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  • The Argument Against Trading Max Kepler


    Matt Braun

    He's probably more valuable to the Twins than any other team. Find out why. 

    Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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    Perhaps no Twins player draws more ire than Max Kepler; the long-time right-fielder has disappointed over his eight-season MLB career as—with the exception of 2019—his offensive numbers fall below his potential. Season after season, the German product produces a .225/.317/.422 line, flashes an offensive profile with upside and fails to fulfill that promise in the following season. It’s madness.

    Naturally, the restless fans remain exhausted. They don’t boo—this isn’t New York, after all—but if there were some sort of passive-aggressive method to indicate disapproval, Minnesota fans would embrace it. Instead, we read yearly articles detailing all the teams interested in Kepler, watch him enter the season as a Twin, and endure the same style of season he has played since 2016. It’s madness.

    But maybe the Twins should hold onto Kepler for one more year. It’s crazy—madness, even—but it could make sense.

    One of the strongest arguments for Kepler’s exit rests on the internal options. The Twins possess about 20,000 left-handed hitting outfielders capable of catching a flyball at an adequate level, rendering Kepler’s skillset redundant in a sea of similarity.

    Those options may be weaker than we believe; neither Alex Kirilloff nor Trevor Larnach has played more than 80 games in an MLB season, so far always succumbing to an injury that cuts their year short. Matt Wallner may have the bat, but his outfield flopping netted him -4 DRS over just 138 2/3 MLB innings, 14th worst 91 players with 130 innings in right field. DRS is a cumulative stat. That’s bad. Nick Gordon may be best suited for the role, but he is more valuable as a jack-of-all-trades positionless weapon, not a locked-in everyday player. 

    Kepler, on the other hand, is an elite defender in right field and can cover center at an above-average level, perhaps not an easy skill to find with Target Field’s unusual characteristics in that section of the field. Maybe he’ll never break through the 100 wRC+ glass ceiling, but he’ll also never outright bust with the bat. And, sigh, there might be optimism for Kepler’s bat.

    WARNING. DISCUSSION OF MAX KEPLER’S BATTED BALL DATA BELOW

    It’s folly to analyze Kepler’s hitting; his BABIP baffles the wisest of sabermetricians, and this author swore an oath years ago never to attempt to understand it. More innovative writers have tried and failed, and there’s a good chance the answer to his mysterious hit tool lies wherever Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

    But let’s go.

    Kepler’s under-the-hood numbers improved drastically in 2022; his max exit velocity reached 113.8 MPH, his xwOBA stood in the 74th percentile of all batters, and he cut his already-low strikeout rate while holding steady with his walks. His Baseball Savant page has enough red to drive Joseph McCarthy crazy. Even in his weirdest batting seasons, Kepler’s batted-ball data never looked this pristine; there’s a chance he truly experienced bad luck in 2022. 

    If those improvements are here to stay—it would be weird if he suddenly fell off at 30 years old—the new limits to shifting combined with his changes in 2022 may finally unluck his offensive profile. Remember all those times he hit a sharp groundball directly into short right field for an out? Those days are gone; instead, he’ll earn a well-fought single for his efforts, not an out. 

    It makes sense to deal Kepler; the team has plenty of backup options, and if the team is pinching its pennies to sign Carlos Correa and a top-tier starter, Kepler is the obvious candidate for heaving. The logic is there. But there are worse things than having a guaranteed solid player on your roster, and Kepler’s defensive acumen will be difficult to replace. Maybe this sounds like Stockholm Syndrome, but Kepler should stay.

     

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    The only way they should trade Max is if they get major league talent in return.  His contract is not outrageous, his defense is top notch, he can cover center in a pinch, and if you bat him 6th or 7th he is not the detriment a lot of people think he is.  As part of a package, or alone, unless you get something in return, and I don't mean a "prospect", we should at least see how the non shift era begins.  And if someone comes along and simply outplays him, then talk trade, but that hasn't happened yet.  As of today, he should be your right fielder unless a truly good deal presents itself.  

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    I'm not as anti-Kepler as many around here, but I'm still not sure what to do with Kepler.  I'm not against trading him.  I'm not opposed to keeping him.  The rule changes and their impact on him do make me wonder what we'll see from him at the plate, but I'm not sold on any of it.  I need to see it.  I'm kind of indifferent towards him, I guess.  

