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by Matt Sisk

The Underrated Max Kepler?

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Last year, in 2011, MLB.com rated Max Kepler as the the #11 prospect in the system. After the 2012 season and June draft, several glitzy players moved ahead of the #11 spot, but Kepler moved DOWN to the #18 position. I did not agree with his descent on this list at that time. So, I felt obligated to highlight what Kepler did last summer as a 19-year-old in Rookie ball.

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After a year in 2011 where he was a skinny 18-year-old with a .366 SLG%, Kepler was given another shot at the same level in 2012. He consequentially blossomed given this opportunity! This kid raised his average from .262 to .297 and crushed 10 home-runs in 59 games. He led the league in SLG% (.539) and was 2nd in OPS (.925) thanks to 16 doubles and 5 triples. He struck out just 33 times in 232 at-bats while posting a .387 OB% (6th in league). Basically, he was easily a top-5 hitter in the Appalachian League.

It looks like he is a year behind Sano/Rosario, and will probably spend the entire summer in Cedar Rapids in 2013. With a ton of great outfielders in the Twins minor league system, Maximilian will have to wait his turn and probably never advance more than one level per-year (if he's lucky). But this new-found power stroke and excellent plate discipline is very encouraging for his future and could allow for a level-per-year minor league career with plenty of MLB seasons for the now 19-year-old.

As a 20-year old in Cedar Rapids, he will surely be asked for his share of autographs. And rightly so, since he has a lofty enough ceiling to have at least remained at the #11 spot on the Twins' prospect list. I would rate him right below J.O. Berrios at #9, as I believe his potential exceeds what Benson and Morales have as MLB outfielders.

No matter what he is rated by MLB.com, our boy Kepler gives us insurance if they do something drastic like trade Hicks or Arcia for pitching prospects in the next year or so. I vote to move Max up quickly and see what he's made of...if he can continue to get better (at this age he should), he will make a terrific outfield option (even in CF) for a few minor league managers on his way (quickly I hope) to Minnesota.

P.S. Imagine Maximilian in LF, Buxton in center, and Arcia in right at Target Field...I have Max rated at #7 following 2013.

Updated 01-20-2013 at 01:41 PM by mnfanforlife

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Comments

  1. MWLFan's Avatar
    I agree with the hope for Kepler. I will be spending some time in Cedar Rapids next summer and hope to catch a bit of Max and Buxton.

    Just one thing grates me on your post.

    Minny? Really. Like finger nails on a chalk board to me. Like calling Wisconsin sconnie. But it is probably just me.
  2. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Its a term of endearment for the home team. I admit it could get annoying, so I'll keep it to a minimum.
  3. Seth Stohs's Avatar
    Definitely not a term of endearment!
  4. Seth Stohs's Avatar
    Benson skipped elizabethton. Morales had one of the best seasons at E-Town by a young player in the 8 or so years I've paid a ton of attention. He's the poster child for what we prospect hounds should be looking for in a top prospect, and he's a reminder that what we see in Elizabethton is not always what we get.
  5. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Definitely a term of endearment for me. And Morales has been hurt, its not his fault. But every year, I ask each prospect the question "What have you done for me lately?" And rate them accordingly. I would definitely say that Kepler has a comparable or higher upside as a major leaguer than Morales
  6. Seth Stohs's Avatar
    Correct, Kepler is certainly the better prospect right now with much higher upside. I certainly hope that Kepler can continue to improve. He's so raw as a baseball player that his tools are exciting and putting up strong numbers in his second year at Elizabethton are very encouraging.

