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What to expect from Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler

Max Kepler
Max Kepler
Joel Auerbach, Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins placed outfielder/infielder Danny Santana on the disabled list and promoted outfielder Max Kepler from the minors. Here's a quick take on Kepler.

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-4 WT: 205 DOB: February 10, 1993

2010: Grade C; 2011: Grade B-; 2012: Grade C+; 2013: Grade B; 2014: Grade B-
205: Grade C+

After somewhat disappointing 2013 and 2014 seasons, German outfielder Max Kepler broke through in 2015. Physical maturity boosted his strength and some swing adjustments bolstered his distance power, helping him lead the Southern League in OPS. His strike zone judgment improved from solid to outstanding and he solved a previously significant problem with left-handed pitching, learning to handle breaking stuff from lefties and closing up his platoon loophole. He also learned to use his slightly above-average speed well on the basepaths . His outfield defense is quite good: he is excellent at either corner and solid in center. He also played a considerable amount of first base but this was mainly due to a shoulder problem that shouldn’t be a long-term issue. Kepler could use some Triple-A time to put the finishing touches on his power stroke and show that his shoulder is healthy, but overall I think this breakthrough is genuine. Grade B+.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

The Twins invested $800,000 back in 2009, signing Kepler out of high school in Germany. He had a breakthrough season in 2015, hitting .322/.416/.531 with 32 doubles, 13 triples, 18 steals, nine homers, and a 67/63 BB/K ratio in 407 at-bats in Double-A. He went 1-for-7 in a three-game major league trial last fall. In spring training Kepler hit .233/.258/.233 in 30 at-bats with one walk, one stolen base, and six strikeouts. He was 1-for-6 in his first two games this year for Triple-A Rochester.

He can play all three outfield positions as well as first base in a quality manner and runs well enough to swipe the occasional base.

The plan for 2016 was for Kepler to head to Triple-A and continue refining his power stroke and polishing his approach against left-handed pitching, though Santana's injury has moved that timetable up a bit. Offensively, his home run power is generally to right field but he is not a strict pull hitter, lining singles and doubles to all fields.

Kepler is an impressive prospect who projects as a major league regular but my guess is that moving him to the majors right now is a bit of a rush and that he may not thrive with the bat right away. Current word is that the Twins will use him mainly as a defensive sub in the short run, so they seem to feel the same way about his hitting. In the medium and long runs he should be a valuable player, someone who can hit in the .280s with speed contributions, moderate power, and very good defense.