    And I find myself leaning more towards moving on from him to allow the next crop of young players to come up.  

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    I remember Kepler hitting more weak groundballs to the right side than I do him hitting sharp ones, but YMMV. The case for keeping Kepler is based on two things: 1) our many other LH hitting OFs haven't proven it/stayed healthy, and 2) Kepler's numbers on offense will improve when the shift goes away. Neither is wrong, per se, but the arguments for moving on from Kepler are reasonable as well. 1) we need a little more balance in the lineup and some thump from the RH side, which is easier to find in the corner OF, 2) Kepler's ability to play CF and provide superior defense in RF gives him trade value on this contract, and 3) it's a gamble to hope that eliminating the shift is going to send enough of those bouncers to the right side through for hits to make Kepler and above average hitter in RF again.

    Kepler isn't a bad player, but his offense hasn't been above average since 2020 and his OPS has declined four seasons in a row. It makes it hard to feel confident in him as a significant contributor. Twins shouldn't give him away, and he can still add value to the team, but they should also be willing to consider moving on from him if the right RH bat becomes available and a reasonable deal is on the table.

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    22 minutes ago, Mark G said:

    The only way they should trade Max is if they get major league talent in return.  

    Absolutely, MLB ready talent.

    Stat-o-Metrics have Kepler rated the #1 RF.

    I know his hitting is MONSTEROUSLY frustrating, but they Glove is worth more than 1 WAR I would suspect.

    Again, I don't set the number, but 1 WAR is often quoted as being worth $8M.

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    25 minutes ago, Matt Braun said:

    but he’ll also never outright bust with the bat. And, sigh, there might be optimism for Kepler’s bat.

    As for that optimism... I agree that you should give him a roster spot. 25th or 26th guy on the roster and give him a chance to earn his job back with actual production. However, Pagan has those same optimistic metrics and those same real life results two years running.  

    Now... If you have actual expectations for the players that you give the amount of playing time that he gets. He has been an outright bust. 

    Kepler has been a top of the order bat for this team.

    .222 with 9 home runs in the clean up spot is an outright bust.

    If he's batting 8th or 9th maybe then he can shed the bust label because you have 7 better hitters on team and you wouldn't need him so damn bad. With 7 hitters who are hitting and performing with the bat. Kepler can just be that defensive specialist that he has been the past two years, playing a position that is usually manned by a guy who rakes. 

    2022

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 2 2 8 8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 -25 -29
    Batting 2nd 2 2 7 6 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .333 .619 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 86 64
    Batting 3rd 15 14 62 54 14 14 4 0 2 11 0 0 8 3 .259 .355 .444 .799 24 1 0 0 0 0 1 .245 139 109
    Batting 4th 47 44 191 164 20 43 6 1 2 13 0 2 21 28 .262 .351 .348 .698 57 4 3 0 3 0 1 .299 110 93
    Batting 5th 19 19 77 67 10 10 0 0 3 10 2 0 8 15 .149 .247 .284 .530 19 0 1 0 1 0 1 .140 59 53
    Batting 6th 12 9 40 37 3 9 4 0 1 7 0 0 3 9 .243 .300 .432 .732 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 .296 119 110
    Batting 7th 6 6 23 18 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 6 .167 .348 .167 .515 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 57 61
    Batting 8th 8 7 28 26 2 6 3 0 0 1 1 0 2 2 .231 .286 .346 .632 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 89 93
    Batting 9th 4 2 10 8 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 .125 .300 .500 .800 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 138 148

    2021

     

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 29 29 137 119 23 24 5 1 6 10 0 0 16 21 .202 .299 .412 .711 49 0 1 0 1 1 2 .194 98 86
    Batting 2nd 4 2 12 10 1 2 0 0 1 2 1 0 1 4 .200 .333 .500 .833 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200 130 113
    Batting 3rd 5 5 22 19 5 6 3 1 1 5 0 0 2 5 .316 .409 .737 1.146 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 .385 212 178
    Batting 4th 12 12 50 45 6 7 3 0 2 8 2 0 4 12 .156 .240 .356 .596 16 1 1 0 0 0 0 .161 65 52
    Batting 5th 28 27 117 101 12 24 6 1 3 12 1 0 15 24 .238 .333 .406 .739 41 0 0 0 1 1 0 .280 107 101
    Batting 6th 11 10 41 36 3 5 1 0 2 3 3 0 3 12 .139 .244 .333 .577 12 0 2 0 0 1 0 .136 60 59
    Batting 7th 24 22 87 75 10 20 3 1 4 13 3 0 11 14 .267 .356 .493 .850 37 1 0 0 1 0 1 .276 136 144
    Batting 8th 6 6 22 19 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 .105 .182 .105 .287 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .118 -15 -10
    Batting 9th 2 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 -100 -100

