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  • TD Top Prospects: #10 Max Kepler

    Age: 19 (DOB: 2/10/93)
    2012 Stats
    APPY: 59 G, .297/.387/.539, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 40 R, 7/7 SB
    ETA: 2017

    Max Kepler is a Minnesota Twins top prospect

    By the time he's done playing, Max Kepler might be known as one of the greatest major-league hitters ever to come out of Europe.

    And he's the tenth-best prospect for the Twins? That seems crazy. But take a look at this all-time European All-Star team that Dave Schoenfield put together a couple years ago. There are some good careers in there, but unless you're a real hardcore, you might not recognize a name other than Bert Blyleven (who lived in the Netherlands for all of two years).

    Clearly, the continent hasn't been a traditional pipeline for baseball talent. But the Twins saw something they liked in the 16-year-old Kepler out of Germany, and handed him the largest bonus ever for a European ($800,000) just after the window opened for international signings in 2009.

    It was a bold move made possible by an unprecedented spending spree for the Twins – one that led to Miguel Sano's signing a few months later. And while the slugging Dominican gets all the fanfare, the aggressive bid on Kepler is quickly beginning to pay dividends as well.

    The Good
    Kepler adjusted slowly to the professional ranks. That's understandable for a high school aged kid acclimating to a new country. But last year he turned a corner in his second turn at Elizabethton, pacing the Appalachian League with a .539 slugging percentage and markedly improving his plate discipline.

    The lefty-swinging outfielder has a well rounded skill set with the abilities to run, catch and hit for both average and power. The son of two prominent ballet dancers, he's an athletically gifted kid who is already listed at 6'4" as a teenager. When he first signed with the Twins, Baseball America's Ben Badler picked up the following tidbit:

    "Kepler is the toolsiest kid we've ever had in Europe," said the scout. "No question."
    His emergence last year is a sign that the on-field performance may be catching up with the innate ability. When that happens to guys with such immense physical upside, stars are born.

    The Bad
    The big numbers in E-town were eye-catching, but they came on the heels of two pedestrian efforts to launch his pro career. In 2010 Kepler posted a .689 OPS in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and in 2011 he registered a .714 mark after stepping up to the Appy League. Between the two partial seasons, he totaled one home run while whiffing at a 22 percent rate.

    As mentioned above, it's hard to hold those struggles against him because he was 17 and 18, and he blew all previous numbers out of the water last year. Still, it bears noting that he was repeating the same level and – thanks to his early start – was more experienced in the pro ranks than much of his competition.

    The Bottom Line

    Kepler has all the physical tools to be a quality major-league outfielder and last year at Elizabethton he backed them up with outstanding production. He remains on the fringe of our Top 10 because much uncertainty surrounds him yet, but a successful transition to full-season ball in Cedar Rapids this year would have him propelling up this list.
    This article was originally published in blog: TD Top Prospects: #10 Max Kepler started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. ND-Fan's Avatar
      ND-Fan -
      I have a question somewhat off topic in all the prospects list for Twins i don't see anything about Nate Roberts the kid that did so well in Arizona fall league and was
      talked about MLB last fall. Is he not hot prospect for the Twins and if not why did they
      send him to Arizona fall league usually thats for young talent not to far away from reaching the major leagues. I would appreciate some information on him and what were twins doing with him if he's not ready to move up the ladder.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Most think that Nate Roberts is a nice potential 4th OF'er. it is a little frustrating that he hasn't been promoted at least one more level.

      Kepler should absolutely stay in the OF until he gets close to the majors and 1B is the only place with an opening. I wouldn't be against having him play 15-20 games of 1B each year though. Moving IF to OF is a relatively easy transition. Moving from OF to IF (even 1B) is not as easy as some make it sound.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      The kid is a great athlete. His bat speed is tremendous. I think he'll be a good one. He also could debut at a very young age which is rare with the Twins Org.
    1. mnfanforlife's Avatar
      mnfanforlife -
      Quote Originally Posted by ND-Fan View Post
      I have a question somewhat off topic in all the prospects list for Twins i don't see anything about Nate Roberts the kid that did so well in Arizona fall league and was
      talked about MLB last fall. Is he not hot prospect for the Twins and if not why did they
      send him to Arizona fall league usually thats for young talent not to far away from reaching the major leagues. I would appreciate some information on him and what were twins doing with him if he's not ready to move up the ladder.
      Roberts is a top-20 prospect in my opinion, I have him at #11. And I follow the minor leagues religiously.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Most think that Nate Roberts is a nice potential 4th OF'er. it is a little frustrating that he hasn't been promoted at least one more level.
      If I had to guess, I'd say the inability to stay on the field more than half a season would be the primary concern for promotion.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      In their write-up today on players who just missed the Top 30, BA suggested that Roberts will start in AA. Fro is right though, health is what holds him back. Nice depth guy to have in the system and if he stays healthy has a good shot at eventually making the majors, but he really won't be much more than a 4th OF, not enough bat for a corner and not enough glove to be an everyday CF.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      Everything roster-related I say here can be found here, whose existence is still surprising people.

      The outfielders I have pegged for AA are: Arcia, Roberts, Ray, Morales and Rams. While I think it's possible someone could start down here and move up quickly (like Mastroianni did last year), these are guys I anticipate will start in New Britain. When Arcia moves up, Danny Ortiz will take his place. Could Joe Benson find himself here again to start the year? I wouldn't rule that out either. That would allow Hicks and Benson to play CF everyday if neither make the team.

      Kepler was signed in July of 2009, so he'll have to be protected next November. Short of an absolute implosion, I see very little chance that Kepler won't be a 40-man addition. You can see all seven guys I pegged as "additions" on the above link as well.
      Hadn't noticed the WBC notes added in there. That's cool. Also, I really believe that your "prognosticationing" could be 100% accurate with that thing and where these guys are going to start. That would be an incredible feat.
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