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Like many other Minnesota Twins, Max Kepler enjoyed a banner 2019 regular season en route to over 100 victories. Kepler assumed the leadoff position in the batting order and flourished. He hit 36 homers and drove in 90 runs and played good defense in right field. Kepler also more than held his own against left handed pitching, hitting .283 with an .880 OPS against southpaws. The season, however, didn't end well for the Berlin native. He was injured and slumped in September and the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees. Max was 0-10 in the 2019 playoffs.

Since the breakout season, Kepler has not fared well. Max's OPS fell from to .760 in 2020 and is .692 this year. Kep has spent time on the Injured List both in 2019 and this season, including ten days on the COVID list. He's particularly struggled against left handed pitching making 2019 look like an extreme outlier in that regard. Kepler remains a good defender and is an adequate center fielder as well as well above average in right. 

Kepler's injuries and illness have given other players a chance. Career minor leaguers Rob Refsnyder and Kyle Garlick have fared well in limited roles and certainly done better against lefties than Kepler. Top prospects Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have gotten an opportunity and shown that they are ready to hit big league pitching. Quite suddenly, there is a case to be made that Kepler shouldn't be getting regular play when everyone is healthy (I know it never seems to happen, but it might). 

Kepler is signed for two more years, at $6.75m in 2022 and $8.5m in 2023. That is more than reasonable for an above average starting corner outfielder, but is a lot to pay for a utility or platoon outfielder. Unfortunately, the trio of Larnach, Kirilloff and Kepler all hit left handed. Early results show the two rookies as handling southpaws better than the more veteran Kepler. What to do with Max? 

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It has also been some time since we have seen a healthy Max Kepler.  Although he may never again have a season like 2019, expect a typical year is a lot closer to that than the start of this year when he seemed to be battling various injuries since spring training.

I also think it is unlikely that Kirilloff will be competing for a corner outfield spot.  I expect him to be the Twins primary first baseman sometime after this year.  When I consider how solid Max is defensively, I want to see him as part of the regular lineup next year and beyond.

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2 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I need to see a healthy Kepler for awhile before demoting him but my gut tells me the better move is to put Larnach in left, slide Kirilloff to first, and put Sano (or someone else) at DH. 

Where do you put Arraez?

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Just now, Brock Beauchamp said:

I’d probably aim for him to be a roving player, it’s not as if there won’t an injury immediately.

If you take away his outfield spot, he won't get enough abats as a utility infielder unless you plan to trade Donaldson.  You have to see what Gordon can do the rest of this year, (he is old enough, he may be only a short term option (re his brother), but for next year you have to know).

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2 minutes ago, beckmt said:

If you take away his outfield spot, he won't get enough abats as a utility infielder unless you plan to trade Donaldson.  You have to see what Gordon can do the rest of this year, (he is old enough, he may be only a short term option (re his brother), but for next year you have to know).

I’m sorry but… you’re joking, right? Has this team had ANY difficulty getting healthy players at-bats in the past few years?

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5 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I’m sorry but… you’re joking, right? Has this team had ANY difficulty getting healthy players at-bats in the past few years?

Twins have surplus, they have difficult 40 man roster decisions at the end of the year.  Look how many DFAed players the Twins have lost.  Sano is a sunk cost. Kepler will have a regular position only if you have to trade Buxton.(maybe)  Kepler has great value with his contract to multiple teams because he can fit almost any budget.  Maybe trade to TB for some of their surplus pitching and prospects.

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10 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I’m sorry but… you’re joking, right? Has this team had ANY difficulty getting healthy players at-bats in the past few years?

I am not joking, this has been commented on in other places.  In fact I can see the players in the new CBA wanting to stop the shuttle and force teams to keep players or release them to other opportunities. 

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12 minutes ago, beckmt said:

I am not joking, this has been commented on in other places.  In fact I can see the players in the new CBA wanting to stop the shuttle and force teams to keep players or release them to other opportunities. 

I’ll worry about the “too many players” issue after it happens even once. 

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9 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I’ll worry about the “too many players” issue after it happens even once. 

It already has, the last 3 players the Twins DFA'ed all where claimed.  That is the first sign of an issue.  Plus if neither Buxton or Berrios agree to an extension you have to trade them unless all you get is buy low offers (and given the CBA and the Twins roster crunch can see that happening).  The CBA issue will throw a monkey wrench into this years trade market, unless you are certain your club will make the playoffs.  And I don't see the Twins trading a major player to the White Sox who really need both Buxton and Berrios.  What is your plan for this fall when Twins still have to add 6 - 7 players to the 40 man, and still have useful pieces at the bottom (ie like Gordon).

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16 minutes ago, beckmt said:

It already has, the last 3 players the Twins DFA'ed all where claimed.  That is the first sign of an issue.  Plus if neither Buxton or Berrios agree to an extension you have to trade them unless all you get is buy low offers (and given the CBA and the Twins roster crunch can see that happening).  The CBA issue will throw a monkey wrench into this years trade market, unless you are certain your club will make the playoffs.  And I don't see the Twins trading a major player to the White Sox who really need both Buxton and Berrios.  What is your plan for this fall when Twins still have to add 6 - 7 players to the 40 man, and still have useful pieces at the bottom (ie like Gordon).

