The Underrated Max Kepler?
by, 11-07-2012 at 03:17 PM (2682 Views)
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.
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.