    By the way, three terrific blog postings here today... Keep it up. Great topics, well written, thought provoking. I did move one up to the front page as well. Thank you!
  7. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Plus, neither Morales nor Benson displayed the type of discipline that Max showed at the plate in 2012. Nothing is guaranteed but I see Kepler being much more MLB ready when he has the experience that Benson and Morales already possess
  8. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    You bet!
  9. h2oface's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs
    Definitely not a term of endearment!
    just curious......... what is your call on "twinkies"?
  10. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    should be used sparingly
  11. righty8383's Avatar
    One mistake that you made Mnfan, was giving Credence to the prospect rankings submitted by mlb.com. Looking at the list, there are a lot of odd rankings 6-20. IMO Seth Stohs and several others on this site are way better at ranking prospects.
  12. h2oface's Avatar
    personally, i can't stand twinkies. even when they play like them... like the last two years. i love the baseball projects' song....... "please don't call them twinkies". a great baseball tune.
  13. lightfoot789's Avatar
    I loved the ETown outfield of Buton, Kepler, and Walker this past summer. Do you see all three going to Cedar and if so:
    1) Will Walker start along side those two?
    2) Will they keep some of the 2012 Beloit OF for part of the season?
    3) How does this crowded OF play out to start 2013?
    4) Will the Trio be as productive in a full season as they were in ETown? your oinion?
  14. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by righty8383
    One mistake that you made Mnfan, was giving Credence to the prospect rankings submitted by mlb.com. Looking at the list, there are a lot of odd rankings 6-20. IMO Seth Stohs and several others on this site are way better at ranking prospects.
    Totally agree. I might have to make my own list just to stay sane.
  15. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789
    I loved the ETown outfield of Buton, Kepler, and Walker this past summer. Do you see all three going to Cedar and if so:
    1) Will Walker start along side those two?
    2) Will they keep some of the 2012 Beloit OF for part of the season?
    3) How does this crowded OF play out to start 2013?
    4) Will the Trio be as productive in a full season as they were in ETown? your oinion?
    This is all my opinion, but 1) it looks like Walker will have a spot in the Cedar rapids outfield. Roberts will be moving up and the competition after that shouldn't stop any of your ELZ trio from starting on a regular basis. 2) see above. 3) Like I said, I think your trio will all get first dibs on playing time in Cedar Rapids. I can;t imagine why the organization wouldnt want to see each of the three in a full-season of hardball. 4) I really like Walker, he is a beast with a club, and he is smart (steals bases and such), so his chances of succeeding in low-A are very good. Buxton and Kepler are cant-miss-guys for A ball in my opinion and should tear it right up.
  16. mgraves's Avatar
    Kepler posted K rates of about 20% his first two years, which then dropped to about 12%. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain that level of contact going forward. If he can, I'd expect to see him at the big club before Sano. Sano strikes out a ridiculous amount and does not have a position. Both Sano and Kepler, however, I expect to skip AAA.
  17. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mgraves
    Kepler posted K rates of about 20% his first two years, which then dropped to about 12%. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain that level of contact going forward. If he can, I'd expect to see him at the big club before Sano. Sano strikes out a ridiculous amount and does not have a position. Both Sano and Kepler, however, I expect to skip AAA.
    Haha! Nothing would make me happier than to see Kepler speed past Sano on their way to Minnesota. However, it looks like Kepler is a year behind Sano/Rosario for now anyway. YES, Kepler's ability to hit for power and limit his strikeouts is a major + in his quest to move fast up the ladder. Again, nothing would make me happier than to see these talented prospects skip AAA (if they prove MLB worthy at AA).
  18. Steve Lein's Avatar
    I love Kepler as a prospect. I've seen him a few times now, and this year compared to last was a big jump in on-the-field production. At Spring Training this year he was playing games with the Beloit squad, and he was their best in-game hitter bar none in the 4 games I watched. I was actually flabbergasted after seeing what he did with them for that week that he wasn't on that team at all this year. Can say he's the first prospect where seeing him in-person bumped the opinion I had formed from reading/researching/etc... considerably upward, especially in the hitting department. Another guy who needs to skip a level after playing the same league 2 years in a row is Nate Roberts. Why they made him repeat Low-A this year is beyond me, plus, he's already 23. Might have set a record for runs scored if he'd played a full schedule with Sano, Vargas, et. al. hitting behind him.
  19. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein
    I love Kepler as a prospect. I've seen him a few times now, and this year compared to last was a big jump in on-the-field production. At Spring Training this year he was playing games with the Beloit squad, and he was their best in-game hitter bar none in the 4 games I watched. I was actually flabbergasted after seeing what he did with them for that week that he wasn't on that team at all this year. Can say he's the first prospect where seeing him in-person bumped the opinion I had formed from reading/researching/etc... considerably upward, especially in the hitting department. Another guy who needs to skip a level after playing the same league 2 years in a row is Nate Roberts. Why they made him repeat Low-A this year is beyond me, plus, he's already 23. Might have set a record for runs scored if he'd played a full schedule with Sano, Vargas, et. al. hitting behind him.
    Hey I hear ya loud and clear. I dont understand why they need their prospects to dominate each level. Many top prospects struggled through the minors, but were pushed to the bigs quickly and ultimately succeeded just fine.
  20. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    The Twins must have too many minor league players because they keep guys in the low levels that are ready to move on.
    Updated 12-10-2012 at 12:16 PM by mnfanforlife
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