     

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    Kepler's trade value is low, so to trade him just to trade him doesn't make sense. He plays RF but he profiles better in LF, Although he's an excellent corner OF, CF is unnatural for him & he doesn't command the position. Although being a premiere RFer is a great selling point, it's also a position where many hide their less adept fielders. So this shouldn't be the reason to keep him.

    I'm fed up with Kepler's batting but being pratical, I'd give him another chance to see how he performs with the shift ban. Only way I'd be open to trade Kepler is trading for someone like Marquez (CO) who like Kepler could prosper better under a change of scenery.

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    46 minutes ago, Riverbrian said:

    As for that optimism... I agree that you should give him a roster spot. 25th or 26th guy on the roster and give him a chance to earn his job back with actual production. However, Pagan has those same optimistic metrics and those same real life results two years running.  

    Now... If you have actual expectations for the players that you give the amount of playing time that he gets. He has been an outright bust. 

    Kepler has been a top of the order bat for this team.

    .222 with 9 home runs in the clean up spot is an outright bust.

    If he's batting 8th or 9th maybe then he can shed the bust label because you have 7 better hitters on team and you wouldn't need him so damn bad. With 7 hitters who are hitting and performing with the bat. Kepler can just be that defensive specialist that he has been the past two years, playing a position that is usually manned by a guy who rakes. 

    2022

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 2 2 8 8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 -25 -29
    Batting 2nd 2 2 7 6 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .333 .619 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 86 64
    Batting 3rd 15 14 62 54 14 14 4 0 2 11 0 0 8 3 .259 .355 .444 .799 24 1 0 0 0 0 1 .245 139 109
    Batting 4th 47 44 191 164 20 43 6 1 2 13 0 2 21 28 .262 .351 .348 .698 57 4 3 0 3 0 1 .299 110 93
    Batting 5th 19 19 77 67 10 10 0 0 3 10 2 0 8 15 .149 .247 .284 .530 19 0 1 0 1 0 1 .140 59 53
    Batting 6th 12 9 40 37 3 9 4 0 1 7 0 0 3 9 .243 .300 .432 .732 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 .296 119 110
    Batting 7th 6 6 23 18 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 6 .167 .348 .167 .515 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 57 61
    Batting 8th 8 7 28 26 2 6 3 0 0 1 1 0 2 2 .231 .286 .346 .632 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 89 93
    Batting 9th 4 2 10 8 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 .125 .300 .500 .800 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 138 148

    2021

     

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 29 29 137 119 23 24 5 1 6 10 0 0 16 21 .202 .299 .412 .711 49 0 1 0 1 1 2 .194 98 86
    Batting 2nd 4 2 12 10 1 2 0 0 1 2 1 0 1 4 .200 .333 .500 .833 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200 130 113
    Batting 3rd 5 5 22 19 5 6 3 1 1 5 0 0 2 5 .316 .409 .737 1.146 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 .385 212 178
    Batting 4th 12 12 50 45 6 7 3 0 2 8 2 0 4 12 .156 .240 .356 .596 16 1 1 0 0 0 0 .161 65 52
    Batting 5th 28 27 117 101 12 24 6 1 3 12 1 0 15 24 .238 .333 .406 .739 41 0 0 0 1 1 0 .280 107 101
    Batting 6th 11 10 41 36 3 5 1 0 2 3 3 0 3 12 .139 .244 .333 .577 12 0 2 0 0 1 0 .136 60 59
    Batting 7th 24 22 87 75 10 20 3 1 4 13 3 0 11 14 .267 .356 .493 .850 37 1 0 0 1 0 1 .276 136 144
    Batting 8th 6 6 22 19 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 .105 .182 .105 .287 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .118 -15 -10
    Batting 9th 2 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 -100 -100

     

    Looking at these figures, why in the world would Rocco bat Max in any of the first 5 positions? I'm beginning to think the problem is Rocco instead of Max. 

