by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
While the Twins’ Max Kepler made his presence felt in his rookie season, his contributions came mainly in the power department as he lacked speed and a strong average:
396 At Bats
.235 Batting Average (93 Hits)
17 Home Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.309 On Base Percentage
.424 Slugging Percentage
.261 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Some will hope that the soon to be 24-year old can take a step forward in 2017 and emerge as a strong option in all formats. While he shouldn’t be considered a Top 30 option entering the season, there is every reason to believe that an improvement is coming.
It’s easy to be skeptical about his power, though he did hit 32 doubles, 13 triples and 9 HR in 407 AB at Double-A in ’15 (good for a .531 SLG). That helps to show the potential, as Prospect 361’s Rich Wilson described him by saying the following prior to 2016:
“At 6-foot-4, Kepler has good size and strength and projects to have at least average power. As he adds more loft to his swing, many of those 32 doubles will turn into home runs with 20 future home run power not out of the question.”
Kepler has clearly began tapping into that power, and at his age another step forward is likely. Don’t be surprised if he reaches the 20 HR plateau in 2017.
He also has some speed (he stole 19 bases in ’15), and that tells us his .261 BABIP from last season is going to rise (he posted a 33.0% Hard%, further supporting the improvement). Kepler also showed a solid approach at the plate, despite his 20.8% strikeout rate, given his 8.7% SwStr% and 30.7% O-Swing%. For a young player his ability to make contact against all types of pitches is important to note (Whiff%):
Improved Luck + Strong Strikeout Rate + Some Power= An Improved Average… Maybe he’s not going to be a .300+ hitter, but he should be in the .265-.280 range (and if the luck really turns he could be even a little bit better than that).
There is the potential for a platoon, having hit .203 against southpaws last season. Then again he hit .318 against them at Double-A in ’15 so there’s reason to believe that he’ll turn things around there as well.
Suddenly we’re talking about a potential .275/20/10 type player, and no one would complain about that. Kepler shouldn’t be drafted as one of your top four outfielders, but as an OF5 or bench option he’s a great selection. There is some risk, but there’s a better chance he produces at an OF3-type level. Make sure to have him among your draft day targets in the later rounds.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Prospect 361
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:
|Starting Pitcher||#1-20 |02/27/17