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  • The Twins 3 Most Underrated Players


    Cody Christie

    Every offseason, MLB Network ranks the top 10 players right now at each position. Three Twins players crack into the top-10 list at their position, but which players were underrated when compared to their peers?

    Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

    Max Kepler, Right Field

    MLB Network Rank: NR

    Right field includes some of baseball’s most notable names like Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Bryce Harper along with young studs like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. Since the beginning of 2018, Kepler ranks as one of the best right fielders in all of baseball. According to FanGraphs, Kepler has the eighth highest WAR among right fielders over the last three seasons. This puts him ahead of players on MLB’s list including Mike Yastrzemski, Jorge Soler, Joey Gallo, and Charlie Blackmon.

     

    Kepler’s defense helps to separate him from the other players on this list. According to SABR’s SDI rankings, Kepler was the AL’s second-best defensive right fielder in 2019 and the only player ahead of him on the list, Mookie Betts, has since been traded to the NL. He probably doesn’t have a chance to rank in the top-5, but there’s a solid argument for him being baseball’s sixth best right fielder.

     

    Ryan Jeffers, Catcher

    MLB Network Rank: NR

    Minnesota has a catcher rank in MLB’s top-10, but Mitch Garver might not even be the team’s best catcher in 2021. Garver entered the 2020 season as MLB’s fourth best catcher as he trailed J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, and Willson Contreras. Garver went from the AL’s Silver Slugger in 2019 to hitting .167/.247/.264 in 26 games last season. This allowed Jeffers his time to shine.

     

    Jeffers was seen as a bat first catcher coming out of college, but he has turned himself into a tremendous defensive asset. During his rookie season, he ranked seventh in baseball when it comes to strike rate which places him ahead of many names on MLB’s top-10 list. Offensively, he hit .273/.355/.436 with three home runs in 26 games. To top it off, Garver just turned 30 in January and Jeffers won’t turn 24 until June.

     

    Taylor Rogers, Relief Pitcher

    MLB Network Rank: NR

    Tyler Duffey represents Minnesota on MLB’s top-10 relief pitcher list and few question how valuable Duffey has been over the last two seasons. However, Rogers has a longer track record and there are some signs that point to his 2020 numbers being more of a fluke. His BABIP rose to a career high .400, but he was still striking out well over a batter per inning. With an even better defense behind him in 2021, there’s a clear opportunity for him to rebound.

     

    Since the start of 2018, Rogers ranks fourth among all relief pitchers in WAR including a tremendous 2019 campaign. In that season, he had the third highest win probability added among AL relievers. Many of the players on MLB’s list haven’t ranked in the top-10 before and. Also, their rankings seem to be relying a lot on numbers from last season when many relievers were limited in their number of appearances due to the shortened season.

     

    Who do you think are the Twins most underrated players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

     

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    I am less a fan of Max than most readers on this site.  His lifetime 237 bothers me.  He has had one good power year.  I can understand why he would not be ranked with those other studs.

    Jeffers is my favorite on the list.  

    Rogers is a mystery - I hope last year is a fluke.  RP have up and down years, but if last year was real we have a big hole in the BP. 

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    Jeffers has been underrated since he was drafted and looks poised to be a top of line catcher.  So he would be my pick.  Rooker might also be an underrated player but with so little info to go on it is hard to say.  This will be big year for him as well.

     

    I am starting to lose faith in Rogers.  Teams seem to have figured out his approach and aren't swinging at the balls he throws inside.  He looked very hittable last year.  He either needs better placement or a new wrinkle to keep hitters more off balance.  Hopefully he find the mojo to get back to elite status.

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    I disagree with Max being underrated. In fact, I think the community overrates him greatly. His 2019 standout year(a year that many players had career years due to juiced balls) had him hitting a whopping 36 HRs while racking in 90 RBIs. A great .855 OPS, but a pretty underwhelming .252 AVG for a leadoff hitter. Max saw a huge regression in 2020 and to be honest, I think his numbers in 2020 aren't too far off his true value. He's a career .237 hitter with an average OPS of .763 during his 6 years with the Twins. Is he worth his contract right now? Sure. Will he be worth an extension? I don't think so. I think he is a good candidate to be traded and replaced with Trevor Larnach, who I believe has a much higher floor and ceiling than Kepler. 

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    Great article, Cody, thanks.

     

    I am probably a bigger fan of Kepler than anyone here or elsewhere. As I have stated previously, if Max can get his average up some and enjoy a long career I believe he will have consideration for the HOF. Why I believe his average can still improve at this age is because of where he came from and that it is still early in his baseball career. Its a heck of a lot different coming out of Germany than Florida, California, the D.R. or Venezuela.