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    1 hour ago, Mark G said:

    His contract is not outrageous, his defense is top notch, he can cover center in a pinch, and if you bat him 6th or 7th he is not the detriment a lot of people think he is. 

    Except he’s not the backup to Buxton. Celestino or some unknown poor replacement is inserted instead. Also, how many times did Max bat cleanup last year?  (Forty Seven!?!?!). It’s getting to the point that getting him gone is the only way to take these bad decisions out of Rocco’s hands. How many bad hitters can the Twins “hide” in their lineup?

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    At this point, I honestly don't think he's worth a lot in terms of trade value. We won't get much in return, if we do deal him. I agree, his OF defense is great, and there are plenty of players who stick in the majors because of their defensive ability. As far as his bat...he definitely has fallen off the cliff. I'm not smart enough to know what's happened to him...whether he's focused too much on launch angle, or if he's trying to pull everything, etc. Whatever it is, he's a liability at the plate. No way should he be hitting at or near the top of the order, like he has been. He's got to be down at the bottom of the order. I think a good hitting coach would be able to help him tremendously...I don't think we have that person. I'd be willing to give it some more time to see if the new shift rules have any effect on his hitting, but I wouldn't want to do another whole season of his futility, if nothing changes. If the right deal does comes along, I'd trade him.  

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    Kepler has low trade value.  He is a defensive minded RF who does not hit at an elite level.  If a team overvalues him, and see the numbers underlying and think he has just had bad luck his whole career, and now with the no shifts he will becomes something amazing, I would trade him in a heart beat. 

    First, as the writer points out, his batted ball numbers to output have never lined up.  Every year people will write about how he will break out because of those things.  However, they forget there has to be outliers to the norm, that is just a fact.  Kepler is an outlier, he is not just the most unlucky hitter ever.  

    In terms of the shift, I do not think it will make much of a difference to Kepler, at least not enough to go to a .300 hitter or anything.  Sure, he will not ground out in short right, but unless that 2nd baseman had to range one way or the other, no matter how deep the player is they will stop the ground ball right at them.  There is nothing preventing the 2nd basemand from playing deep in the hole, and the SS playing just one inch to the left of the base, still leaving huge holes to left side of infield, and defending the middle, having the 2nd baseman closer to first.  This will leave a hole about 4 to 5 feet to right of 2nd base that he will have to place the ball. 

    The only hits he will get without the shift are the liners or hard ground balls where the 2nd baseman had to range far from their short right position. 

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    The FO moves to this point are inexplicable to me. Trading Urshela for a bucket of balls (I am talking the ones I keep in my garage) with Kirilloff's health uncertain and Miranda's defensive at third even more uncertain? Re-signing Pagan because his stuff is better than the results? Last year's results were not an aberration. That's who he is.  I do guarantee that those who think the shift ban will be a silver bullet for the Kepler types will be sorely disappointed. If I were defending him, I would just put the left fielder in short right. Get ready to score three 7-3s.  Should they trade Kepler? It depends on the health of Larnach and the faith in Wallner. Will they? Got a coin? You can flip.   

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    Superior defense there is no argument  , his inability to make adjustments in batting is the argument ....

    I don't understand  exactly why he bat's high in the lineup and has been a rally killer , he is just not productive enough and needs to move towards the bottom of the order ...

    Do all the stats tell Rocco that he is a cleanup hitter or am I missing something , he walked more as a lead off hitter but now he is more of a free swinger and walks are down some  ...

    He had a tremendous year in 2019 and was fun to watch and then signed an extention  , just like Mauer did in 2009 when he got his extention ...

    It was hard to think of Kepler getting traded after 2019 but that is when his value was the highest after he finally broke out with a career year , but his prior seasons  weren't anything to get excited about as a hitter ...

    His defense is what keeps him in the lineup but please do not bat him higher than seventh until he earns it ...

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    It kinda depends on the strategy. To me it feels like 2023 is going to be a “let’s pretty much run the same guys up the flagpole one last time” type of year. Assuming we resign CC, we basically swap out Urshela for Farmer and get a different #2 catcher (probably cheaper but not as good). Kepler is definitely part of this strategy.