This team is really bad right now, I’m not concerned about losing the likes of Blankenhorn. People make a big deal out of stuff like that all the time but a few years later, no one even remembers the name “Joe Benson”, much less why it was a “big deal” when the Twins released him.

Out of all the Twins problems, finding playing time for MLB quality players is near the bottom of the list. If they actually had that problem, they wouldn’t have one of the worst records in all of baseball. The team needs better, healthy players not more players. 

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

This team is really bad right now, I’m not concerned about losing the likes of Blankenhorn. People make a big deal out of stuff like that all the time but a few years later, no one even remembers the name “Joe Benson”, much less why it was a “big deal” when the Twins released him.

Out of all the Twins problems, finding playing time for MLB quality players is near the bottom of the list. If they actually had that problem, they wouldn’t have one of the worst records in all of baseball. The team needs better, healthy players not more players. 

Unless you believe the Twins can rip off a 10 game winning streak or a couple of 7 gamers, we are not getting back into the race and we only have a month to do this.  At the current time the last wild card position is +14, we are -12.  That is 13 games and multiple teams to pass.  We are going to need to clean up the 40 man roster, or will lose useful players in the rule 5 draft.  And all clubs know this.  We will also need to find out how many pitchers close to the majors are possible keepers.  Also if we trade some players for multiple prospects, where will they go.  Twins have been a bit unlucky on the injury bug, and the FO misguessed on the bullpen.  I think you are dreaming if you don't think this is a problem. 

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21 minutes ago, beckmt said:

Unless you believe the Twins can rip off a 10 game winning streak or a couple of 7 gamers, we are not getting back into the race and we only have a month to do this.  At the current time the last wild card position is +14, we are -12.  That is 13 games and multiple teams to pass.  We are going to need to clean up the 40 man roster, or will lose useful players in the rule 5 draft.  And all clubs know this.  We will also need to find out how many pitchers close to the majors are possible keepers.  Also if we trade some players for multiple prospects, where will they go.  Twins have been a bit unlucky on the injury bug, and the FO misguessed on the bullpen.  I think you are dreaming if you don't think this is a problem. 

I hold no illusions of this team being a contender in 2021, which is why this isn't a problem. On July 31st, a large number of today's Twins players will be former Twins players.

On top of that, there are several players at a bunch of positions currently occupying 40-man spots that are beyond fungible. Are we concerned about losing the likes of Garlick, Refsnyder, et al?

I'm not dreaming. If anything, it's the opposite... I'm being pragmatic about the number of MLB-quality players that will be on this team when the calendar flips to August and how little concern I have over the loss of fringe 40-man role players. Remember, this conversation started with concern over whether Luis Arraez would get playing time or not, which is pretty much not going to be an issue, ever, because this team has an ugly mess of injuries and players no one should hesitate to release at any moment.

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I’ve been worried about Kepler for some time. Unless he improves a lot, at this point, I’d rather see Gordon playing and with Larnach and Kirilloff in LF and RF. I’m also wondering how far Jose Miranda and Ernie De La Trinidad are from the majors? Do they trade Simmons? I’d say yes and let Gordon hit, run and steal bases. If Miranda is close, that could affect what they do with Donaldson (trade, 1B).

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I hold no illusions of this team being a contender in 2021, which is why this isn't a problem. On July 31st, a large number of today's Twins players will be former Twins players.

On top of that, there are several players at a bunch of positions currently occupying 40-man spots that are beyond fungible. Are we concerned about losing the likes of Garlick, Refsnyder, et al?

I'm not dreaming. If anything, it's the opposite... I'm being pragmatic about the number of MLB-quality players that will be on this team when the calendar flips to August and how little concern I have over the loss of fringe 40-man role players. Remember, this conversation started with concern over whether Luis Arraez would get playing time or not, which is pretty much not going to be an issue, ever, because this team has an ugly mess of injuries and players no one should hesitate to release at any moment.

Some of them like Refsnyder are nice stories, but probably not long for here.  My concern is at bats for the core, unless you plan on Buxton not being here after July 31.  Donaldson and Sano are almost non tradeable, and I would presume that if Pineda, Cruz and some others are traded, they would bring back at least a piece that would have to make the 40 man.  The question is whether this is a retool or a rebuild.  That will be decided by whether you can extend either Buxton or Berrios, if neither you are looking at a rebuild and prospects that could be further away, if you can resign 1 or both it is a retool, in which case for a lot of the players you are looking at lottery tickets, as only Pineda and maybe Robles or Cruz will bring a viable minor leaguer back that would have to be put on the 40 man.  Lots of variables here, but see very few of the Twins starting position player outside of Cruz traded, unless Kepler will bring back more than you think.  Again this assumes that Buxton and or Berrios is resigned.  I feel Buxton is gone and Berrios may be unless the Twins overpay to keep him.  But that is another thread.  