     

    I will give Rogers a pass on last year as I believe his involvement in the ongoing negotiations as Player Rep might have had an adverse effect on his performance. I also understand that Duffey is as stud and want the Twins to get he and Rogers signed to extensions a.s.a.p. 

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    I like Kepler as a solid player, particularly a very good fielder, but it's just hard to see him as overrated. His offensive performance has been below average for a RF every year except for 2019. His defense makes him a little above average, but I can't see him cracking the top 10 starting RFs in MLB (or even the AL) unless his OPS gets up to .800 plus consistently.  Maybe the deadened ball will get have back to his line drive swing and help get that batting average up to the .260-.300 range where it needs to be. RF is primarily an offensive position and his just isn't good enough to be more highly rated. 

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    Ok. I believe *he will* have a higher floor and ceiling than Kepler. Happy?

     

    Yes I am happy, thank you.   :)

     

    For Kepler, I think we saw his floor in 2018 and his ceiling in 2019. He will reliably perform between 97 OPS+ and 123 OPS+ for the bulk of his career. This isn't bad by any means, and he's an asset to the team, but the Twins need other better players on the roster if they want to get anywhere.

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    Yes I am happy, thank you.   :)

     

    For Kepler, I think we saw his floor in 2018 and his ceiling in 2019. He will reliably perform between 97 OPS+ and 123 OPS+ for the bulk of his career. This isn't bad by any means, and he's an asset to the team, but the Twins need other better players on the roster if they want to get anywhere.

     

    I was replying to other guy's name that started with D, but yeah I agree with you about Kepler. I was just saying that I believe Larnach will have better numbers in his future career than Kepler has given the Twins.

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    Yes I am happy, thank you.   :)

     

    For Kepler, I think we saw his floor in 2018 and his ceiling in 2019. He will reliably perform between 97 OPS+ and 123 OPS+ for the bulk of his career. This isn't bad by any means, and he's an asset to the team, but the Twins need other better players on the roster if they want to get anywhere.

    I mean, a guy who averages 110 OPS+ and has great to elite defense is a stud at just about anywhere on the diamond.  Granted that statement is more impactful at C, SS, or CF, but none the less I don't think Kepler is going to be the weak point of this team.  

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    Hey, I agree that Kepler would be a stud if he had a consistent 110 OPS. The problem is that's not who he's been. He OPS+ in 2016-18 - 96, 95 and 97. In 2019 - 123. 108 in 2020 although it's hard to know how meaningful 202 stats are for anyone. His batting avg. over the last 5 years is 235, .243., 224, .252 (the year of the 123 OPS+), .228. Pretty bad. His OPS + went up in 2019 because he hit 36 HRs in the live ball year of 2019 and so his total bases were 50 higher than ever before. It's just hard to see him as a consistent 110 or better OPS+ plus guy based on his history.   

     

    Look, love me some Kepler as a solid complimentary player for the next 5 years or more. No reason to replace or trade him. Just don't see him as consistent All-Star or even consistent top 5 in the AL RF type. Hey, things could change but as of now: Solid player. Nothing less, nothing more so far.   

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    Kepler is an above average RF. But Please do not bat him leadoff. I don't get the fascination of batting him first in the order. Does anyone feel differently, please convince me. I know the win probably increases when a team scores first. But what would be the win probability if we scored 2 or 3 runs first, as opposed to a single shot hr.

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    If you look at the Kepler stats highlighted in the article, including WAR placing him as a top RF-er- it seems to me all the detracting commenters simply confirm/verify that he is in fact an underrated player.

     

    There was a 123 OPS+, good season in there which is pushing the numbers up. If you think that season is the norm, sure, he is underrated (but still not a star). His statistical mean is lower than his peak season, of course, so if you believe in regression, he is still an important piece of the team, but still not a star.

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    I'd have gone with Buxton, Duffey and Polanco.  People expect the second coming of Buxton and, myself included, get frustrated when he gets injured and takes forever to get going again after an injury.  However, when he is on the field, Buxton is the most important Twin and is rarely recognized for that.  He plays Gold Glove defense, has incredible speed and stings the ball when his stroke is on.  Duffey has been great the last few years in the BP.  Polanco is important because he (and Rosario) often carried the team during slumps.  I think Polanco gets overlooked because he tends to slump towards the end of the year.

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    If you look at the Kepler stats highlighted in the article, including WAR placing him as a top RF-er- it seems to me all the detracting commenters simply confirm/verify that he is in fact an underrated player.  I agree.  Polanco and Arraez have better OBP and maybe even some speed, all the analytics teams really don't steal much.  Kepler is a better #6 or #7 hitter.  Of course, Buxton should be leading off with his speed, even if his OBP is lower.

     

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