    You could reasonably argue that the expectation for each position player should be improved over last season. 

    CC - full ST, back on schedule. 
    BB - healthier. 
    MK - the shift is adios. 
    JP - healthier. 
    JM - upward trajectory. 
    RJ - slowing, but still upward, trajectory. 
    LA - just coming into his own
    NG - upward trajectory. 
    AK and TL - back from injuries. 
    KF and new #2 C - more or less Urshela/Sanchez equivalent 

    If they all stay healthy, it’s fair to expect this position player team should outperform last year’s and there is a reasonable argument that each player, including Kepler, is poised to have a better season.

    So Kepler stays for now. If the Twins are healthy but aren’t contending by the TD, expect Max and Jorge to be moved. And, if they both are playing well, their trade values may actually be higher.

    Side note: this strategy is fairly equivalent to the 2022 Vikings - the previous season we way underperformed, so it makes sense to pretty much run the same, many ageing and somewhat expensive players back for one more shot. Of course, the Vikings applied this strategy in conjunction with a move at the helm.

     

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    1 hour ago, Riverbrian said:

    As for that optimism... I agree that you should give him a roster spot. 25th or 26th guy on the roster and give him a chance to earn his job back with actual production. However, Pagan has those same optimistic metrics and those same real life results two years running.  

    Now... If you have actual expectations for the players that you give the amount of playing time that he gets. He has been an outright bust. 

    Kepler has been a top of the order bat for this team.

    .222 with 9 home runs in the clean up spot is an outright bust.

    If he's batting 8th or 9th maybe then he can shed the bust label because you have 7 better hitters on team and you wouldn't need him so damn bad. With 7 hitters who are hitting and performing with the bat. Kepler can just be that defensive specialist that he has been the past two years, playing a position that is usually manned by a guy who rakes. 

    2022

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 2 2 8 8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 -25 -29
    Batting 2nd 2 2 7 6 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .333 .619 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 86 64
    Batting 3rd 15 14 62 54 14 14 4 0 2 11 0 0 8 3 .259 .355 .444 .799 24 1 0 0 0 0 1 .245 139 109
    Batting 4th 47 44 191 164 20 43 6 1 2 13 0 2 21 28 .262 .351 .348 .698 57 4 3 0 3 0 1 .299 110 93
    Batting 5th 19 19 77 67 10 10 0 0 3 10 2 0 8 15 .149 .247 .284 .530 19 0 1 0 1 0 1 .140 59 53
    Batting 6th 12 9 40 37 3 9 4 0 1 7 0 0 3 9 .243 .300 .432 .732 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 .296 119 110
    Batting 7th 6 6 23 18 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 6 .167 .348 .167 .515 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 57 61
    Batting 8th 8 7 28 26 2 6 3 0 0 1 1 0 2 2 .231 .286 .346 .632 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 89 93
    Batting 9th 4 2 10 8 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 .125 .300 .500 .800 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 138 148

    2021

     

    Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    Batting 1st 29 29 137 119 23 24 5 1 6 10 0 0 16 21 .202 .299 .412 .711 49 0 1 0 1 1 2 .194 98 86
    Batting 2nd 4 2 12 10 1 2 0 0 1 2 1 0 1 4 .200 .333 .500 .833 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200 130 113
    Batting 3rd 5 5 22 19 5 6 3 1 1 5 0 0 2 5 .316 .409 .737 1.146 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 .385 212 178
    Batting 4th 12 12 50 45 6 7 3 0 2 8 2 0 4 12 .156 .240 .356 .596 16 1 1 0 0 0 0 .161 65 52
    Batting 5th 28 27 117 101 12 24 6 1 3 12 1 0 15 24 .238 .333 .406 .739 41 0 0 0 1 1 0 .280 107 101
    Batting 6th 11 10 41 36 3 5 1 0 2 3 3 0 3 12 .139 .244 .333 .577 12 0 2 0 0 1 0 .136 60 59
    Batting 7th 24 22 87 75 10 20 3 1 4 13 3 0 11 14 .267 .356 .493 .850 37 1 0 0 1 0 1 .276 136 144
    Batting 8th 6 6 22 19 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 .105 .182 .105 .287 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .118 -15 -10
    Batting 9th 2 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 -100 -100

     

    Top end defender…..can’t stand his significant drop in driving the ball though! Should hit 30 points higher with elimination of the Shift - 10 more hits through the year. No reason he shouldn’t hit 15-20 HR with some focus to do so. That said, his ability to back up Buxton if needed, his elite ability in right field(taken for granted), his potential upside without the shift makes him a guy we have to keep until we know Larnach &/or Kirilof can stay healthy through the first half.