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I don’t think this is that hard. Kepler starts in right field as part of a platoon with Refsnyder/Garlick until he loses the position, which will probably occur in the next year or two. He’s then the 4th OF. Love the defense, but he simply doesn’t hit well enough to be a regular every day starting corner outfielder on a contending team. That stinks to say, but it is the reality.  I think Kirilloff will play first base and I think Sano will be gone or moved to DH. I have read that the Twins tried to trade Sano this year already but could not find a taker for his contract. Whether or not that is true, He is 29 years old and is unlikely to consistently be what he has shown in flashes. He is the odd man out.

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2 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

By August 1st I kinda hope this is the defense:

LF - Larnach  CF - Celestino  RF - Kepler

3B - Arraez  SS - Polanco   2B - Gordon  1B - Kiriloff  

DH - Sano   C - Jeffers

The guys who need to be dealt and who need to play all have a spot IMO.

I hope this is not the case.

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Kepler is playing like he has played most years, with the exception being his defense has taken a dive.  Although his salary is cheap, it's not cheap enough for him to be tradeable.

His 2019 numbers signified a problem, not impending greatness.  He hit 36 home runs in 2019, but only ended up with an OPS at .855.  In the previous years when he hit around 20 home runs, his OPS was below league average.  Kepler doesn't have enough power to profile as a power hitter, yet that's all he is.

I'm sure he will continue starting in the bulk of games through the rest of his contract and he will continue to straddle the middle of the road.  In that vein, he isn't worth talking about.  He's an average player and the Twins should be working on the positions where players are below average.

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33 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

Why?

Because Celestino is not ready to be a starting major league center fielder, Polanco should not be an every day SS, Arraez is not an everyday 3b, Sano is not an everyday Dh and Gordon is a ?

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2 minutes ago, yeahyabetcha said:

Because Celestino is not ready to be a starting major league center fielder, Polanco should not be an every day SS, Arraez is not an everyday 3b, Sano is not an everyday Dh and Gordon is a ?

Why care when the season is over?  It's about at-bats and growth for the future.

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28 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

Why care when the season is over?  It's about at-bats and growth for the future.

I mean… sometimes? But as we’ve seen with the likes of Hicks and Buxton, forcing the issue and letting a guy get his face bashed in nightly isn’t a recipe for success. A guy has to be ready enough to not embarrass himself and that’s ignoring service time considerations. 

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11 minutes ago, yeahyabetcha said:

I think it is ok to still try to win some games. 

Is that lineup a AA lineup?  I can see the point on Celestino, but these guys have to have time to adjust to the big leagues.  What better time than when the outcomes are less relevant?

Every other guy in that lineup is a semi-regular now, I'm not calling up 19 year olds fresh off the draft.  This is just casting off the guys with minimal future with the team as is in order to help the next wave improve and season with regular playing time.

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11 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I mean… sometimes? But as we’ve seen with the likes of Hicks and Buxton, forcing the issue and letting a guy get his face bashed in nightly isn’t a recipe for success. A guy has to be ready enough to not embarrass himself and that’s ignoring service time considerations. 

Sure, but in that lineup the only guy you can make that case with is Celestino right?  And, if so, that's fine.  I'm ok keeping him down, but the rest of them are already semi-regulars at worst.

I would prefer Polanco could stay at 2B, but we don't have a lot of competent shortstops ready either.  Then again, Polanco isn't the one I'm concerned about getting ABs at his primary position.

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2 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

Sure, but in that lineup the only guy you can make that case with is Celestino right?  And, if so, that's fine.  I'm ok keeping him down, but the rest of them are already semi-regulars at worst.

I would prefer Polanco could stay at 2B, but we don't have a lot of competent shortstops ready either.  Then again, Polanco isn't the one I'm concerned about getting ABs at his primary position.

Probably only Celestino. It’s always possible Jeffers, Kirilloff, or Larnach slide back far enough to earn a demotion but they all look pretty legit right now. I think Kirilloff and Larnach are close to locks to stay up. 

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1 minute ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Probably only Celestino. It’s always possible Jeffers, Kirilloff, or Larnach slide back far enough to earn a demotion but they all look pretty legit right now. I think Kirilloff and Larnach are close to locks to stay up. 

Catcher would be a position I'd be ok with a rotation of guys.  I'd love Garver to have a lot of ABs too, but there doesn't seem to be a time-table on that poor guy.  Plus the Twins seem to be a 60/40 or 70/30 split as is so we have options there too.

I'm not opposed to sending someone down that is being beaten over the head by major league talent if that were to happen over the last two months.

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9 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

Is that lineup a AA lineup?  I can see the point on Celestino, but these guys have to have time to adjust to the big leagues.  What better time than when the outcomes are less relevant.

Every other guy in that lineup is a semi-regular now, I'm not calling up 19 year olds fresh off the draft.

What benefit does moving Polanco off of second base provide?  Does he not look like a good 2022 option there to you?

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