The Minnesota Twins announced last night that prospect Max Kepler will be promoted to the major league roster for the final part of the 2015 season.
Kepler is 22 years old, signed out of Germany by the Twins in 2009 for an $800,000 bonus, at the time a record bonus for a player from Europe. He has long stood out for his athleticism, a trait he comes by honestly: both of his parents were ballet dancers. As you'd expect given his background his baseball skills were rather raw when he signed, particularly in terms of defense and power development.
Kepler's track record through the minor league system was uneven. He had a very strong season in the Appalachian League in 2012 (.297/.387/.539) but was less successful in 2013 (.237/.312/.424) and 2014 (.264/.333/.393) at the A-ball levels. 2015 was much different: he hit .322/.416/.531 this year for Chattanooga in the Double-A Southern League, with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers, 18 steals, and an outstanding 67/63 BB/K ratio in 407 at-bats.
Listed currently at 6-4, 205, Kepler has added some 20 pounds of muscle over the last three years but without losing flexibility. He's developed into an efficient baserunner, runs and throws well enough to play center field if needed but is also quite solid at first base. Offensively, his home run power is still developing but he's shown more sock this year. His batting eye is excellent and he's made huge improvements against left-handed pitching, batting .318/.392/.477 against southpaws this year after struggling against them in the past.
Kepler's excellent 2015 season boosts his grade from the C+/B- borderline area pre-season to at least a Grade B now. If he continues to develop at his current pace, he should provide batting average, on-base percentage, and at least moderate power/speed contributions. The speed may decline with time but the power should increase concurrently. Fantasy owners should view Kepler as a longer-term investment since he could see considerable time in Triple-A in 2016.