it doesn't suggest he should have a low BABIP. 

 

This year league average BABIP is .295 and batted ball profile is 18.3% soft, 46.9% Medium and 34.8% hard.

 

This year (before tonight's 0-4, zero K game) Kepler's BABIP is .259, and he's hitting 15% soft, 41.6%, and 43.4% hard. And his infield fly ball rate (8.2%) is also lower than league average (10.5%). So according to his batted ball profile he should have a higher BABIP, not a lower one. Whatever he is losing against lefties, he should be more than making up for against righties. He's not. 

 

Kepler is just getting really unlucky. 

 

Oh I understand that.The main reason I wrote this post was to highlight the peripherals in Kepler's game this season--better approach, walking more, striking out less, hitting both handedness, tons of XBH, average took a jump in accordance to these peripheral changes. At the time the traditional stats were there too, but he's hit a streak of extremely bad luck.

 

Interestingly he's mashing LHP this year to the tune of .323-.382-.645-1.028 -8.8BB%-11.8K%-.320 BABIP

 

Only 34 ABs, but 4 2Bs, 2 HRs, suggest he's not only hitting for average against LHP, but he's also driving the ball.Further, he's not striking out or being fooled against lefties like last year (5.5 BB% -29.1 K%)

 

 

It's against RHP he's struggling this year, but it seems to be more bad luck than anything.His approach is good 11.3BB% - 13.8K%....

 

 

Further he's hitting 14% soft contact -- 42% medium contact -- 44% hard contact so he's not making a lot of soft contact and making a lot of hard contact. 

 

It honestly makes no sense to see those peripherals and then see a slash line of .225-.313-.406-.713 with a BABIP of .241

 

He's still getting a decent amount of XBH despite this too, his current pace against righties is 32 doubles and 14 HRs so it seems his HR/FB rate is down this season against righties at about 8.3% from 13.8% last year while making more hard contact (36.5% last year)

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I don't think there's much to make of it other than Kepler's battling a ton of bad luck that, while it isn't Polanco-esque from the first half of last year, could begin to approach it if it continues.

 

With that being said, the peripherals are there.Kepler seems to have taken a step forward in his approach on both sides of the plate which should give him a solid platform to take a step forward this season.Further, he seems to be making more hard contact and less soft contact and he's driving the ball and getting his usual high numbers of XBH's despite fighting the bad luck.

 

Other than the decrease in HR/FB the only real possibly significant difference I can find without digging to a level of depth that I'm not patient enough to get to, is that against RHP's he's pulling the ball a lot more this year  (43 - 39.5 - 17.5) compared to last year (44 - 31.5 - 24.5).I guess even then the real shift is only in that he's driving more balls up the middle instead of the other way...which seemingly means he's staying on balls better one could argue. 

 

As I try to wrap up this post, a thought popped up in my mind that maybe they're shifting Kepler more or differently?I'm not really sure how to tell if there's a difference in the type of shifts he's facing, but fangraphs suggests he's pretty much around the same against shifts this season...and teams don't appear to be shifting him more than previous seasons. 

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But again if the peripherals hold I'm still extremely confident that Kepler's positioned to take a step forward.It's not often that players make the kind of jump in approach that Kepler has and don't improve.More walks, less strikeouts, more hard contact, and less contact seem to be pretty much the exact formula to improve ones game.We're at a point in the season 23% of the way through where earlier season trends can begin to be examined more closely to a baseline--at least for this season anyways.

 

Here's to rereading these posts at the end of June or something similar and Kepler's bad luck evening itself out.

 

 

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