    Batting him 7th or 8th is fine. Trying to push him into top 5 slots just adds pressure and overestimates his probable production.

    Keeping/having 6-7 guys that can hit in front of him is obviously key ……..with that goal in mind, discussion of trading the guy that won the batting title, per the winter meetings, makes no sense to me!!

     

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    55 minutes ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    Looking at these figures, why in the world would Rocco bat Max in any of the first 5 positions? I'm beginning to think the problem is Rocco instead of Max. 

    Looking deeper at his splits, he performs best when there is nearly nothing on the line. When the game isn't close, or when there are one or fewer people on base. He can't bat first or second, because then everyone is looking for him to provide that spark. If he bats third or forth, that's his sweet spot because he can hit in the first inning when almost nothing is on the line. All good for Max. Bad for the Twins. 

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    9 minutes ago, Nashvilletwin said:

    It kinda depends on the strategy. To me it feels like 2023 is going to be a “let’s pretty much run the same guys up the flagpole one last time” type of year. Assuming we resign CC, we basically swap out Urshela for Farmer and get a different #2 catcher (probably cheaper but not as good). Kepler is definitely part of this strategy.

    You could reasonably argue that the expectation for each position player should be improved over last season. 

    CC - full ST, back on schedule. 
    BB - healthier. 
    MK - the shift is adios. 
    JP - healthier. 
    JM - upward trajectory. 
    RJ - slowing, but still upward, trajectory. 
    LA - just coming into his own
    NG - upward trajectory. 
    AK and TL - back from injuries. 
    KF and new #2 C - more or less Urshela/Sanchez equivalent 

    If they all stay healthy, it’s fair to expect this position player team should outperform last year’s and there is a reasonable argument that each player, including Kepler, is poised to have a better season.

    So Kepler stays for now. If the Twins are healthy but aren’t contending by the TD, expect Max and Jorge to be moved. And, if they both are playing well, their trade values may actually be higher.

    Side note: this strategy is fairly equivalent to the 2022 Vikings - the previous season we way underperformed, so it makes sense to pretty much run the same, many ageing and somewhat expensive players back for one more shot. Of course, the Vikings applied this strategy in conjunction with a move at the helm.

     

    I half buy into this strategy. Add to that a new competent training staff, they cut injuries down at least in half, and relief pitchers that aren't overworked and it might be something. The problem is, I'm not sure that this team with everyone playing at their maximum potential and everything going as planned is still a WS caliber team... but it will be much more fun to watch. 

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    1 hour ago, wsnydes said:

    I'm not as anti-Kepler as many around here, but I'm still not sure what to do with Kepler.  I'm not against trading him.  I'm not opposed to keeping him.  The rule changes and their impact on him do make me wonder what we'll see from him at the plate, but I'm not sold on any of it.  I need to see it.  I'm kind of indifferent towards him, I guess.  

    And I find myself leaning more towards moving on from him to allow the next crop of young players to come up.  

    A fair assessment and I think it's where a lot of people are. He's good enough to be a decent starter, but he's made a lot of weak contact in the last couple of years that's very very frustrating. He's a 2+ bWAR player and that's not anything to sneeze at...but it feels like something is missing with Kepler, and he's certainly not hitting like a top half of the order player. If you're not getting plus offense from your corner OF then you need to be finding it elsewhere, and that tends to be harder.

    I don't think Kepler has had poor luck, though: his average exit velocity is only 51st percentile, his barrel % was below average, his hard-hit rate is only average...sure seems like he deserved to land where he did. 

    Now, he did battle through a broken toe last season that almost certainly sapped his power production, and making the shift go away will likely help him some (but remember, he was a low average hitter back in 2016 & 2017 and certainly wasn't being shifted as much back then).

    I'm hardly opposed to keeping Kepler, but I'm also not expecting him to suddenly break out again like 2019?

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    We can only hope the shift change is Kepler's hope for a resurgence. And I wish writers would stop saying trade him to save money for a top pitcher. In case you haven't noticed almost ALL the top pitchers are gone and the Twins were never mentioned in any of the signings. Who cares about Correa if you have no pitching! It is clear. The new Pohlad is the same as the old Pohlad. Profit first and no focus on WINNING! They are content with a .500 profitable club,!

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    1 hour ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    Looking at these figures, why in the world would Rocco bat Max in any of the first 5 positions? I'm beginning to think the problem is Rocco instead of Max. 

    Ultimately, it's on the club. Max can't write his own name on the lineup card.

    How many chances does he get to be the player the team believes he will be without him actually being the player the team believes he will be. 

    I'm ok with him getting another chance this year but if he doesn't turn it around he shouldn't finish the season on the roster.

    He will need to be cleared from the roster so others get the opportunity to try to be who Kepler was supposed to be.   

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    I have discussed this ad nauseum in other articles, but, to review:

    1)  He is 2nd in MLB in hits lost to the shift over the last few years, a 50 point swing in his BA.  Data shows he has a strong chance to see an offensive resurgence now that the shift rules have changed.

    2) His contract is not outrageous.  Maybe a small overpay.

    3) Outside of Nimmo, there are no "guaranteed" improvements over Kepler in the current FA market.  Each come with issues.

    4) Kepler is a known quantity to the Twins.  That is a huge factor. (If you question that, look at how the Twins are treating Correa vs. the other FA shortstops).

    The Twins have arguably bigger issues to deal with.  I would prioritize LF over RF right now.  Find an offensive threat there.  But I would not argue if a true upgrade fell in their lap and the Twins replaced him.

    (FWIW, if I am Max Kepler, I am going to the Twins and asking to play as much CF as possible this Spring.  Positional flexibility will go a long ways towards his next contract.  Playing a strong CF could also keep him in MN as their 3rd/4th OF)

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    Max's ability to play centerfield is valuable but the Twins seem to always turn to another player to take Buxton's spot. With the outlawing of the shift, yes, his batting average would go up maybe 20 points. But those will all be singles. And he si overpaid.

    Max needs to return to being a home run hitter to warrant keeping him ..

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    Even if his numbers catch up to his batted ball data, it's not going to help him put the ball over the fence more. The guy's lost almost all of his power since 2019. His slugging percentage is so poor recently, that the removal of the shift and any other changes that may benefit him are going to need to somehow push is on base percentage well above .400 just to achieve and OPS of .800, which really should be what you're looking for in a corner outfielder.

    He's a slap hitter, who barely hits. The only regular player who had fewer XBH than Kepler last year, was Gilberto Celestino. 

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    1 hour ago, JD-TWINS said:

    Top end defender…..can’t stand his significant drop in driving the ball though! Should hit 30 points higher with elimination of the Shift - 10 more hits through the year. No reason he shouldn’t hit 15-20 HR with some focus to do so. That said, his ability to back up Buxton if needed, his elite ability in right field(taken for granted), his potential upside without the shift makes him a guy we have to keep until we know Larnach &/or Kirilof can stay healthy through the first half.

    Batting him 7th or 8th is fine. Trying to push him into top 5 slots just adds pressure and overestimates his probable production.

    Keeping/having 6-7 guys that can hit in front of him is obviously key ……..with that goal in mind, discussion of trading the guy that won the batting title, per the winter meetings, makes no sense to me!!

     

    I hope he benefits from the shift ban but I also have to assume that many many others will also benefit from that shift ban so I am hopeful but yet... not ready to bet the house on it. 

    I get the defensive reputation that Max is credited for... however, the value of it makes no sense to me in regards to the WAR he is credited for. 

    Let's look at Nick Gordon and Max Kepler side by side. 

    Max Kepler: AB 388 - BA .227 - HR 9 - OBP .318 - SLG .348 - OPS .666

    Nick Gordon: AB 405 - BA .272 - HR 9 - OBP .316 - SLG .427 - OPS .743

    Equal with Home Runs and OBP so Max will take a few more walks. Batting Average and Slugging significantly higher for Gordon and with the higher slugging comes the higher OPS. 

    Now let's check out 2022 WAR (Baseball Reference):

    Kepler: 2.1

    Gordon: 1.6  

    How much defensive weighting is required for Max to produce a higher war in light of the 2022 offensive stats illustrated above. 

    Kepler had 227 chances primarily in RF

    Gordon had 167 chances at multiple positions. 

    The overwhelming majority of those chances are classified as routine or likely meaning anybody would have made the play. 

    Can anyone make this make sense to me? 

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    I don’t really care one way or another.  He’s just not a needle mover in terms of achieving the ultimate goal.

    With DeGrom, Turner, Verlander, etc. already off the table (before our FO has even gotten out of bed for the off-season), I’m not optimistic about the Twins securing a true high impact player through free agency.  I think we needed to be more aggressive early.

    Someone like the Dodgers will likely blow any offer we make to Correa out of the water.  Best case scenario free agency-wise is probably something like Chris Bassit and Xander Bogaerts.  More likely something like Jose Iglesias or Elvis Andrus and Andrew Heaney is the ceiling at this point.

    I just don’t see a realistic path that gets this team to a contender at this point.  They just won’t spend enough.

    The  bottom line is that we’re going to stink either way.  Best case scenario is winning a crap division and getting nuked by a real baseball team in the playoffs.  So, trade Kepler or don’t.  Who cares.

    As you can tell, my Twins’ fan soul is crushed right now.  Zero optimism they’ll make an honest attempt.  If they do, zero optimism they’ll get it right.  It’s really hard to get excited, or even care, about this team right now.

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    23 minutes ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    I have discussed this ad nauseum in other articles, but, to review:

    1)  He is 2nd in MLB in hits lost to the shift over the last few years, a 50 point swing in his BA.  Data shows he has a strong chance to see an offensive resurgence now that the shift rules have changed.

    2) His contract is not outrageous.  Maybe a small overpay.

    3) Outside of Nimmo, there are no "guaranteed" improvements over Kepler in the current FA market.  Each come with issues.

    4) Kepler is a known quantity to the Twins.  That is a huge factor. (If you question that, look at how the Twins are treating Correa vs. the other FA shortstops).

    The Twins have arguably bigger issues to deal with.  I would prioritize LF over RF right now.  Find an offensive threat there.  But I would not argue if a true upgrade fell in their lap and the Twins replaced him.

    (FWIW, if I am Max Kepler, I am going to the Twins and asking to play as much CF as possible this Spring.  Positional flexibility will go a long ways towards his next contract.  Playing a strong CF could also keep him in MN as their 3rd/4th OF)

    His contract at 8M is guaranteed this year with option years for the next couple. 

    I wonder if the Twins would have paid it if it was an Arbitration decision at 8M.

    We cut Rosario loose at 10M. 

    I don't know the answer to that. I assume he would not be offered Arbitration but I could be wrong. 

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    27 minutes ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    I have discussed this ad nauseum in other articles, but, to review:

    1)  He is 2nd in MLB in hits lost to the shift over the last few years, a 50 point swing in his BA.  Data shows he has a strong chance to see an offensive resurgence now that the shift rules have changed.

     

    I would like to see the data on that, not saying it is not there, but find it may not be super accurate.  One thing, does that data take into account the few hits he gets because of the shift, or just the hits he maybe would not have got due to the shift?  Also, is it based on assuming range led to the ground ball being stopped because of the depth of the 2nd baseman, or position of SS on right side of base?  Meaning, did the 2nd baseman have to move left or right to stop the ball and only because of depth they managed to cut it off?  Is this also based on if the 2nd baseman was in a standard position for RH hitter, or old traditional position for LH hitter?  Even without playing deeper into the RF, many 2nd basemen would still play much closer to 1st.  Again, I am not saying the data is wrong, but I would love to see it to see if it is flawed. 

    I personally did not watch every at bat over the past year for Max or past years.  However, I do not recall seeing too many balls that were smoked to a hole between 1st and 2nd where the 2nd baseman makes a great ranging play to throw out Max.  I would normally see him hit many weak ground balls that would have been cut off at normal depth.  I also recall seeing a few balls he hit where a SS would have normally been that he got hits on, so that should count against the count of hits lost because of shift, because he got some hits because of shift too. 

    That being said, I am more than happy to keep Max this year as I doubt he will have much trade value, and you do not just trade a guy because he is not playing to the level you hope, because normally what you get back is not much value either.  

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